Harry Siegman has a brilliant takedown at the National Interest of U.S.-Israeli objections to a September bid for Palestinian statehood at the U.N. I wrote a bit about the false arguments against Palestinian statehood last month. As I did, Siegman explodes the rationale that the U.N. is not the right venue for unilateral bids for state recognition. Not only is that, in part, explicitly the purpose of the U.N. – to help end colonialism and give rise to independence for indigenous nationalist movements – but it is also precisely the route taken to secure Israeli statehood. So either the U.S. and Israel admit that different rules apply to them than apply to the rest of the world, or they drop this phony argument.
But Siegman astutely goes much further. First, there is the falsehood that a unilateral attempt to get U.N. recognition represents a stubborn abandonment of the so-called “peace process.” This falls flat on its face. As I’ve highlighted before, the peace process is futile and the deck is inherently stacked against Palestinians. As Siegman writes, “So far, this ‘peace process’ has enabled the transfer of over half a million Jews from Israel into Palestinian territory and East Jerusalem, but not one square inch of Palestinian sovereignty.”
And then, more fundamentally:
The United States and Israel have warned Palestinians to abandon their UN initiative on prudential grounds as well, for even if they were to succeed in obtaining UN recognition of their right to statehood in the Occupied Territories, nothing would change on the ground, for Israel’s government would be as indifferent to such a UN declaration as it has been to countless other UN directives. Indeed, Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has threatened that in those circumstances Israel would feel free to annex far more West Bank territory than it already has.
But if were true that UN action would have no effect whatever in advancing the Palestinian cause, except perhaps to spur an even greater Israeli land grab, why is Israel engaged in such frantic efforts to prevent a UN showdown? Indeed, why does it not welcome the Palestinian initiative?
The answer is that what the Netanyahu/Lieberman government fears most is an international confirmation that the 1967 border is the point of reference for Israeli Palestinian territorial negotiations, for despite Prime Minister Netanyahu’s alleged acceptance of a two-state solution, he remains as committed to the retention of most if not all of the West Bank as are most other members of his government, most of whom belong to the “Whole Land of Israel Caucus” in Israel’s Knesset. (Imagine what would have been the U.S. reaction to a Palestinian parliamentary caucus for the retention of the “Whole Land of Palestine.”)
And there we have it. The fundamental objection to Palestine seeking statehood at the U.N. is that it is actually constructive for Palestinians to do so. Israel has had virtually full reign to gradually encroach upon Palestinian sovereignty for decades, but a U.N. recognition of the 1967 borders seriously limits Israel’s ability to ignore that basic assumption of this conflict. Hopefully, they’ll only be able to keep it up for another month or so.