This week’s Palestinian-statehood extravaganza at the U.N. is being billed as something of a modern-day showdown at the O.K. Corral. If the Palestinians gain recognition of their state, then Israel is the big loser. And if the Palestinians fail to gain U.N. recognition of “Palestine” as a member state, then Israel is the big winner.
But the situation is more complex. By going to the U.N., the Palestinians have shown their absolute bad faith in previous negotiations with Israel, and indeed exposed the entire peace process as a lie. The peace process was based on the assumption that a Palestinians state could emerge only at the end of a comprehensive peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. That is, such a state would be at peace with Israel.
By bypassing negotiations, the Palestinians seek to gain a state that will be born in a state of war with Israel.
The U.S. and European response to this initiative has been utterly shocking. The Europeans, led by French president Nicolas Sarkozy, have given their enthusiastic support to the Palestinians.
As for the U.S., by rejecting a cutoff of financial assistance and political support to the Palestinians in the face of their rejection of peace with Israel, the Obama administration has signaled to the Palestinians that there is no price to be paid for their aggressive bad faith.
In short, the EU and the U.S. are rewarding the Palestinians for abandoning the centerpiece of European and U.S. Middle East policy for the past generation — the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
Given this situation, even if their bid for U.N. membership fails, the Palestinians will have won.
From Israel’s perspective, the best possible outcome of the current standoff at the U.N. is for the Palestinians to present their resolution for statehood to the Security Council and for the U.S. to immediately veto it. Such a move would provide closure to this particular round of anti-Israel aggression. But it certainly wouldn’t end the danger. The Palestinians can renew their request as often as they please. And given the sympathetic — indeed enthusiastic — reception they have received at the U.N., there is little reason to doubt that they will do so.
The worse scenario from Israel’s perspective is quickly becoming the more likely one. That scenario is that the Security Council will not bring the Palestinian-statehood resolution to an immediate vote but will instead delay voting on it for an indeterminate period. During that period, the U.S. and the EU will exert massive pressure on Israel to capitulate to whatever Palestinian preconditions for renewing negotiations are on hand.
Israel will face the prospect that if it fails to surrender to all the Palestinian demands, the U.N. General Assembly will retaliate by overriding the U.S.’s veto in the Security Council with a two-thirds vote. At a minimum, Israel will find itself under a constant barrage of criticism blaming it for the Palestinian decision to abandon the peace process and ask the U.N. to grant them what they refuse to negotiate with Israel.
All of this could have been averted or at least mitigated if the Obama administration had behaved differently. If the White House had announced at an early date that it would automatically veto any resolution calling for Palestinian U.N. membership and would end all U.S. financial and political support for the Palestinian Authority if it went through with its stated aim of applying for U.N. membership as a state, the Palestinians would likely have set aside their plans. But still today President Obama has refused to take any punitive action against the PA and, according to the New York Times, forced Israel to lobby Congress not to cut off foreign aid to the PA.
On the positive side, the Palestinian decision to abandon the peace process provides Israel with justification for doing the same. If Israel’s government is wise and courageous, it will end its financial and political support for the PA. It will also take steps toward applying Israeli law to Judea and Samaria much as it applied Israeli law to Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in the past.
— Caroline B. Glick is the senior contributing editor of the Jerusalem Post and the senior fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Center for Security Policy.