The U.N. General Assembly voted Thursday to grant the Palestinians the status of “non-member observer state.” The Post reports: “The 193-member U.N. body voted 138 to 9, with 41 abstentions, to recognize Palestine as a “non-member observer state,” a status that falls well short of independence but provides Palestinians with limited privileges as a state, including the right to join the International Criminal Court and other international treaty bodies.”
What does this mean (other than that Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority, has snubbed the United States, acted in violation of treaty obligations and demonstrated he’s no partner for peace)? It may be serious enough to gain the Palestinians access to a Kafka-esque legal regime in which it can run to the ICC and get Israel’s leaders declared to be war criminals. But former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams writes that this is a two-edged sword:
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 Every UN agency “Palestine” joins will quickly be bankrupt, for the United States will withdraw from each as we have withdrawn from UNESCO–and in most we pay 22% of the budget, a shortfall the PLO’s champions have not offered to make up.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.
Moreover, Abbas has now infuriated members on both sides of the aisle who are demanding the United States cut off aid to the PA.
In short, this is a joke, the last gasp of an increasingly irrelevant Palestinian leader who has not the courage or incentive to negotiate a lasting treaty with Israel and obtain an actual state (with borders and everything) for his people.
Israel seems inclined to wait and see. True, the PA is in violation of the Oslo Accords in a very material fashion, but it is not clear Israel gains anything from declaring itself unbound by that and other agreements.
The U.S. administration, via United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, issued a wormlike statement evidencing the sort of moral relativism that infects everything the Obama administration does. After reciting U.S. policy that only bilateral negotiations can result in a Palestinian state and declaring that the PA’s actions move the parties farther away (is this metaphysically possible?), Rice intoned: “The United States therefore calls upon both the parties to resume direct talks without preconditions on all the issues that divide them. And we pledge that the United States will be there to support the parties vigorously in such efforts. The United States will continue to urge all parties to avoid any further provocative actions—in the region, in New York, or elsewhere.” What provocative actions exactly has Israel been charged with making, and which party (hint: not Israel) has walked away from the negotiating table? Rice concludes with this gem: “The recent conflict in Gaza is just the latest reminder that the absence of peace risks the presence of war. We urge those who share our hopes for peace between a sovereign Palestine and a secure Israel to join us in supporting negotiations, not encouraging further distractions. There simply are no short cuts.” Actually, the recent conflict in Gaza shows Abbas has no role there, Iran remains the underlying threat to the region, and land-for-peace (as Israel gave when it withdrew from Gaza) is nonsense (dangerous nonsense).
What should the United States do? It’s tempting to pull the plug on the U.S. taxpayers’ support for the PA (which is rife with corruption and uses it to pay terrorists sitting in Israeli jails). Abrams, however, tells Right Turn, “Like the Israelis, we should look forward. [Abbas] should go to the table and not go to the International Criminal Court. He should use this against Hamas, not Israel. Defunding the PA just hurts Israel.” I sense, however, he’ll not be nearly so constructive. (From my vantage point I’d rather defund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, since you can’t be a refugee in a “non-member observer state.”)
Truth be told, the “peace process” was moribund the day before the U.N. vote and it is moribund now. The United States should be applying pressure on the PA to hold elections (no “Arab Spring” for Palestinians has there been), demanding it curb corruption and seeing if any positive steps can be made to improve the lives of Palestinians. Other than that, there’s not much to do until the Palestinians have a change of heart and change of leadership.