…the General Assembly vote – 138 countries in favor, 9 opposed and 41 abstaining – showed impressive backing for the Palestinians at a difficult time. It was taken on the 65th anniversary of the vote to divide the former British mandate of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab, a vote Israel considers the international seal of approval for its birth. [New York Times]
THIS WAS as predictive as Prime Minister Netanyahu’s leadership since President Barack Obama came into office. The whole time seeming to be betting on a Republican win of the presidency in 2012. Netanyahu’s campaign against Obama was even worse than Romney’s, which is saying a lot. Now UNGA has recognized the Palestinians, the counterproductive actions of Netanyahu come into full view.
McClatchy nails it in this graph:
One concern Israel has is that Palestine’s upgraded status could lead to a similar move on the International Criminal Court, where the Palestinians have tried for years to carve a role but were stopped by ICC officials who said the U.N. General Assembly must first sort out its status. The fear is that Palestine would try to bring war crime charges against Israel.
Decades of peace talks have been depressing. Because of Israel’s intractability and inability to see what was amassing in the world around them, which manifested in the UNGA vote, it’s now just going to get ugly.
Anyone who thinks that the American president today has any leverage if the two parties don’t want to negotiate with one another evidently wasn’t paying attention when Ehud Barak, through President Bill Clinton, handed Yasser Arafat the golden calf.
The Arab spring solidified the reality that the U.S. can be a supportive facilitator, but we can no longer drive the process.
But the worst of it is that President Obama allowed himself to get caught in a domestic political vice, with the United States now clearly out of the honest broker game, ostracized by Ambassador Rice’s militantly tone deaf statement. An excerpt:
We will continue to oppose firmly any and all unilateral actions in international bodies or treaties that circumvent or prejudge the very outcomes that can only be negotiated, including Palestinian statehood. And, we will continue to stand up to every effort that seeks to delegitimize Israel or undermine its security.
Progress toward a just and lasting two-state solution cannot be made by pressing a green voting button here in this hall. Nor does passing any resolution create a state where none indeed exists or change the reality on the ground.
For this reason, today’s vote should not be misconstrued by any as constituting eligibility for U.N. membership. It does not. This resolution does not establish that Palestine is a state.
Being clearly out of step with the world as Rice delivers a statement that misjudges and misdiagnosis the impossible situation of the Palestinians, the American role can only be diminished, even if the Administration decides to get involved.
Now that the U.N. General Assembly has voted, a new paradigm has risen. Will it lead the Palestinians to an actual state with borders and power? Not in the short-term, but Netanyahu wasn’t going to negotiate that anyway, so they actually had literally nothing to lose.
Now the U.S. Congress is considering denying aide and other manner of punishments to the Palestinians for walking down the only road to be offered in twelve years, with the American right sure to want to deliver the worst to their bogey man, the United Nations.
What’s really interesting is J Street’s pre-buttal to any negative reaction to what just happened in the United Nations General Assembly. It’s obvious they supported the move in the U.N., but were too afraid to say so, obviously because of the political implications here in the U.S. Their advice to the Obama administration in a second term is to get more involved and show “leadership.”
Oy. And. Vey.
No one has yet convinced me that U.S. “leadership” in the post Arab spring era is appropriate, except as a facilitative role. But I am preparing for another “special envoy” farce. The name being circulated is expected, former President Bill Clinton, because he’s the last American leader who was willing to stick his neck out for the cause of peace, only to have his head handed to him.
J Street’s Position on the Palestinian Bid at the United Nations General Assembly
NOVEMBER 27TH, 2012
This coming Thursday, the United Nations General Assembly will overwhelmingly pass a resolution making Palestine a non-member state observer at the UN. Less clear than the outcome of the vote is the meaning of the resolution for chances of achieving a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
J Street is focusing on the day after the vote — because it is the actions of the United States, Israel, and the Palestinians following the vote that will determine whether we are moving toward or away from a negotiated resolution to the conflict.
We strongly oppose retaliatory measures against the PLO or the Palestinian Authority (PA) — in particular, Congressional efforts to cut funding, which could lead to the collapse of the PA and jeopardize the important progress it has made in recent years.
We urge Israel’s friends to focus their energy on a threat far more serious to the country’s long-term security and character than the vote at the UN — and that is the possible failure to achieve a two-state solution before it is too late.
To that end, our most important call at this time is on President Obama to fill the diplomatic vacuum and to launch, in early 2013, a renewed and bold diplomatic initiative to achieve a two-state solution.
The UN Resolution
This coming Thursday, the United Nations General Assembly will overwhelmingly pass a resolution making Palestine a non-member state observer at the UN. The resolution (as drafted) endorses a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within the parameters J Street believes are urgently needed for Israel to survive as a secure, democratic, Jewish homeland — two states for two peoples, with borders based on the pre-1967 lines with agreed swaps.
