Reuters reports: “The Palestinians cannot circumvent the U.N. Security Council to avoid a likely U.S. veto if they try to join the United Nations as a sovereign state later this year, a top U.N. official said on Friday.” So why not let it be known that the United States will veto a Security Council resolution and be done with this “help give Israel’s chits away” tactic?
For starters, the Obama administration is squeamish about exercising a veto, a sign in the minds of the multilateralists who inhabit the White House and State Department that the United States is “isolated.” But beyond the Security Council, there is reason for concern.
Former National Security Council deputy adviser Elliott Abrams tells me that an impact of a General Assembly resolution can be severe: “The Palestinians will go for the vote; [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas is too committed now to back off. And even if that vote is legally without effect, it would still be a very bad day for Israel to have 150 or more countries vote against her. It is certainly worth trying to avoid such an event.” He cautions that the General Assembly can do quite a bit of damage on its own: “No one can be sure of the legal impact and how U.N. lawyers will interpret things, though I believe the Security Council veto should end the matter. Even so, like the Zionism-is-racism resolution, it would do harm, and would presumably give energy to the BDS [boycott/divestment/sanctions] movement — even if, or maybe especially if, it is ruled against ‘by lawyers.’ ”
If the Palestinians are determined to go to the United Nations, why is President Obama dangling the 1967 borders before them? A Senate adviser tells me, “It’s not about persuading the Palestinians to abandon their push at the U.N. It’s about persuading countries on the fence — in Europe, Latin America, Asia — not to vote for what the Palestinians put forward. If they feel like things are moving, or that the absence of negotiations is the fault of the Palestinians, they’re more likely not to vote for the resolution.” Perhaps.
“So far,” Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told me, “Obama’s not winning the day.” Britain appears adamant about supporting the Palestinians’ U.N. effort while the French have made clear that they, too, would support a Palestinian effort, Schanzer says, “unless there is progress.”
Oddly, in fending off a U.N. effort, Obama has not made much use, at least publicly, of the potential impact of Hamas in the unity government. Schanzer says that many of the countries inclined to support the Palestinians at the United Nations (e.g. Latin America, Scandinavia, much of Western Europe) couldn’t care less that Hamas is a terrorist group. Nevertheless, Schanzer contends that the administration should be making a much bigger deal of the Hamas arrangement, explaining, “This is the end of the reform movement that they have so heavily invested in.” If Hamas is to play an ongoing role, Schanzer surmises, reform-minded Prime Minister Salam Fayyad would almost certainly go, and with him the hope for a technically competent and reasonably non-corrupt government.
Schanzer observes ruefully, “This is the first successful diplomatic initiative other than terrorism” by the Palestinians. Terrorism got the world to pay attention to the Palestinians and now the “international community” (an oxymoron since it is quite obvious we don’t share common goals or values) is prepared to carve up Israel and empower the Palestinians to go to the International Criminal Court to sue for land and other sanctions.
Obama was certain that his presence on the scene would open a new era in the Middle East. Little did we know it would be this dreadful.