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Palestinians ask for a state of their own.
September 22, 2011 10:52 AM   Subscribe

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/Yisrael Beiteinu 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.
posted by dougrayrankin (99 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thank you for an informative and detailed post.
posted by saturday_morning at 10:57 AM on September 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Honest question: Apart from the US, who are Israel's remaining steadfast allies?
posted by schmod at 10:58 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Huh? How is officially recognizing Palestine a betrayal of Israel?
posted by Sys Rq at 11:05 AM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


The UK and Canada
posted by KokuRyu at 11:06 AM on September 22, 2011


I wonder if this will be the issue that shifts the jewish bloc in America from Democrats to Republicans. Won't that be awkward and horrible.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:08 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


How is officially recognizing Palestine a betrayal of Israel?

Putting this as diplomatically as possible, some parts of Israel's approach to the Palestinian Territories might become more problematic at the UN if Palestine was a recognized member state.
posted by Hoopo at 11:10 AM on September 22, 2011 [11 favorites]


I wonder if this will be the issue that shifts the jewish bloc in America from Democrats to Republicans.

Not sure why that would be the case, as I believe Obama urged Abbas to return to peace talks with Israel instead of doing this and said the US would veto their appeal. The current Democratic administration is siding with Israel on this, and I'm not sure why you're thus predicting that shift.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:12 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


dougrayrankin: " 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.)"

This is outdated. The speech that President Obama gave yesterday at the UN regarding the Palestinians was far less supportive of their statehood and provoked a great deal of anger in various MidEast media outlets. He said that the Palestinians should seek statehood through talks with Israel, not the UN. Meanwhile, the GOP leaders, (Romney, Perry) who spent most of yesterday trashing Obama, are now silent, as far as I can see.

dougrayrankin: "Despite previously adopting a beligerent stance, Netanyahu has offered to return to talks with the Palestinians without preconditions."

Shockingly enough (and contrary to his normal rhetoric,) he seems sincere about it, too. This interview with al-Arabiya marks the first time the Israeli PM has sat down with Arabic media since taking office.
posted by zarq at 11:15 AM on September 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


My ignorance here is that everyone says that a two state solution is what is needed here. Whatever they have been doing so far hasn't made much progress towards this, so why not do this? I get my news on this issue primarily from NPR and Fox News. Both sides seem to agree that the US is in an awkward position, both agree the US doesn't want Abbas to do this, etc.

When NPR and Fox News analysis agree I really start to get confused.

Personally I don't think there will ever be a solution here that people are happy with. I think there is a bleak future and there will be no peace in the region in my lifetime.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:16 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


2bucksplus: "I wonder if this will be the issue that shifts the jewish bloc in America from Democrats to Republicans. Won't that be awkward and horrible."

Doubtful.
posted by zarq at 11:17 AM on September 22, 2011


"This in spite of Obama's actual comments on the issue being seen as pro-Israel in Arab media."

What's that phrase about a good compromise leaving neither side happy? Looks like Obama is doing something right.
posted by Mitheral at 11:17 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nice, balanced post for what is inevitably a contentious topic.
posted by mosk at 11:17 AM on September 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Huh? How is officially recognizing Palestine a betrayal of Israel?
Also trying to put this diplomatically... some in the US, particularly those politicians looking to score well amongst Christian evangelist voters, believe that defying the will of Israel is defying the will of God. Also, the Jewish lobby, AIPAC, holds a lot of sway in Washington. Having it as a friend during a Presidential bid is a good thing.

Also, to zarq, I agree. He does seem serious this time, though many ask "If he was serious, why did it take the threat of Palestinian recognition at the UN to get him to say so?"
posted by dougrayrankin at 11:17 AM on September 22, 2011


Also, to zarq, I agree. He does seem serious this time, though many ask "If he was serious, why did it take the threat of Palestinian recognition at the UN to get him to say so?"

All signs point to Netanyahu either being a bit of a moron when it comes to international diplomacy or being so wrapped up in internal politics that he can't be bothered with international diplomacy.

The handling of the incident with the Turkish ship was a diplomatic disaster, and it made the Israeli government look like amateurs and fools.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:23 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Personally I don't think there will ever be a solution here that people are happy with. I think there is a bleak future and there will be no peace in the region in my lifetime.
The troubling thing is, if Israel wants to remain a Jewish state, it has to accept a two state solution. If not, then within a generation or two, there will be more Muslim and Christian Palestinians in Israel than Jews. I personally don't understand why they didn't press themselves for a two state solution.

