But as Palestinians started pursuing this policy, several crucial facts become clear:
First, the United States indicated unequivocally that it would veto in the Security Council a Palestinian application for U.N. membership, making such membership impossible at this time. Moreover, Congress has sent a strong message that U.N. action on Palestinian statehood would result in a cutoff of U.S. aid, and the United States is the single biggest donor to the Palestinian Authority.
Second, Palestinian hopes for securing support for U.N. membership from a unified European community have been dashed by the open opposition of some countries, such as Germany and the Netherlands, and by a lack of support from nations such as Britain and France, which hold key swing votes.
Third, Israel is threatening unspecified unilateral retaliation.
Fourth, there is a significant danger of widespread outrage among Palestinians if a U.N. effort fails, with serious potential for unrest. Outrage can also be expected if a U.N. initiative succeeds but produces no improvement or even leads to deterioration in Palestinians’ living conditions.
The significant gains that Palestinians have made recently in building institutions and preparing for their state must not be put at risk. And, regardless of what happens at the United Nations, Israel must cease its policy of publicly adopting a two-state solution while undermining the realization of that outcome with counterproductive actions.
Perhaps the most significant concern for Palestinians would be the potentially grave consequences of a U.S. veto in the Security Council on the question of statehood.
Last year the United States vetoed a resolution regarding Israeli settlement activity. Despite some Palestinians’ claims of a political victory, the cost of that defeat was enormous. Since then, Israel has effectively had a free hand in settlement expansion, with virtually no international, and even muted Palestinian, objections. If the veto on the settlements resolution effectively killed that issue, what would the consequences be of a veto on a statehood resolution?
There are, at least, options for avoiding this confrontation. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestine Liberation Organization officials have repeatedly said that they prefer negotiations and have asked for clear terms of reference to be presented. In that event, they have promised to negotiate and shelve any approach to the United Nations.