You don’t have to work for a Middle East think tank or have a doctorate in international relations to understand that a Palestinian state created through unilateral action can never be anything resembling a real state — even if it is endorsed by the United Nations.
Apparently the Palestinians don’t get it. Instead of returning to direct talks with a willing Israeli government, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and company are working feverishly to build international support for a unilateral declaration, setting the stage for a possible General Assembly vote in September.
Palestinian leaders cannot possibly believe such action will create the state they say is their top goal. Instead, the aim seems to be to ratchet up the pressure on Israel to make big concessions without all the fuss and bother of negotiations and mutual compromises.
The problem is that the UN statehood push can only make real statehood harder to attain and further exacerbate tensions in the region.
A successful effort at the UN will only back Israel further into a corner, put tremendous new pressure on the Netanyahu government to take unilateral steps of its own and undermine support among the Israeli public for the concessions Israel will inevitably have to make as part of any genuine peace process.
The Palestinians have good reason to be frustrated. The Obama administration, tripped up by early mistakes and distracted by the furious onslaught of crises in other regions, has shown little real leadership in the region. The Netanyahu government, a fragile coalition that includes some who have no interest in pursuing a two-state solution, is not easy to deal with. But the Palestinians are the ones who have refused to sit down to direct negotiations; it’s the Palestinian leadership that has responded inadequately to international demands to end anti-Israel incitement.
And no UN resolution can answer the question of how a genuine Palestinian state can be created while the PA controls the West Bank and Gaza remains in the iron grip of Hamas, or how a two-state solution can work as long as Hamas remains committed to Israel’s destruction.
The Obama administration needs to pull out all the stops in convincing its European allies to spurn the Palestinian request. It needs to intensify its efforts to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the bargaining table, possibly by offering some bridging proposals and outlining in the clearest possible terms the widely accepted parameters of a final agreement. And it needs to work relentlessly to convince the Palestinians that UN pressure on Israel is a dangerous dead end, not a route to authentic statehood.