[Ed. Note: President Obama spoke to the UN General Assembly this a.m., followed by French President Sarkozy. C-SPAN has live coverage here. ]
The Obama Administration is frantic about stopping the Palestinian effort to secure a vote on statehood at the UN. Today the President meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to try and dissuade him from introducing the statehood resolution at the UN Security Council.
The US has already said it would veto such an effort, but the Administration manifestly doesn’t want to do that and risk alienating the Muslim world. So they are working the diplomatic angle pretty hard. Here’s the plan Western leaders want Abbas to accept:
International efforts to forestall a showdown in the UN security council over the declaration of a Palestinian state are solidifying around a plan for the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to submit a request for recognition but for a vote on the issue to be put on hold while a new round of peace talks is launched.
The deal is being pushed by the Middle East “Quartet” of the UN, EU, US and Russia, which is attempting to persuade Abbas to back away from a diplomatic confrontation with Washington, which says it will veto the Palestinian bid.
The US president Barack Obama is expected to meet the Palestinian leader at the UN on Wednesday as Abbas comes under intense pressure from the US and Europe to compromise.
Apparently the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, will personally ask Abbas to go along with this, along with Obama. And both Presidents will make this case publicly in their General Assembly speeches.
It’s a very United Nations solution, to have Abbas submit the letter and then have the Security Council just not act on it. But the only way for Abbas to accept this is for direct negotiations to result, apparently negotiations that would include a timeline for statehood. Otherwise he gets nothing in the compromise. I’d say he also needs a settlement construction halt as well.
Neither side can back down now. A two-state solution is the central part of the Quartet’s plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace; disallowing a statehood petition makes no sense in that context. Abbas fully committed to the statehood process after being stymied on any progress by an Israeli leader who really doesn’t want progress. So while Abbas is under enormous pressure, that pressure is as much to reject the West and dare them to veto the bid the West has said it wanted all along – two states peaceably living side by side in the Middle East.
Gershom Gorenberg writes that it would be in Israel’s best interest to have the statehood process go forward.
Incrementally, legislation and military orders have insured that settlers enjoy all the rights of Israeli citizens as if they lived inside Israel. Most basically, Israelis living in the West Bank vote in Israeli elections; Palestinians in the same territory cannot. The democratic principles of equality and government by the governed have unraveled.
Nor can the unmarked border with the West Bank keep the decay from infiltrating Israel itself. Under Netanyahu, a flurry of anti-democratic bills has been introduced in parliament. One new law is aimed at circumventing court decisions that blocked a form of housing discrimination against Arab citizens. Another, eroding the right of free speech, bans any call for consumer boycotts of goods produced in settlements. The longer Israel holds the West Bank, the less is left of what Israel once was [...]
Dividing the contested and bloodied land is still a prerequisite for peace. With Israeli and American input rather than opposition, a U.N. resolution could serve as the basis for renewed and effective negotiations. But Palestinian statehood is not just an opening toward peace. It also a means to rebuild Israel and restore its democracy.
Clearly Netanyahu will not jump at that chance, despite the near breakdown in Israeli democracy, as evidenced by the tent city protests this summer. It’s a missed opportunity, and it remains to be seen whether Abbas will let the West off the hook.
UPDATE: The US is apparently also indicating now that it would not stand in the way of a UN General Assembly petition from Palestine for “Observer Status,” a step forward but short of statehood. This kind of motion cannot be vetoed, and at least 2/3 of member nations of the UN already have formal bilateral recognition of Palestine, so it would be extremely likely to succeed. More from CBS.
UPDATE II: A Pew research poll shows that Americans give plurality support to the US recognizing a Palestinian state.