Tomorrow, Friday the 23rd of September 2011, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas
will go before the UN and set out his request for formal recognition of the state of Palestine.
There are many problems with this, and not just for the Palestinians...
A year ago, peace talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis, the key policy issue for the Obama administration at the time, broke down
when despite pressure from Obama
, Israel's right-leaning Likud
coalition government refused to extend its freeze on the illegal settlement building
in the occupied territories of the West Bank.
So far, so Middle East Peace Process.
So what does the UN approach mean? There are a number of options available to the Palestinians. They can approach the UN General Assembly
, the UN Security Council
or the UN Secretary General
directly. The UN General Assembly is generally pro-Palestinian and many believe that an approach there would be successful, though the General Assembly's rulings are not legally binding and the best the Palestinians could hope for there is an upgrade to a "Vatican"
level of representation in the UN. If instead they go to the UN Security Council, the approval of which is considered necessary for full UN Membership, they are likely to meet with a solid US Veto.
US veto in favour of Israel? So far, so US Foreign Policy.
This wouldn't have been such an issue were it not for the fact that Obama has been very quick to praise the advance of freedom and democracy in the Middle East during the Arab Spring. That and that his own words form his famous "New Beginning" speech at Cairo's Al-Azhar University
are now coming back to haunt him: "They endure the daily humiliations - large and small - that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own." (Applause.)
So Obama and the US as a whole now faces accusations of hypocrisy
- they support freedom in the Middle East so long as it doesn't adversely affect Israel. Political opponents of Obama have been quick to capitalise on the situation - with Rick Perry
accusing Obama of betraying Israel
and siding with the "orchestrators of terrorism". This in spite of Obama's actual comments on the issue being seen as pro-Israel in Arab media
. This is also the same Rick Perry who has a view of the Palestinians which appears to be about 30 years out of date.
So what of the Israelis?
Israel finds itself increasingly isolated on the world stage. After failing to apologise for the deaths of Turkish demonstrators on the Mavi Marmara
(on which the protesters were by no means innocent
, accidentally killing Egyptian border guards following a terrorist attack on an Israeli tourist bus
, Israel's former "friendly" Arab states are friendly no more. Despite previously adopting a beligerent stance, Netanyahu has offered to return to talks with the Palestinians without preconditions. This follows an earlier offer to talk, and to "accept"
a status upgrade at the UN General Assembly so long as statehood wasn't recognised.
The whole thing comes to a head tomorrow. We may see the 194th state
, and then again we may not. One thing's for certain... whatever way tomorrow plays out, the Middle East won't be the same again.