The issue of Palestinian statehood has been debated for over sixty years between Israel and the Palestinians. After decades of impasse, the Palestinians have decided to take their case to the United Nations. A large majority of UN member states throughout the international community appear willing to recognize a Palestinian state with or without approval from Israel. Such recognition would offer the Palestinians negotiating and voting power within the United Nations, and perhaps pressure the Israelis to agree to a final agreement. But, it would not necessarily change the reality on the ground, where Israel would still control Palestinian land in the West Bank and elsewhere. The Obama Administration pledged to veto a push to recognize Palestine in the Security Council, where approval is required to enter the UN as a full member. If that effort fails, Abbas has pledged to pursue recognition within the General Assembly, where they could achieve a lesser form of recognition akin to what the Vatican has received. There are a number of questions in this debate: Would a vote, and possibly passage of a resolution in support of Palestinian statehood, undermine or accelerated peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians? Is it encouraging that the Palestinians are pursuing a non-violent means of diplomacy through the UN, versus previous violent campaigns? Do the Palestinians have a moral case for self-determination? What are the practical gains of UN membership and voting powers? Would supporting a UN vote be within Israeli’s interests, both security and otherwise? And, would a US veto of the efforts in the Security Council be within US interests? The pros and cons are outlined below.
“UN recognition of a Palestinian state in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 will breathe fresh life into the ailing idea which, despite everything, remains the last best hope of Israeli-Palestinian peace – a two-state solution. By recognising a state of Palestine alongside Israel, the UN will entrench the notion that the only way to resolve this most stubborn of conflicts is for these two nations to divide the land between them into two states. In so doing it will halt the steady drift, born of despair more than enthusiasm, towards the so-called one-state solution – so-called because while it would bring one state, it offers no solution, just a single entity that would frustrate the yearning for self-determination of both sides.”
“Recognition of the State of Palestine by the United Nations would be a first step on the road toward successful negotiations which must follow UN action. After all, no UN action can force Israel to end the occupation of the West Bank. The army and the settlers will still be there, UN or no UN. That is why the Palestinian leadership says that one of the first things the new State of Palestine would do will be to ask Israel to commence negotiations over borders, security arrangements, refugees, Holy Places, etc. The only difference UN recognition would make is that it would be near impossible for Netanyahu to say ‘no’ after the United Nations had, in effect, declared that it was occupying not some vague entity but another people’s state.”
“The biggest contradiction of all is the assertion that the Palestinian attempt to resolve their conflict with Israel at the United Nations represents a threat to diplomacy — rather than diplomacy itself. After all, what is the United Nations other than an arena for conflict resolution by means of diplomacy? Having abandoned the effort to end the occupation through violence, the Palestinians are turning to the UN. What could be wrong with that?”
“Taking their case to the United Nations is a powerful statement by the Palestinian leadership that they have rejected terrorism once and for all and are determined to live in peace alongside Israel. It is also a sign that the ‘hard men’ of violence who once dominated Palestinian politics are relics of the past. The future belongs to people like Salam Fayyad who, in the words of renowned New Republic writer and life-long Zionist, Leon Wieseltier, is the man who ‘all Israelis and Palestinians, who are not maniacs, have dreamed’ of.”
President Carter said, “the only alternative [to statehood] is a maintenance of the status quo.” Securing statehood, on the other hand, could shake up the calculations by Israel in the negotiations, and help force a peaceful resolution to the crisis. “As an alternative to a deadlock and a stalemate now, we reluctantly support the Palestinian move for recognition,” Carter said at the Carter Center in Atlanta in early September 2011.
President Carter says that he would not have been in favor of the U.N. recognition bid had the Obama administration, “put forward any sort of comprehensive peace proposal.
“The Palestinian statehood initiative is a chance to replace Oslo with a new paradigm based on state-to-state negotiations — a win-win proposition that makes the conflict more manageable and lays the groundwork for a lasting solution.”
Many of these states are in the developing world. This means that nearly two-thirds of the UN General Assembly already supports Palestinian statehood. A vote in the UN is a logical next step.
Nabil Shaath, leader of the foreign affairs department of Fatah, the main party of the Palestinian Authority: “We want to generate pressure on Israel to make it feel isolated and help it understand that there can be no talks without a stop to settlements. Without that, our goal is membership in the United Nations General Assembly in September.”
“President Mahmoud Abbas plans to formally request full-member-state status in the United Nations. This move intentionally puts prospects for peace in jeopardy. I oppose the decision of the PA to circumvent the peace process and seek a change in status from the United Nations. Along with the PA’s other recent actions that undermine peace, this decision demonstrates why Congress must terminate funding to the PA. Should a status change be passed, Congress must evaluate and significantly cut funding to the U.N.The best path to a true and lasting peace is through direct negotiations between the two parties — not through manipulations at the U.N. The consequences to the peace process are grave. The ability to move forward with an agreement is greatly diminished by these tactics. Instead of embarking on a time-consuming campaign to gain support in the U.N., the Palestinian leadership should be working directly with Israel on creating a real and sustainable peace agreement. The U.N. must refrain from intervening on issues that are part of the direct negotiations by the parties. The decision about borders and statehood should be achieved through a final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
US Ambassador to the UN said on NPR on September 22nd, 2011: “If it accelerated the negotiations, we would say yes. The reality is quite the opposite. The process that must occur will be that much more complicated in the wake of this kind of one-sided action.”
US Ambassador to the UN said on NPR on September 22nd, 2011: “they want a state and they want a state that has defined borders, that has a capital, that has the viability to deliver goods and services and benefits to the people. That’s what we want to see. But there’s no way to accomplish that through a vote in the Security Council and in the General Assembly. A vote here is merely a statement on a piece of paper. It doesn’t change anything on the ground for the Palestinian people the day after.
