Hoist By His Own BS?

Events are moving toward a showdown in the United Nations next week, as Palestinian leaders will seek international sanction for a new state of Palestine. PA President Abbas warned the U.S. earlier today not to veto Palestinian statehood in the Security Council:

The Palestinian Authority on Saturday warned the US against using its Security Council veto to thwart its plan to seek UN membership for a Palestinian state this week.

A US veto would “destroy” the two-state solution, the PA said. …

“We are going to the Security Council,” he declared. “As soon as I finish delivering my speech [at the UN on Friday], I will submit the application [for membership] to the UN secretary-general, who will relay it to the president of the Security Council.”

Abbas said that his “extensive and sincere” efforts to reach an agreement that would end the “occupation” and lead to an independent Palestinian state through negotiations had hit a dead end.

He blamed “Israeli intransigence” for failure of the peace process.

Gaza’s Zakariya al-Agha added what some have deemed a low blow, citing President Obama’s own words in support of the PA’s action:

Zakariya al-Agha, the PLO’s top representative in the Gaza Strip, also warned against the consequences of a US veto.

The PA was going to the UN because US President Barack Obama, in his speech to the UN in September 2010, talked about the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state within one year, Agha said.

There is much to be faulted in Obama’s Middle East policies, but this particular claim is a bad rap. Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, rejected the PA’s use of Obama’s 2010 U.N. speech:

Abbas took President Obama’s comments [his September 2010 speech] out of context; the US president clearly stated that he would welcome a Palestinian state that arose as a result of negotiations between the parties. This is clearly not the case, and Abbas has cherry-picked comments for his own purpose rather than meeting the expectations of the Palestinians enunciated in the very same speech.

Ayalon is correct. Here is what Obama actually said:

[W]e can come back here next year, as we have for the last 60 years, and make long speeches about it. We can read familiar lists of grievances. We can table the same resolutions. We can further empower the forces of rejectionism and hate. And we can waste more time by carrying forward an argument that will not help a single Israeli or Palestinian child achieve a better life. We can do that.

Or, we can say that this time will be different — that this time we will not let terror, or turbulence, or posturing, or petty politics stand in the way. This time, we will think not of ourselves, but of the young girl in Gaza who wants to have no ceiling on her dreams, or the young boy in Sderot who wants to sleep without the nightmare of rocket fire.

This time, we should draw upon the teachings of tolerance that lie at the heart of three great religions that see Jerusalem’s soil as sacred. This time we should reach for what’s best within ourselves. If we do, when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations — an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel.

Those comments are maudlin and vacuous, but they certainly did not suggest approval of the course the PA has taken–reject all compromise, and then seek unilateral declaration of statehood via the U.N. It may well be that the persistent weakness Obama has shown throughout the region over the last three years has emboldened the Palestinians to make this move–I don’t know how to prove that, one way or the other–but his U.N. speech cannot reasonably be considered an endorsement of the Palestinians’ new course.

I haven’t seen much commentary on whether an American veto in the Security Council will be necessary to stop the PA’s ploy, and if so, what the Obama administration is likely to do. But if the Palestinians think Obama is too weak to veto their bid for statehood, they are badly misreading the political situation in the United States. Obama has one paramount goal–re-election–and it seems clear that vetoing Palestinian statehood would give his floundering administration a major boost where, at the moment, help is most needed. So I would guess that Obama and his advisers fervently hope to have an opportunity to block Abbas’s plan for statehood.


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