How Exactly Does Palestinian Statehood Sabotage the Peace Process?

Netanyahu CongressOn the face of it, statehood is an odd request to reject. But, writes Gershom Gorenberg at the Daily Beast: “The official argument is that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has turned to the United Nations because he wants to evade making peace with Israe.l As Israeli Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar phrased it at a recent political rally … ‘The Palestinians have been serial rejectionists of peace—ever since the U.N. decision of 1947.’”

It’s tough to understand how the process of becoming a state could sabotage the peace process. Intuitively the opposite should be true: becoming a state suggests a readiness to assume the responsibility of global citizenship. Nevertheless, in a speech yesterday (September 20) before the UN Security Council, President Obama spelled out the unconventional wisdom on why Palestine should be denied statehood. Instead, he said

… the international community should continue to push Israelis and Palestinians toward talks on the four intractable “final status” issues that have vexed peace negotiations since 1979: the borders of a Palestinian state, security for Israel, the status of Palestinian refugees who left or were forced to leave their homes in Israel, and the fate of Jerusalem, which both sides claim for their capital.

Turns out Abbas is willing to comprise and delay statehood until more talks are held. The Guardian reports:

International efforts to forestall a showdown in the UN security council over the declaration of a Palestinian state are solidifying around a plan for the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to submit a request for recognition but for a vote on the issue to be put on hold while a new round of peace talks is launched.

In the interim, Washington couldn’t wait to show Israel how alarmed it was by Palestine’s pursuit of statehood. James Traub at Foreign Policy:

With barely a week to go before the Palestinian Authority (PA) seeks a vote on statehood at the United Nations, members of U.S. Congress have begun to stage a lively competition for the most elaborately punitive legislative response. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has prepared a bill that would withhold funds “from any UN agency or program that upgrades the status of the PLO/Palestinian observer mission,” … Rep. Steve Israel, a New York Democrat, did her one better with a measure that would eliminate bilateral military assistance for any country that voted for statehood … But Rep. Joe Walsh, a right-wing Republican from Illinois, took the cake with a resolution endorsing Israel’s right to annex the West Bank should the PA go ahead with the vote.

At New York Magazine, John Heilemann chronicles Washington’s groveling during Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit in May of this year.

The next day, Netanyahu delivered his on-camera lecture to Obama. … But Netanyahu knew he could get away with it—so staunch and absolute is the bipartisan support he commands in the U.S. Garishly illuminating the point, on the night before his speech to Congress, the prime minister attended the annual AIPAC policy conference in Washington, where he was the headline speaker at the event’s gala banquet. Before he took the stage, three announcers, amid flashing spotlights and in the style of the introductions at an NBA All-Star game, read the names of every prominent person in the room, including 67 senators, 286 House members, and dozens of administration and Israeli officials, foreign dignitaries, and student leaders. … thunderous waves of applause … poured over Netanyahu.

The next day came his speech to Congress, in which he spelled out demands that were maximal by any measure: recognition by the Palestinians of Israel as a Jewish state as a precondition for negotiations, a refusal to talk if Hamas is part of the Palestinian side, an undivided Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and absolutely no right of return for Palestinian refugees.

More on Netanyahu’s speech by Gideon Levy at Haaretz.

It was an address with no destination, filled with lies on top of lies and illusions heaped on illusions. … The fact that the Congress rose to its feet multiple times to applaud him says more about the ignorance of its members than the quality of their guest’s speech.

Back to Heilemann:

Taken as a whole, his whirlwind Washington visit provided a strong dose of clarity. … So much pandering, so little time!

Here’s an idea: when Netanyahu completes his term as prime minister, he should move back to the United States, where he lived for six years as a youth, graduating from an American high school. Cabinet members are free from birth requirements like the president of the United States. To make it that much easier for Capitol Hill to pay deference to Netanyahu and Israel, create a Department of Israeli Affairs, and appoint Netanyahu, like a Supreme Court justice, as its head for life.