Whether the resolution’s passage actually advances the two-state solution depends on how Israeli, Palestinian and American leaders choose to respond. For that reason, J Street is focusing its energy on what happens the day after the vote. Events of the past two weeks provide painful proof that, barring a dramatic change of course, chances for a negotiated two-state solution are fading. This is disastrous on many levels. The two-state solution is essential to Israel’s long-term security and is the only way for it to maintain its Jewish nature and democratic character. It is also only through an agreement accepted by the parties and establishing two states living side by side in peace and security that the Palestinian people can achieve their right to self-determination and freedom.
In advancing peace and stability in the region more broadly, the two-state solution is also a fundamental national interest of the United States. That is why J Street believes the United States must focus on the day after the UN vote and on launching a sustained, meaningful effort to save the two-state solution.
Opposition to Retaliation for the UN Resolution
J Street will actively oppose efforts to punish President Abbas, the PLO or the Palestinian Authority for bringing this resolution to the United Nations. We will also oppose any suggestion of closing the PLO mission in Washington. We should be looking for ways to encourage and deepen the chances of diplomacy, not for ways to cut it off.
Those chances will be seriously damaged if either Israel or the US Congress retaliates for the UN resolution by cutting funding to the Palestinian Authority. Such funding cuts could lead to the collapse of the PA and certainly jeopardize the important progress, including in security cooperation, made in recent years by President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad.
We are very concerned about the continuing bias against Israel that surfaces in international fora. At the same time, we reject the notion that approaching the UN for enhanced status is an attempt to delegitimize Israel. Bringing the question of statehood to the General Assembly is a peaceful, non-violent move within the legal rights of the Palestinians.
By specifically referencing relevant UN precedents and other international statements, this resolution actually affirms Israel’s right to exist. As important, it incorporates the notion that the borders of Israel and of the new Palestinian state will be based on the June 4, 1967 Green Line with negotiated adjustments.
We urge those concerned about this UN resolution that their time and energy might be better spent focusing on the existential threat to Israel’s security and character that is posed by the lack of a two-state solution to the conflict.
The efforts of President Abbas and the Palestinian Liberation Organization to achieve their goals through peaceful and legal means stand in stark contrast to the actions of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terror organizations. In just the past few weeks, we have seen vividly the consequences of the path being taken by those Palestinians who choose violence and terror and refuse to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.
The Actions of the Parties
Whether this resolution advances the chances of resolving the conflict depends, of course, on the actions of the PLO and Israel following the vote.
We urge President Abbas to act on his previously stated readiness to return to negotiations without preconditions after passage of the resolution. We would urge that he indicate clearly his willingness to entertain a new diplomatic initiative proposed by President Obama and the international community grounded in specific parameters and a concrete timeline.
A firm commitment to refrain from proceeding with any action at the International Criminal Court would also be an important sign of good intention to resolve the conflict through negotiation.
Similarly, we urge Prime Minister Netanyahu to consider taking meaningful steps — including halting settlement expansion, for instance — that would demonstrate genuine interest in pursuing a two-state solution. We also hope the Israeli government will express its readiness to engage in a new diplomatic initiative without preconditions and to discuss all outstanding issues including, but not limited to, borders, security, Jerusalem and refugees.
Our Call to Action
Most importantly, we call for strong, meaningful diplomatic leadership from the Obama administration in its second term.
We are deeply frustrated by the inaction on the diplomatic front in the past 18 months. The Palestinians’ approach to the UN, the increasing instability on the West Bank and the growing sway of more militant voices in Palestinian society are all at least partly rooted in the failure to achieve progress through traditional diplomacy.
We urge the president to launch, in early 2013, a bold new diplomatic initiative to achieve a two-state solution. American policy must go beyond voicing support for a two-state solution and urging the parties to talk.
We call on the president to appoint a strong team in his second term with a clear presidential mandate to end this conflict.
We call on the president, as well, to build on this new United Nations resolution to convene negotiations backed by a strong international coalition, including European and Arab leaders, under the auspices of the US or the Quartet, and on the basis of clear parameters and a timeline. Such parameters — relating to borders, security, Jerusalem, refugees and water — are well known and widely accepted as the basis for a successful agreement.
With parameters in hand and a broad coalition behind him, we call on President Obama to visit the region, including Israel and the Palestinian Territory, to lay out the new initiative and to challenge the Israeli and Palestinian peoples to enter serious talks under his leadership in early 2013.
With time working against Israel’s existential interest, it is imperative that friends of Israel recognize that it is the lack of a two-state solution, and not a non-violent political action at the United Nations, that threatens Israel’s future and American interests.
This moment demands boldness and leadership on all sides now to save the chances for the two-state solution.