Netanyahu cites security concerns, one being that the 1967 borders are indefensible. The trouble with that argument is that a precedent was set for when those borders were defensible when facing not one, not two but three invading armies. Furthermore, Israel was able not just to hold its ground, but to expand its borders and defeat its enemies in six days. Why are the same borders now indefensible?
posted by dougrayrankin at 11:24 AM on September 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


I wonder if this will be the issue that shifts the jewish bloc in America from Democrats to Republicans. Won't that be awkward and horrible.

Pffft. The factors that have tied American Jews to the Democratic party are deeply entrenched in American Jewish culture and go far beyond Israel as the sole issue. Besides, a sizable contingent are pretty damn sympathetic toward Palestinians and are invested in the idea of a peace process specifically and are not really Israel Hawks in the way that much of the Christian Right is.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:25 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


So the biggest problem here is Israel not wanting a two state solution and the US "having" to support Israel on that?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:26 AM on September 22, 2011


Anyone who thinks the U.S. cares whether or not it sides with so-called "orchestrators of terror" hasn't been paying attention.
posted by swift at 11:26 AM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


cjorgensen: "My ignorance here is that everyone says that a two state solution is what is needed here. Whatever they have been doing so far hasn't made much progress towards this, so why not do this? I get my news on this issue primarily from NPR and Fox News. Both sides seem to agree that the US is in an awkward position, both agree the US doesn't want Abbas to do this, etc."

They are concerned (among other things) that it's likely to be a match in a tinder box.

It is possible that Palestinian statehood would lead to either a war by proxy against Israel, or a justified, legal war by Israel against Palestinian aggression if rockets are launched into Israel by Hamas from a Palestinian state. Right now, through a variety of methods, Israel can mostly prevent other states: Iran, Syria, etc., from arming the Palestinians. If the Palestinians achieve statehood, Israel will not be able to stop that from happening.

Add to this the idea that if Hamas launched an attack against Israel from within a Palestinian state, the Israelis would likely be within their legal right to declare war, and the situation then would become far, FAR more worrisome. A great deal of Israel's national psyche is founded on the concept of "Never Again" wrt the Holocaust. Precedent shows that their reaction would predictably be massively disproportionate to any attack -- just as it has in some previous invasions of the Palestinian territories.

My personal feeling on the matter is that the Palestinians are far overdue for statehood, and Israel needs to push for it unilaterally. The rest would then need to sort itself out very quickly or it would be a complete disaster.
posted by zarq at 11:26 AM on September 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


dougrayrankin: "Furthermore, Israel was able not just to hold its ground, but to expand its borders and defeat its enemies in six days. Why are the same borders now indefensible?"

Because they got lucky. This should be immediately apparent to anyone who reads about the Yom Kippur War in any sort of objective detail. They launched surprise attacks and caught Syria and Egypt off-guard. Israel was hugely outnumbered and outgunned. In a conflict where they were not the initial aggressor they would have definitely been wiped out.
posted by zarq at 11:30 AM on September 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Just more food for thought: Were Israel to actually support the idea of a two state solution tomorrow, it'd completely take the wind out of the sails of more extremist elements of the Palestinian population - eg, Hamas. It'd also leave others like Ahmadinejad struggling for some way in which it could be twisted and presented as a "Zionist plot", it'd solve the issue of demographics in Israel, it'd single-handedly render null and void about half of all Jihadist recruiting drives and, should the Palestinians still attack Israel, Israel has full recourse in the UN against its fellow and aggressive member state, Palestine. In short, it's got "Win" written all over it for Israel.

Shame is, Netanyahu and Lieberman never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
posted by dougrayrankin at 11:32 AM on September 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


I concur with zarq but there is no way Netanyahu will display the courage and vision required to advocate for a Palestinian state, unilaterally or otherwise.

Also, though this post is great, the Palestinian state effort at the UN is going nowhere. The U.S. will veto. And the Jewish vote will remain Democratic in 2012, too.

