By Barry Rubin
1) What are the chances that the PA achieves a triumph at the UN?
It depends on what you mean by the word “triumph.” Will a Palestinian state that doesn’t even control the Gaza Strip (half the territory it claims), has not kept its diplomatic commitments, and doesn’t seek a peace agreement with Israel get recognition for unilateral independence? No. Because if the proposal passes the General Assembly it will still be vetoed by the United States in the Security Council.
A triumph may include public relations’ successes plus the recognition by several more countries—though many countries have recognized such a state since it was declared in 1988. Yet in material terms it will change nothing. By the same token, it would mean that the entire year 2011 has passed without negotiations, delaying the creation of a real Palestinian state.
2) If the Palestinian state is recognized in the UN, what are the consequences for Israel?
It won’t be so recognized. But Israel has made it clear that it would stop transfer payments and other benefits to the West Bank because those were part of the 1993 peace agreement and the Palestinian leadership was now throwing that away.
3) What will happen if the Palestinian initiative fails? Is there fear a reaction violent, a new Intifada?
Palestinian leaders have called for major demonstrations on September 20. And although these are supposedly not violent if Israel’s borders are assaulted the attackers will be repelled. Palestinian leaders have also hinted at a return to violence Many don’t want it but the gunmen may not give them a choice.
Here, too, the New York Times editorial has a most meaningful sentence. Even if the UN General Assembly passes a statehood resolution, “After the initial exhilaration, Palestinians would be even more alienated, while extremists would try to exploit that disaffection.” The problem is that the “extremists” including the majority of the Fatah leadership and Palestinian Authority, as well as the Palestinian Authority. And that’s the biggest problem of all. If it passes they might well renew terrorist violence and if it doesn’t pass they may well renew terrorist violence.
4) What role Obama has played in this process? He looks less pro-Israel than other U.S. presidents?
While unintentionally, Obama has systematically sabotaged the process. There have been a long list of errors that explain the fact that while he has been avidly seeking direct talks for two and a half years there haven’t been any. By moving somewhat away from Israel, Obama has led, without fully comprehending it, the Palestinian leadership to harden its line, refuse negotiations, and go for a unilateral independence victory.
Thus, instead of negotiating to get a state in exchange for compromise, the Palestinian leadership is pursuing a policy that will make newspaper stories and end by leaving them with no material progress. The creation of such a state is once again postponed due to Palestinian action. There could have been such a state in 1948, 1968, 1978, and 2000—to cite the most prominent dates—and now 2011 will see the same lost opportunities for them.
The New York Times, in an editorial on the subject, has a very revealing sentence: “The United States will undoubtedly veto any resolution, and that will further isolate both Israel and Washington.” Well, it won’t isolate Israel any more than it is already but it will damage, in Obama’s view, U.S. policy. What’s missing, however, is any consideration by the Times (reflecting the general foreign policy debate in the establishment) about U.S. interests. Being “isolated” and not being popular–rather than having a foreign policy that doesn’t serve national interests–is the ultimate sin. Thus, enemies are courted to avoid conflict while friends are disrespected since, presumably, they aren’t going to do anything about it.