President Obama said to the United Nations on September 21st, 2011: “Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN – if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians – not us – who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and security; on refugees and Jerusalem.”
President Obama said to the United Nations on September 21st, 2011: “Ultimately, peace depends upon compromise among people who must live together long after our speeches are over, long after our votes have been tallied. That’s the lesson of Northern Ireland, where ancient antagonists bridged their differences. That’s the lesson of Sudan, where a negotiated settlement led to an independent state. And that is and will be the path to a Palestinian state — negotiations between the parties.”
US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said to NPR on September 22nd, 2011: “This is not just a neutral, symbolic action. In our view it is unwise and counterproductive.”
The Palestinians have consistently refused to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state. This obvious, basic step would meet one of the Israeli’s main preconditions for negotiations and would likely restart talks immediately.
“Protecting self-determination for all Palestinians. The Western-backed Palestinian Authority’s (PA) effort to seek UN recognition of ‘statehood’ unilaterally, without consulting the Palestinian people from which the PA has absolutely no mandate, has raised fears among Palestinians that the move could actually harm Palestinian rights. If the UN votes to admit the ‘State of Palestine,’ it is likely that the unelected representatives of the Palestinian Authority would be seated in the General Assembly instead of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which currently holds the Palestine observer seat at the UN. This would be a severe blow to the potential for realizing Palestinian rights in the long run through international bodies: whereas the PLO ostensibly represents all Palestinians, the PA ‘state’ would only represent its ‘citizens’ – residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. […] A ‘State of Palestine’ must not be allowed to replace or usurp the right to representation and self-determination of the whole Palestinian people through a reconstituted PLO.”
“rather than oppose the resolution, Israel should seize the initiative and use it to its advantage by agreeing to support the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN. Voting for Palestinian statehood may finally open the door for Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, strengthen the possibility of a two-state solution, and greatly improve Israel’s position in the region and in the international community.”
“Our doomed attempt to prevent recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations will only serve to bolster the cause of those who are trying to delegitimize Israel’s national rights.”
“This is a moment of opportunity, perhaps the last. Friends of both Israelis and Palestinians should do everything they can to support action by the UN. to create a Palestinian state this fall. The alternative, the end to diplomacy and the rebirth of utter despair and hopelessness, will inevitably lead to disaster for Israel, for Palestine and for American interests too.”
“The only losers in this scenario would be Syria and Iran, pariah states that have worked tirelessly — through their support of Hamas and Hezbollah — to undermine the peace process. Saudi Arabia recently played a leading role in isolating Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal government by demanding an end to the killing of protesters and recalling the Saudi ambassador from Damascus. The impending fall of Mr. Assad’s barbarous regime provides a rare strategic opportunity to weaken Iran. Without this vital ally, Tehran will find it more difficult to foment discord in the Arab world. Today, there is a chance for the United States and Saudi Arabia to contain Iran and prevent it from destabilizing the region. But this opportunity will be squandered if the Obama administration’s actions at the United Nations force a deepening split between our two countries.”
“Let us be honest with ourselves: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, look out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile and persecution, and fresh memories of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they are. Those are facts. They cannot be denied. The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors. And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two-state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine.”[Extended quote in argument page].
“A United Nations vote on Palestinian membership would be ruinous.”
US Ambassador to the UN said on NPR on September 22nd, 2011: “While we are very consistent in our principled stand that we want to see freedom, democracy, respect for human rights everywhere in the world, including throughout the Arab and Muslim world — that is the goal, of course, for the people of Palestine. But they want a state and they want a state that has defined borders, that has a capital, that has the viability to deliver goods and services and benefits to the people. That’s what we want to see. But there’s no way to accomplish that through a vote in the Security Council and in the General Assembly. A vote here is merely a statement on a piece of paper. It doesn’t change anything on the ground for the Palestinian people the day after. If it accelerated the negotiations, we would say yes. The reality is quite the opposite. The process that must occur will be that much more complicated in the wake of this kind of one-sided action.”
“it is the Israelis and the Palestinians — not us –- who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and on security, on refugees and Jerusalem…. let us make peace, but a peace, most importantly, that will last.”
Carter supports the Palestinian push at the UN and says that their statehood is “a basic moral commitment” for the U.S.
“President Barack Obama is delaying another people’s freedom. He’s joined by a Congress following the lead of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and also many members of both parties that implicitly — and sometimes explicitly — back Israeli colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”
“The Jews of Palestine (who would later become Israelis) knew that the United Nations was the only forum to achieve recognition of a state when they turned to it in 1947. As any Israeli will tell you, it was the United Nations General Assembly that granted Israel its birth certificate. … The Israelis went to the United Nations for precisely the same reason the Palestinians will.”
Mr. Abbas at the UN in late September of 2011: “The time has come also for the Palestinian spring, the time for independence.”
“After 20 years of failed negotiations caused largely by Israel’s insistence on retaining parts of the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as refusing to allow Palestinians the right of return, the Palestinians of the occupied territories are taking their case to the United Nations. They are refusing to allow Washington to kick the can endlessly down the road. More than 130 nations are expected to side with the Palestinians. Only a small number are expected to stand in the way. Yet Washington is determined to place the blame for the coming confrontation on the Palestinians. This is unfair. It is unreasonable to expect Palestinians to give up this nonviolent option.”
“Israel would still control Palestinian territory, leaving the Palestinians disaffected after the initial euphoria.”
“The great impetus for democracy and reform in the region makes it even more urgent to settle this bitter and tragic conflict in the context of a region moving towards greater peace and respect for human rights. But there simply are no shortcuts. We hope that those who share our hopes for peace between a secure and sovereign Israel and Palestine will join us in redoubling our common efforts to encourage and support the resumption of direct negotiations.