The Palestinian Bid for Statehood: Dire Implications for the
Since the 1970s, America has been the main peace
broker in the Arab-Israeli conflict. For the most part, a succession of U.S.
administrations decided to take a step-by-step approach — acting as the third
party at the peace table, using a gentle but firm hand to bring the main parties
together. Long ago, the U.S. adopted the “land for peace” formula, which became
a “two-state solution” mantra in recent years.
Through the struggles and pitfalls of America’s
obsession to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there have been U.S.
foreign policymakers that have set the timetables. The White House, working
closely with the State Department, has taken strident measures to determine the
various avenues towards peace. Special envoys have been established to oversee
American goals. They have attempted to control the daily agenda at summits, to
extract concessions from the Israelis and the Palestinians, while pushing and
pressuring interlocutors at the peace table. All that may be changing
This week, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is
expected to ask the U.N. world body to recognize a Palestinian state on land
that has not been successfully negotiated with the Israelis. It’s a brazen act
of aggression by the Palestinians to change the endgame. Abbas believes that
U.N. recognition of “Palestine” as the 194th member-state will
prevent the U.S. from calling the shots behind closed doors. Israel will no
longer be able to claim specific parts of the land as “disputed.” Abbas thinks
that once a Palestinian state is officially recognized by the world, he can then
look to the International Court to begin legal proceedings against the thousands
of Israelis living in East Jerusalem and the West Bank (Judea and Samaria).
Abbas and his entourage of Palestinian leaders may be attempting to take the
U.S. out of the equation altogether.
Since the early 1970s, American presidents have been
seen shaking hands with Arab and Israeli leaders at the White House, Camp David,
and other locations — sometimes signing treaties, sometimes not, but always
with an eye towards being the nation that brokered the final peace deal in the
The Palestinians became a main focus in the conflict
in 1991 during the Madrid Conference. Then, the U.S. was involved in the
implementation of the Oslo Accords, the Hebron Agreement, the Wye River
Memorandum, the Camp David 2000 Summit, Clinton’s Parameters and Taba talks, the
Road Map for Peace, the Annapolis Conference, and finally, direct talks between
Israel and the Palestinians in 2010.
During the past two years, the American administration
has realized that U.S. influence in the Middle East has been waning. Partly as
a result of this assessment, U.S. President Barack Obama along with Secretary of
State Hillary Rodham Clinton has been adamant in insisting that the Palestinians
stop the U.N. bid for statehood. But, even with the White House threatening
sanctions and Congress threatening a withholding of financial aid, Mahmoud Abbas
has not been deterred from his course.
Recently, Abbas met with American special envoys to
the Middle East, David Hale and Dennis Ross. During the meeting, both men
expressed strong objections to the Palestinian approach. Abbas hardly
listened. In fact, he has spent the past two years trying to attract European
and Arab leaders to his cause, intent on weakening U.S. diplomatic efforts in
the region. Furthermore, he has threatened the Obama administration, stating
that if America vetoes a U.N. resolution that favors Palestinian statehood, this
will signal that the U.S. is not in favor of a two-state solution. This is
entrapment at its best.
The Palestinian leadership can also be expected to
rally Arab leaders in the Middle East to take action against U.S. interests in
the region after the U.N. meetings are concluded this week.
The approach of Abbas is to do an end run so
that the U.S. no longer controls the parameters of the process of peace.
Instead, as a proposed U.N. member, the new fledgling Palestinian state would
attempt to claim that Israel is militarily occupying its territory. A scenario
could be played out where the new Palestinian president would look to the Arab
League and other internationally recognized bodies for help in preserving what
would now be seen as Palestinian, not Israeli territory. In addition, border
disputes could be brought to the Quartet (the U.N., U.S., EU, and Russia), and
not to the U.S. alone. In this regard, the U.S. would be one of only several
brokers involved at the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating table.
It’s expected that the U.S. will use its veto power in
the U.N. Security Council this week, as it has done so in the past, to block a
resolution it firmly opposes. But, regardless of how the Palestinian statehood
issue plays out, it’s clear what Abbas has in mind long-term. He is
internationalizing the conflict to reduce American influence in the region.
Putting Palestinian statehood in the hands of the U.N. takes it out of the hands
of the Americans. Israel’s main Western ally will suffer
This confrontational approach on the part of the
Palestinian leadership is hurting U.S. attempts to forge reconciliation efforts
with the Muslim world, where it has already been on shaky ground
diplomatically. The current Palestinian bid for statehood at the U.N. is
embarrassing for the U.S. America has invested millions of dollars into the
Palestinian economy, strengthened its state institutions, and trained its police
force while issuing Palestinian troops American-made weapons. Now, the
Palestinian leadership are defying America’s role as the main power broker in
their dispute with the Israelis.
Despite U.S. efforts for over 40 years to forge a
peace between Israel and her neighbors, the Palestinians have forged their own
way to peace. It’s a road that is leaving American diplomacy in the dust. It’s
a stab in the back to U.S. mediation efforts. Furthermore, it will cause U.S.
foreign policy in the Middle East to fall off the beaten track into the
Perhaps, America will never regain its special
prominence as the leading nation of the free world that could inspire hope among
the people of the Middle East region. Some were actually starting to believe
that peace could be attained between Israel and the Palestinians. This week at
the U.N. could now prove otherwise.
C. Hart is a news analyst reporting
on political, diplomatic, and military issues as they relate to Israel, the
Middle East, and the international