The United States nominally opposed the General Assembly Resolution granting nonmember state status to “Palestine.”
In the short run, it changes nothing on the ground, but it does embolden the Palestinians to hold out for everything, including a reversion to the 1949 Armistice borders, commonly and somewhat erroneously referred to at the 1967 borders.
Those borders leave Israel just 9 miles wide at the narrowest point, require return of the Western Wall to Muslim control, and other absurdities as noted by Alan Dershowitz, Legal Implication of the United Nations Resolution on Palestine:
It would mean that Israel, which captured some Jordanian territory after Jordan attacked West Jerusalem in 1967, is illegally occupying the Western Wall (Judaism’s holiest site), the Jewish Quarter of old Jerusalem (where Jews have lived for thousands of years), the access road to the Hebrew University (which was established well before Israel even became a state) and other areas necessary to the security of its citizens. It would also mean that Security Council Resolution 242, whose purpose it was to allow Israel to hold onto some of the territories captured during its defensive 1967 war, would be overruled by a General Assembly vote—something the United Nations Charter explicitly forbids. It would be the first time in history that a nation was required to return all land lawfully captured in a defensive war.
If all the territory captured by Israel in its defensive war is being illegally occupied then it might be open to the newly recognized “Palestinian State” to try to bring a case before the International Criminal Court against Israeli political and military leaders who are involved in the occupation. This would mean that virtually every Israeli leader could be placed on trial. What this would entail realistically is that they could not travel to countries which might extradite them for trial in the Hague.
Palestinian Lawfare, in which all the decks are stacked against Israel because “international law” is whatever the anti-Israel majority says it is and there is no concept of a truly independent judiciary, will continue as a pressure point for a return to the 1967 borders.
None of this stands in opposition to Obama’s desired result.
Obama told us in May 2011 that a return to 1967 was his goal, with a few adjustments, Obama – Israel must withdraw to 1967 borders with land swaps (emphasis mine):
So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, and a secure Israel. The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
As much as defenders of Obama claimed this was nothing new, it was new and violated prior assurances given to Israel by prior Presidents.
Not surprisingly, as soon as Obama made his statement in May 2011, the Palestinians agreed, Palestinians: Pre-1967 Borders Sound Good, Just Like Obama Said:
Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat on Sunday said that he agreed with US President Barack Obama’s assertion that the 1967 borders should be the basis for negotiations with Israel, but that it was more important that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu accept this premise.
Once Netanyahu says that the negotiations will lead to a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, then everything will be set,” Palestinian news agency WAFA quoted Erekat as saying. He added that until that happened, negotiations with Israel would not resume.
Fast forward to November 2012, and Obama’s position now has been adopted by the U.N. General Assembly, and the Palestinians are taking it to the bank:
“We now have a state… the world has said loudly ‘yes’ to the state of Palestine,” Abbas told the crowd of some 5,000 people who thronged a square Sunday outside Abbas’s government headquarters on Sunday. Many hoisted Palestinian flags and balloons in the colors of the flag.
“Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the state of Palestine,” Abbas added. “The world has said ‘no’ to aggression, settlements and occupation.”
There is no middle ground anymore. There is Obama’s way as adopted by the General Assembly, a return to 1967 maybe with some minor swaps, and then there is the way of Israeli security needs. The two are not compatible.
This could have been stopped, and a middle ground preserved for negotiation, had the Obama administration done more than some tepid rhetoric.
But that would not have served Obama’s goal: To force an Israeli return to 1967, with some minor modifications.
The U.N. General Assembly vote served Obama’s purposes, without his fingerprints on it.