Speaking as an American Jew who has always supported Israel, I can't express enough my frustration and anger about Netanyahu and the Israelis who have voted for him and other rightists.
posted by bearwife at 11:33 AM on September 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Because they got lucky. This should be immediately apparent to anyone who reads about the Yom Kippur War in any sort of objective detail. They launched surprise attacks and caught Syria and Egypt off-guard. Israel was hugely outnumbered and outgunned. In a conflict where they were not the initial aggressor they would have definitely been wiped out.

Six-Day War =/= Yom Kippur War. Get your wars straight.
posted by saturday_morning at 11:38 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's all about the settlements in the West Bank and the slow invasion of traditional Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem.
posted by Max Power at 11:40 AM on September 22, 2011


Were Israel to actually support the idea of a two state solution tomorrow, it'd completely take the wind out of the sails of more extremist elements of the Palestinian population - eg, Hamas.

No, because Hamas does not want a two state solution. They want all of Israel, and to expel the Jews. They see Israel as an illegal state, and the Jews as colonists. Part of the reason Abbas is pushing for UN recognition of the 2 state solution is to tweak Hamas, which is a political rival, and has been much more effective in providing services in the areas they control.

It's reeeeeeal tricky. There are a lot of actors and interests on all sides, and now France is making noises in support of Israel and against Abbas.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:41 AM on September 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


dougrayrankin: " Also, to zarq, I agree. He does seem serious this time, though many ask "If he was serious, why did it take the threat of Palestinian recognition at the UN to get him to say so?""

My personal feeling is he, Avigdor Lieberman and the rest of the right wing probably believed he could continue to manipulate the situation, act unilaterally and present the Palestinians with enough 'carrots' to lead them in circles.
posted by zarq at 11:43 AM on September 22, 2011


saturday_morning: " Six-Day War =/= Yom Kippur War. Get your wars straight."

Heh. Yes. Sorry. But still, surprise attacks by Israel saved their proverbial bacon.
posted by zarq at 11:43 AM on September 22, 2011


The UN should recognize Palestine. The right of the Palestinians to have a state should not be a matter of negotiation. The two parties can negotiate borders, security agreements, and other items. They don't get to tell eachother they army states or don't get one.
posted by humanfont at 11:44 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why are the same borders now indefensible?

They were very lucky, and prepared in 1967. In 1973 they almost lost the whole deal and that would've meant a humanitarian catastrophe on par with that suffered by the Palestinians in 1948. Had it not been for last-minute US intervention and the threat of WWIII, what was originally conceived by the Egyptians to be a canal-crossing propaganda victory could've resulted in the decimation of 8/10 of the world's Jewish population. With the lessons of 1973 learned and those in power being veterans of those times, it would be hard to expect them to agree to a solution that puts any Arab army in position to attack right on their doorstep.

And having survived and thrived, albeit with Intifadas I & II and the PLO/Lebanon War over that period of time, it would be very hard to convince them to negotiate from a position that their leadership would consider one of weakness , even if that meant extending the status quo into the next generations.
posted by jsavimbi at 11:59 AM on September 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


dougrayrankin: " Netanyahu cites security concerns, one being that the 1967 borders are indefensible. The trouble with that argument is that a precedent was set for when those borders were defensible when facing not one, not two but three invading armies. Furthermore, Israel was able not just to hold its ground, but to expand its borders and defeat its enemies in six days. Why are the same borders now indefensible?"

More on this... although I'm a little concerned that I'm commenting too much in this thread (and monopolizing the conversation, sorry) now and am going to pull back and comment a bit less after this.

If you haven't been to Israel, it might be helpful to understand that the '67 borders really are difficult to defend. In some areas hilltops overlook well-established towns and cities -- civilian targets. A single mortar set up on any of them could therefore do major damage. My impression, from discussions with friends over the years, is that the Israeli public is aware of this, so they oppose a position in which they would not be militarily secure. The Palestinians would have a tactical advantage.

However, there has been a lot of discussion lately over whether Israel really needs a buffer zone or could survive with the '67 borders. Two different views:
This article in The Forward by Martin van Creveld, an Israeli military historian, and then Defensibleborders.com.
posted by zarq at 12:06 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


surely lasting peace is not going to happen if there are no direct negotiations between the palestinians and israelis ?
posted by hopefulmidlifer at 12:07 PM on September 22, 2011


The UN should recognize Palestine. The right of the Palestinians to have a state should not be a matter of negotiation. The two parties can negotiate borders, security agreements, and other items.

