You wouldn’t know it, but one of the most intense diplomatic efforts happening right now is the attempt by Western powers to try and get the Palestinians to abandon their effort to seek statehood from the UN General Assembly in September. The Palestinian Authority has made no secret of this goal, and it seems undeniable that they would garner the support of an overwhelming majority of UN member states. The General Assembly process cannot be vetoed; only the Security Council can. So the Plan B for those countries which would rather use peace talks between Israel and Palestine is this hard-headed diplomatic effort.
Intensive efforts are under way to stave off a Palestinian bid for United Nations membership in September, with diplomats trying to lure Israeli and Palestinian leaders back to negotiations on the basis of President Obama’s formula of a state based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps.
Israeli and Palestinian leaders have told American and European officials who have been here repeatedly in recent weeks that they want to return to talks. But with numerous moving parts, neither side desperate about the status quo and no agreement on the terms, success is far from assured.
The Israeli government was livid about Mr. Obama’s reference to the 1967 lines and swaps in a speech in May. It considers those boundaries indefensible and does not want to commit in advance to giving up land within Israel in exchange for keeping settlement blocs in the West Bank.
But Israeli officials acknowledge that they have little choice but to work within that formula as a negotiating basis if they want to stop the move in the United Nations. A successful General Assembly vote for the Palestinians could increase boycott and sanctions pressure on Israel as well as international legal proceedings in forums like the International Criminal Court.
The 1967 borders comment, then, was a setting of parameters, in a way, for Israel. If they want to avoid the UN process, they have to accept those parameters. Similarly, the question is put to the Palestinians; if they want to start negotiations on that favorable track, they must end the UN process.
But there’s no guarantee that the Palestinians would abandon UN membership, even if peace talks restart. They have seen nothing but disappointment for the last several decades and seem convinced that petitioning for statehood represents their only bargaining chip, even if it’s a confusing one without a real endgame (essentially, Palestine becomes a state when other countries recognize them as a state, not necessarily if the General Assembly votes them in). So the Palestinians would be unlikely to give up that chip.
The US has already intimated that they would veto any membership effort in the Security Council, so statehood could not advance. What’s more they would in all likelihood whip allies against the General Assembly vote. This is all being done to pressure the Palestinians back into negotiations and out of what the West considers to be a divisive process at the UN.
For all the energy being put into stopping something from happening, namely the UN membership drive, you’d think that could be channeled into, I don’t know, getting negotiations underway for a solution that would make statehood a realizable goal. But that’s not how things work.