A state of their own

The US should not veto Palestine’s bid for recognition by the UN Security Council

Palestine’s bid to become a voting member at the United Nations is nearing its final hour. In the latest tally, it appears that Palestine is close to securing nine votes on the Security Council, with Brazil, China, India, Lebanon, Russia, and South Africa voting yes; Bosnia, Gabon, and Nigeria very likely to vote yes; and Britain, Colombia, France, Germany, and Portugal set to abstain from the vote. Should Palestine reach the nine-vote threshold for entry, the United States will be faced with a choice. Should it abstain, and defer to the Security Council super majority, or should it vote no and veto the Palestinian entry?

Although the U.S. has frequently exercised its veto power to the benefit of its Israeli ally, to do so again this time would be a grave mistake that goes against the ideals of U.S. foreign policy as well as Israel’s security.

Since the days of Woodrow Wilson, the U.S. has seen self-determination, the right of nations to freely determine their own political status and sovereignty, as a fundamental good in international relations. The case of the Palestinians is no exception — they deserve a state to call their own, just as Israel does. This is hardly a matter of disagreement; the U.S., Israel, and Palestinian leadership have endorsed a two-state solution that has, as its general features, a shared Jerusalem, recognition of Israel by the Palestinian state, and borders based on Israel’s pre-1967 borders, with land swaps to accommodate major Israeli settlements. A Palestinian seat at the U.N. would not undo any of this consensus.

Indeed, there seems to be little of anything that a Palestinian seat in the General Assembly would undo. The current Israeli government claims that it would derail the peace process, but this is nonsense for two reasons. The first is that the U.N. is not so important a body as that — on the ground, virtually nothing would change between Israel and Palestine. The second is that the peace process has already been derailed, having been knocked off course two years ago by Israel’s current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu ’75. It is Netanyahu, not the Palestinians, who has been threatening the consensus built by years and years of painstaking negotiation by allowing settlement building on the West Bank to resume, by arguing against a shared Jerusalem, and by suggesting that Israel should receive more than its pre-1967 boundaries in any final outcome.

To be fair, the Palestinians shoulder some of the blame for failing to reach a deal before Netanyahu came on the scene. Mahmoud Abbas, the current president of the Palestinian National Authority, would have done himself and his countrymen a favor had he been more decisive and managed to reach an agreement with Netanyahu’s predecessor, Ehud Olmert. But negotiations are tricky things, and Abbas, a moderate, is the leader of a people who are not all as moderate as he. To blame him for not reaching an agreement in the time frame he had is to ignore the difficulty inherent in the peace process.

But even if one believes that Abbas is to blame for not solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the few years he had with Olmert, it remains that Israel is unlikely to find a better negotiating partner. To undermine Abbas by denying him even this token victory at the U.N. would only lend strength to Hamas and others whose raison d’etre depends upon the failure of a sustainable two-state arrangement.

Americans interested in peace and Israelis interested in security will find neither if they push the Palestinians to replace Abbas with a Hamas counterpart. This is one case in which U.S. foreign policy ideals dovetail nicely with a rational assessment of its self-interest. If the U.S. were to deny Palestine entry to the United Nations, an international forum built to provide a platform for peaceful dialogue between warring countries, it would be more than just ironic — it would be tragic.

Will Justice over 11 years ago

If Palestine were to succeed in the bid at the UN, it would be devastating for Israel. If Palestine were to succeed, than they would have the legal right to file a complaint at the ICC (International Criminal Court). Both Israel and America fear that Israel would have to actually answer to Israel's crimes.

Why is it that Israel is exempt from International Laws, UN Resolutions and the Geneva Convention? How much longer will America's unconditional protection of Israel continue? If these two questions are untrue and unfounded, than why is Israel and America so concerned about Palestine having an opportunity to go to the ICC?

sandprince over 11 years ago

Keith, pls run for the presidency...

Arafat over 11 years ago


Anonymous over 11 years ago


In your article you imply that passing a UN resolution for Palestinian statehood depends on the following two flawed premises-- that Abbas is a moderate, and more abhorrently, that the stalled peace process is completely the fault of Israels prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In reality none of these things could be farther from the truth, as although Abbas may be moderate in comparison to the raging terrorist entity Hamas, he is no moderate, and because placing all of the blame on Netanyahu is not only unfair, but neglects decades of history.

