In a little more than three months the United Nations General Assembly may be asked to take up a unilateral Palestinian declaration of independence, which Palestinian leaders hope will set the stage for a genuine state. That hope is dangerously misguided; the Palestinian effort to use the international body as an alternative to engaging in direct, bilateral negotiations can only make statehood harder to achieve and increase the likelihood of renewed violence.
We say this knowing that the continuing stalemate in negotiations is frustrating and that any resumption of talks will require politically painful decisions, a reality faced by Israeli as well as Palestinian leaders.
The Obama administration remains committed to forestalling the Palestinian UN end run, and there are indications its efforts may be paying dividends among European nations traditionally sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.
That effort must continue unabated. Our European allies need to understand that using the UN as a diversion from direct, bilateral negotiations is a diplomatic dead end that can only widen the gap between the two sides.
We commend the Obama administration for its productive efforts to blunt the thrust of the Palestinian campaign — which is more about demonizing Israel than restarting a stalemated peace process. But the administration must not couple those efforts with new pressure on the Netanyahu government to make concessions as a way of enticing the Palestinians to forsake this misguided strategy.
It must also be said that Palestinian irresponsibility in this matter does not absolve Israel’s leaders of the need to keep seeking new avenues for achieving the peace with security its citizens crave and deserve. The current status quo serves only the extremists on both sides.
Huge obstacles remain to any movement on the Israeli-Palestinian front, starting with this fact: it is far from clear whether the leadership in Ramallah is interested in advancing negotiations or simply determined to find new ways to demonize Israel. The issues grow more complex by the day, and mistrust on both sides deepens. The Fatah-Hamas unity agreement is one more explosive wild card in the mix that alarms — with good reason — Israeli leaders and citizens alike.
Israeli-Palestinian peace is more elusive than ever — and yet there is no escaping the fact that finding ways to break the current stalemate is the responsibility of both parties. And running to the UN for a meaningless, potentially disruptive endorsement of statehood is not the way to do it.