If the two parties had been able to negotiate borders and security agreements in the past to any degree of success, there would have been a Palestinian state ages ago. Those negotiations are not just the details to be mopped up after the important work of recognition is done; it's the entire game.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:09 PM on September 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


If the two parties had been able to negotiate borders and security agreements in the past to any degree of success, there would have been a Palestinian state ages ago. Those negotiations are not just the details to be mopped up after the important work of recognition is done; it's the entire game.

Meanwhile, Israel gets full recognition?
posted by Sys Rq at 12:21 PM on September 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


I personally don't understand why they didn't press themselves for a two state solution.

Because while this is demographically inevitable, the longer the delay a resolution and an actual declaration of borders, the longer Israel has to allow right-wing settlement proponents to venture further into disputed territory and acquire land that, realistically, will never be returned. The bulk of the land taken over by settlers will be abandoned right around the same time America gives South Dakota back to the Sioux.

The most hardline parties on both sides don't want negotiations; they want the other side to cease to exist. So it's an imperative to have as high a chip stack as possible before the negotiations begin--in this case, it's how much land Israel has seized that they will then "reluctantly" give up. If any.

No matter who's "side" you're on, if you're on any side at all, you can at least understand that the smaller the size of a country Palestine eventually is determined to be the greater benefit for Israel. It would be perfectly respectable if not for the whole mass suffering and thousands dead thing.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:21 PM on September 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


I imagine that Abbas' goal is not really to have the UN recognise Palestine, no? Surely this is a bargaining move, intended to embarrass the US and Israel enough in front of a global audience to make Israel come back to the table with a more serious attitude, and force the US to put a little more pressure on Israel. Abbas seems to be content with putting the petition to the security council and letting it sit for a while.

I think it's a masterful idea for the Palestinians. It forced the Israelis to say embarrassingly bizarre things like "they shouldn't pursue a unilateral approach", and is forcing Obama to make hypocritical speeches as was pointed out above.

I would put even odds on the thing even getting to the security council.
posted by FrereKhan at 12:28 PM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


The UK and Canada

And Australia. And Germany (Holocaust guilt, y'know). The rest of Europe are less staunchly pro-Israeli, though had they to choose between Israel and a Hamas/Hezbollah-led Arab coalition in a conflict, would probably side with Israel, or at least look the other way whilst the US/UK used their airspace to do so.

I wonder if this will be the issue that shifts the jewish bloc in America from Democrats to Republicans.

AFAIK, most of the pro-Israeli sentiment in the US isn't from the Jewish demographic (about 2% of the population, to say nothing of the old "two Jews, three opinions" cliché) but evangelicals/Christian fundamentalists who regard supporting Israel to be a matter of religious duty.
posted by acb at 12:29 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Heh. Yes. Sorry. But still, surprise attacks by Israel saved their proverbial bacon.

I heard they have good bacon in Israel.
posted by acb at 12:31 PM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


schmod: "Honest question: Apart from the US, who are Israel's remaining steadfast allies?"

In addition to those mentioned, India.
posted by zarq at 1:06 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Very well written, OP.
posted by AngerBoy at 1:19 PM on September 22, 2011


Meanwhile, Israel gets full recognition?

Yes. The UN was somewhat responsible for this. They inherited the Mandate for Palestine from the Brits, and had every intention of dividing it up into 2 states, but apparently did not stipulate that the creation of one state would require that the other also be created.

Oops!
posted by Hoopo at 1:29 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The factors that have tied American Jews to the Democratic party are deeply entrenched in American Jewish culture and go far beyond Israel as the sole issue.

And things like that can't change after so many years based on a single wedge issue like Israel. Everyone knows that. Even David Weprin.
posted by The Bellman at 2:07 PM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


In addition to those mentioned, India.

Because there's safety in numbers.
posted by acb at 2:08 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Netanyahu cites security concerns, one being that the 1967 borders are indefensible.

the fallacy being that borders in an age of drug smuggling, illegal immigration and rockets are defensible - or that any border of a country in the midst of many millions more potential hostiles could ever be defensible

no, the only true defense the people of israel will ever have is the good will of its neighbors - something that is going to be very challenging to get, to say the least - and right now, they're not even trying

in the long run, this is not a sustainable stand off
posted by pyramid termite at 2:28 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Think of all of the misery and death that would have been avoided if they would have just compromised in 1947. Sheesh.
posted by Daddy-O at 3:06 PM on September 22, 2011


The UN was somewhat responsible for this. They inherited the Mandate for Palestine from the Brits, and had every intention of dividing it up into 2 states, but apparently did not stipulate that the creation of one state would require that the other also be created.

