Recognizing ‘Palestine’ at the U.N.: Does it do more harm than good?

A controversial vote at the United Nations to upgrade the Palestinian mission to “non-member observer state” status shouldn’t upset Israel or the United States because most of the harm will be to the Palestinians themselves (and the U.N., secondarily), argues Elliott Abrams of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Recently the Israeli government has taken this same view, that the vote matters less than the PLO’s actions after it has taken place. National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror told Meet The Press that the PLO move was “mostly symbolic.” Asked how Israel would respond, he said “We will have to wait and see what he [PLO Chairman and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] does with it, and then act.” That’s smart, and the United States and the European nations should be advising Abbas to cool it. Every UN agency “Palestine” joins will quickly be bankrupt, for the United States will withdraw from each as we have withdrawn from UNESCO – and in most we pay 22% of the budget, a shortfall the PLO’s champions have not offered to make up. Moves in the ICC will gain Abbas one day’s notice in the Palestinian press but more permanently embitter relations with Israel. And two can play the same game: if he wishes to act against Israel under color of international law, Israel can ask why he is committing acts of aggression against it week after week. I refer to rockets out of Gaza, which “Palestine” claims as part of its sovereign territory. If Palestine is a state, and he leads it, surely he and his government are responsible for such terrorism. Of course the likely reply is that he doesn’t rule Gaza and in fact can’t even visit there. True – but this only shows how ridiculous is the General Assembly’s insistence on calling “Palestine” a state and him its leader.

It seems a reasonable question: Suspending the dynamics of why there is a West Bank-Gaza split, can Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas represent Palestine when he has absolutely no control over – or right to speak for – the 1.7 million Gaza population? 

Allen McDuffee writes about politics and policy and covered think tanks for The Washington Post from 2011 to 2013. He blogs and hosts a podcast at governmentality.net and is currently working on a book about the influence of think tanks in Washington.

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Allen McDuffee · November 28, 2012