The bid for Palestinian statehood, due to be presented this week at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, seems to have taken some world leaders by surprise. It is difficult to see how.
For more than a decade, successive United States presidents have voiced their keenness on a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Bill Clinton, then George W. Bush, then finally Barack Obama have taken turns delaying a formal application for statehood under the guise of wanting to gain more favorable conditions through a continuation of peace talks.
Twelve months ago, Obama went seemingly further than his predecessors, saying he wanted to see a Palestinian state within a year. The diplomatic flurry from “Quartet” powers at the eleventh hour now clearly exposes this claim to what many at the time saw as yet another empty promise. It is often said that as the leader of the world’s richest nation Obama is the most powerful person on the planet. That is to ignore those inordinately potent members of the U.S. Zionist lobby who, with an election looming next year and historically low popularity ratings, have yet again twisted the arm of a U.S. leader and forced an about turn.
There is little doubt that the bid for Palestinian statehood would fail in the Security Council. The U.S., once again doing Israel’s bidding, has already said it will veto the application. In the General Assembly, however, where any motion passes after achieving a two-thirds majority, the bid is likely to be successful, given that more than 120 countries have already expressed their support for an independent Palestine.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with characteristic chutzpah, has pre-empted this, stating flatly that his country will ignore the will of the General Assembly. This is the leader of a state that is supposed to conform to international law openly stating that the majority of world nations can go hang. Even more stultifying than the Israeli leader’s brashness is the fact that he can get away with it.
For a delay in Palestinian statehood suits Israel rather nicely. As long as its illegal policy of settlement building continues at the current pace, within a few years Palestinian authorities will have little land left to even claim for official ownership. The politics of delay, while the Western world is largely on his side, is something Netanyahu and his aides must be licking their lips over.
Statehood would do nothing more than grant Palestine the same official recognition afforded to Israel. It would invest its leaders with a greater legitimacy in future peace talks and even up the keel at the negotiating table.
Any world leader that claims to support aborted Israeli-Palestinian negotiations while opposing the latter’s bid for statehood is either a liar or a coward. Those seeking a way out of Palestine’s application are rapidly losing the benefit of the doubt.