Not quite. The area known as the Palestinian Mandate was much, much larger than that what is now Israel. The larger area (something like 70% larger) was designated TransJordan, and was meant to be designated for Palestinian Arabs and not Jews - after all, Jordanian citizens and Palestinians were ethnically and geographically identical. Jordan just had a different idea, and kept the people who fled the newly created state of Israel in refugee camps. The Gaza strip, meanwhile, was still considered to be part of Egypt.

Oops, again!
posted by Mchelly at 3:27 PM on September 22, 2011


The speech that President Obama gave yesterday at the UN regarding the Palestinians was far less supportive of their statehood and provoked a great deal of anger in various MidEast media outlets.

The Palestinians were already angry with him:

Palestinian anger at US fuels diplomatic crisis over statehood: President Abbas takes case for UN recognition to the security council after negotiators say US response was 'final straw'
posted by homunculus at 3:35 PM on September 22, 2011


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".

Rick Perry's pledge to stand with Israel "as a Christian" is a gift to Islamic extremists.
posted by homunculus at 3:39 PM on September 22, 2011


Bill Clinton: Netanyahu killed the peace process
posted by homunculus at 5:14 PM on September 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


If I were an undercover strategist for Israel I'd bribe some Kurds, Macedonians, a Tamil Tiger and few other small dissidents to show up to petition on the same day. The ambassador could insist that the petitions be addressed in alphabetical order.
posted by sammyo at 5:16 PM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, at least if a Palestinian State is declared and recognized, that should mean the end of the conflict, and citizenship for Palestinians wherever they may be.

Oh, wait.

Big takeaway: According to the PA's Ambassador to Lebanon, about 45% of Palestinians ALREADY WITHIN the West Bank and Gaza will be DENIED "Palestinian" citizenship. What could possibly go wrong with that outcome?
posted by holterbarbour at 6:20 PM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Shouldn't they be Israeli citiziens given that these refugees were chased out if their homes in what is now Israel?
posted by humanfont at 6:33 PM on September 22, 2011


My, god, we are so far beyond "should" with any of this. Seriously, the "should" bus left this stop decades ago. We should just be trying to figure out what will ultimately get the fewest people killed.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:36 PM on September 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


the fallacy being that borders in an age of drug smuggling, illegal immigration and rockets are defensible - or that any border of a country in the midst of many millions more potential hostiles could ever be defensible

This sounds good but it isn't true. "Defensible" doesn't mean you can keep everyone out or that a border isn't extremely porous, it means that you have the ability to mount a conventional military defense against a serious attack. Whether the border is defensible also has relatively little to do with population disparity. There are plenty of places which are defensible even by inferior (in numbers) forces.

Not that I'm defending all of Israel's policies or even any of their policies in particular, but you can't just wave your hands and say that there is no such thing as the concept of defensible borders. There clearly has been, is, and always will be such a thing.
posted by Justinian at 7:48 PM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dougrayrankin wrote: The troubling thing is, if Israel wants to remain a Jewish state, it has to accept a two state solution.

Israel has accepted that privately for a long time and publicly for at least a couple of years.

One problem is that the Palestinians do not wish to accept it. Here's a video of Mahmoud Abbas from just under a month ago:
Present to us something sensible!
Don't present to us "The Jewish State", we will never accept it! We will never accept these sayings.
Or when you say that there are settlement blocs as an existing fact, or when you say that the refugees' problem will be solved within the Palestinian state -
That is what they presented. We will never accept these sayings!
The Quartet cannot force upon us the character of the state (of Israel) or that we should recognize the nature of the Israeli state.
Another problem is that there is no legitimate or unified Palestinian leadership. The problem of Palestinian refugees is an inter-State one, and their internationally-recognised representative is the Palestine Liberation Organization. Abbas is actually the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO but he does not have anything like majority support within it. Now that his administration explicitly rules out a return for Palestinian refugees it is very unlikely that he ever could have majority support.

