The threat of the Palestinians going directly to the U.N. General Assembly to obtain recognition as a sovereign state has been the latest in a long line of attempts to obtain the 1967 borders and to avoid serious concessions on non-territorial items, such as the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
In a recent Op-Ed in The NY Times, Mahmoud Abbas proclaimed the Palestinians intention to obtain membership as a state at the U.N. this September:
Palestine’s admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice….
The State of Palestine intends to be a peace-loving nation, committed to human rights, democracy, the rule of law and the principles of the United Nations Charter. Once admitted to the United Nations, our state stands ready to negotiate all core issues of the conflict with Israel. A key focus of negotiations will be reaching a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on Resolution 194, which the General Assembly passed in 1948.
Palestine would be negotiating from the position of one United Nations member whose territory is militarily occupied by another, however, and not as a vanquished people ready to accept whatever terms are put in front of us.
The pressure from U.N. recognition has led to many chicken-little outcries that Israel must give in now, or else.
It appears that the Palestinian gambit was nothing more than posturing, with one important caveat.
As reported by the Jerusalem Post, the President of the U.N. General Assembly confirms that the Palestinians cannot obtain U.N. recognition as a member state unless the matter is referred to the General Assembly by the Security Council:
The Palestinians cannot circumvent the UN Security Council to avoid a likely US veto if they try to join the United Nations as a sovereign state later this year, a top UN official said on Friday.
But the official made clear a US veto would not put the issue of Palestinian statehood and UN membership to rest.
Some Arab diplomats in New York have suggested it would be possible for the Palestinians to bypass the UN Security Council and go straight to the 192-nation General Assembly to win approval for a planned UN membership application.
The UN charter says that new members are admitted by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the 15-nation Security Council, where the United Sates, Britain, France, China and Russia are permanent members with veto powers.
The current president of the General Assembly, Joseph Deiss of Switzerland, was asked by reporters if there was a way for the Palestinians to become a UN member state if its application was vetoed by the United States, which opposes the idea. Deiss said, “No.”
The big caveat is that a permanent U.N. member would have to exercise its veto power. That’s us.
A General Assembly resolution unofficially recognizing a Palestinian state would not be insignificant as a further attempt to isolate Israel, but it also would not amount to much more than already exists. In 1947 the General Assembly recognized Jewish and Arab states, and the Palestinians rejected it. In 1988, another General Assembly resolution was passed recognizing Palestinian sovereignty over post-’67 war territory captured by Israel.
Yet the Palestinians do not have a state because they have rejected compromise on the key issues, and have no consensus even as to whether Israel should exist as a Jewish state alongside a Palestinian state.
One of these days the Palestinians will accept that they cannot have it all, just as Benjamin Netanyahu recently acknowledged that there will have to be Israeli territorial compromises.
But one of those days seems as far away as it was in 1947, 1967, 1973, 1988, and last week.