What the UN Palestine Vote Means and What It Doesn’t

1) It should be no surprise that 130-odd countries took the rather technical step of of voting recognize Palestine as a “non-member” in the U.N. General Assembly. That is roughly the number of countries that already directly recognize Palestine as a state! If they have already actually recognized the state themselves, voting to extend such recognition for some particular purpose is hardly precedent-making. (Palestine’s international-recognition level rivals Israel’s.)

2) The apparent diplomatic victory is itself a consolation prize for the collapse of Abbas’ bid last year for actual U.N. membership for Palestine, which was rejected at the Security Council. If that effort was to be a “diplomatic tsunami,” as Israel’s defense minister warned, the current ploy is at most a chill breeze.

3) The vote must be seen in the context of a long history of past anti-Israel resolutions in the GA. These illustrate both the automatic majority such resolutions enjoy, and their unimportance to actual events. For example, in the 1970s, the parliament of nations overwhelmingly agreed that Zionism is a form a racism, and thus the entire country is illegitimate. In 2009, the GA adopted a resolution that concluded Israel intentionally sought to slaughter innocent Palestinian civilians in the Gaza War – a resolution based on the Goldstone report, which has since been retracted by its eponymous author.

4) There is nothing new even in the European position. Since 1980 Europe has maintained that the lands occupied by Jordan and Egypt in their 1948-49 war against Israel is actually
“Palestinian territory,” which Israel must leave. The European votes are consistent with their accord with almost all major Palestinian demands.

5) The theory that some European votes were motivated by the recent Gaza campaign shows that Israel can’t just win. It gets rocketed when it leaves territory, and that same rocketing is used as a pretext for going along with efforts that defy all previous agreements. It is a classic good cop/bad cop routine Hamas and Fatah are running.

6) Abbas’s repeated refusal to heed any of America’s insistent and increasingly pathetic requests (stop the resolution, or even tone it down) represents a slap in the face for President Obama – a flat refusal to cooperate or accomodate American (and many European) interests. This demonstrates the failure of Obama’s policy “outreach” towards the Palestinians, and his general courting of the Arab world. Despite his explicitly creating “space” between Israel and the US in his first term, it has not made the Palestinians even the least bit tractable on any issue, even when it comes to embarrassing the U.S.

Presumably all those who were indignant about Netanyahu’s purported “defiance” of Obama will now take up the President’s honor against Abbas.

7) Speaking of the President – credit where credit is due. I have previously criticized the record of his first three years on Israel, and stand by that. My criticism was always non-partisan. As I often point out, the Democratic Party has always been in lock-step with the general American solicitude for Israel, but Obama in his first three years took a different, confrontational course.

In the year before the election, he switched gears. I am happy to observe that since the election, his support of Israel has been what one would expect of any generic American president. One suspects that Abbas’s obvious rejection of any serious peace process, and his open use of Obama as a cat’s paw, began to grate.

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