If the standard for a moderate is less radical than Hamas, than anything short of calling for Israels destruction is moderate. Abbas has often referred to the disaster of 1948, in other words, the very creation of the state of Israel. Moreover, it was moderate Abbas who signed the reconciliation with Hamas this year, so in reality, Israel cannot deal with Abbas and not Hamas at this time. It is unfair for the United States to expect Israel to make concessions and deal with a government comprised of a terrorist entity, as is the case for the Palestinians today!

Moreover, it is blatantly untrue to say that the peace process has been stalled solely because of Netanyahuthe issue stalling peace is not settlements, as peace was not achieved even before settlement existed, from 1948-67. In reality, the Palestinians think that they can pressure Israel into concessions without giving into anything themselves. They think that they have international opinion on their side, and so that it is a waiting game until they get everything they demand if the Palestinians actually want peace, then they have to come to terms with the fact that they will have to compromise, and maybe not get everything they are calling negotiating preconditions. This, the world needs to realize, may really mean the Palestinians NOT getting Jerusalem as their capital.

Keith Yost over 11 years ago

To 4)

You've incorrectly dissected my article. The thesis is not: "Abbas is a moderate and the failure of the peace process is Netanyahu's fault" (though both are true). It's "Giving a seat on the U.N. general assembly means very little, does nothing to upset the agreements struck thus far in the peace process, and is smart politics."

The core of your position is that Israel should give less and the Palestinians should give more in the final settlement of things. That's all well and good, but to me it just sounds like you're a little child, asking her father for a pony. Ponies don't just grow on trees, pumpkin. They're tough things to obtain and keep-- in this case, your pony is going to cost you a lot of blood and treasure in the form of continued fighting. Voices of reason from across the world are appealing to your self-interest, saying maybe instead of trading the wealth of your society and lives of your 18-year olds for someone else's olive groves, maybe you should just stick with what you have. Abbas may or may not be a moderate, depending on whatever scale you use, but you're not going to find someone better to strike a deal with, and if you keep insisting on your pony, the Palestinians are going to give power to the men who will make you pay dearly for your insistence.

Anonymous over 11 years ago

Back at Keith,

I think that your nave viewpoint on this matter stems from the fact that you do not see the true cause of this conflict. The cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict is not that some farmer's olive groves are being "occupied," its because the Palestinian leadership as a whole refuses to accept that the Jews have a right to live in an autonomous Jewish state in Israel. That is the reason that numerous Arab armies attacked day-old Israel in 1948, and that is the reason that the Palestine Liberation Organization was created--to liberate all of present day Israel, not just the land beyond the green line. This is a fact that cannot be ignored.

Do you really think that there will be peace if the Palestinians, with their current leadership, are given the state they want? I doubt it, because Hamas has said explicitly that any land they can negotiate from Israel is a plus, but that arm struggle against Israel will continue until Israels destruction. How will Israel find peace when Hamas is shooting anti-air craft missiles at planes departing Ben-Gurion airport?

Sorry to tell you Keith, but you are not a security or anti-terrorism expert. It is very nice for you to sit in the Tech office and write how Israel needs to give away all of this land for peace in Israels best interest, and wave your hands loftily when asked details about security, assuring the world that it will work out. I invite you to go to Israel and see some of the security issues Israelis are facing, like Palestinian suicide bombers dressing up as pregnant women to get through checkpoints, and then come tell me about Israels self-interests.

Anonymous over 11 years ago

Whoever wrote the last comment - don't go too far flipping the stories. Pregnant women had to deliver babies at a checkpoint due to Israel's "security". Not to mention those checkpoints are within the West Bank itself between illegal settlements.

If you're argument to allow the settlements is security purposes, then there's no reason why those settlements should grow every day and take up 50 of the WB.

Finally, please do refresh my memory to when a suicide bomber dressed up as a pregnant woman, or when is the last time Hamas launched rockets at flights leaving Ben-Gurion.