Abbas isn't even a legitimate leader within the borders of Mandatory Palestine. He was elected once, for a term that expired in early 2009, and he has been ruling by fiat since then. Until fresh elections are held (and both Fatah and Hamas have been stymieing them, even local governmental ones) there are good constitutional grounds for saying that the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Assembly should be the one wielding executive authority. In practice, Abbas's authority does not extend outside the West Bank and intra-Palestinian cooperation between Hamas-ruled Gaza and the Fatah-ruled West Bank does not even extend to having a common time zone.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:53 PM on September 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Humanfont wrote: Shouldn't they be Israeli citiziens given that these refugees were chased out if their homes in what is now Israel?

I agree with Mr Roboto: the "should" bus left this stop decades ago. Lots of Palestinians live in homes from which Jewish owners were chased out. Should descendants of the Jewish owners be entitled to Palestinian citizenship? And we're primarily talking about descendants: any adults from the 1948 war are in their eighties today. Will you distinguish between people who were chased out and ones who left voluntarily? How about people who left a year or more before the conflict because they didn't want to live in a war zone? How about survivors of the riots in the 1920s?

Then there are the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were expelled from Arab countries in the years preceding and following the establishment of the State of Israel. Should they or their descendants be entitled to citizenship of these countries? Be careful before you say that they wouldn't want to - many of them would, or at least would want the ability to settle land and property claims they were forced to abandon.

And if we're going to be digging up claims to citizenship, should Pakistanis be allowed to claim Indian citizenship, or vice versa? How about Bangladeshis? What about Turks who want to become Greeks, or their counterparts? This isn't just a can of worms: it's a railway car full of anacondas.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:08 PM on September 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


He was elected once, for a term that expired in early 2009, and he has been ruling by fiat since then.

The UN doesn't seem to have any problem recognizing other countries whose leaders achieved power in an undemocratic fashion. Binding Palestinians through Abbas into a well-established system of international sovereignty seems to me to be a purely good thing.

Also, not all peoples are able to negotiate their way peacefully to independence the way the fledgling Americans did with the British.
posted by Slothrup at 8:16 PM on September 22, 2011


Big takeaway: According to the PA's Ambassador to Lebanon, about 45% of Palestinians ALREADY WITHIN the West Bank and Gaza will be DENIED "Palestinian" citizenship. What could possibly go wrong with that outcome?

Presumably, if Palestine were a country, it'd be able to decide for itself who becomes a citizen and how. Cf. Israel.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:23 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


(And note the ambassador's use of the qualifier "automatically.")
posted by Sys Rq at 8:25 PM on September 22, 2011


Present to us something sensible!
Don't present to us "The Jewish State", we will never accept it! We will never accept these sayings.
Or when you say that there are settlement blocs as an existing fact, or when you say that the refugees' problem will be solved within the Palestinian state -
That is what they presented. We will never accept these sayings!
The Quartet cannot force upon us the character of the state (of Israel) or that we should recognize the nature of the Israeli state.
What difference does it make if the Palestinians accept Israel as a "Jewish" state? What does that have to do with whether or not a two-state solution is viable?
posted by delmoi at 8:29 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


This all seems like shadow puppets. Have any UN resolutions on the subject ever had a real effect? Until then it's just making the traffic on 1st Ave worse.
posted by zvs at 8:32 PM on September 22, 2011


What difference does it make if the Palestinians accept Israel as a "Jewish" state? What does that have to do with whether or not a two-state solution is viable?

Umm, because that's what a two-state solution means.
posted by Wordwoman at 9:32 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Delmoi wrote: What difference does it make if the Palestinians accept Israel as a "Jewish" state? What does that have to do with whether or not a two-state solution is viable?

Because that's the idea of a two-state solution. One Jewish, one Arab.

The problem isn't that he isn't using the right language: "Jewish state" means that Israel gets to define its own immigration policy. The alternative is for it to be swamped by the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Palestinian refugees. It's simply a deal-breaker: nobody seriously thinks Israel could absorb millions of more-or-less hostile immigrants. Since this is impossible it means that Palestinian grievances against Israel would continue even if there were to be a Palestinian state.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:40 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


was meant to be designated for Palestinian Arabs and not Jews

I'm confused. The Balfour Declaration distinctly mentioned a national home for the Jewish people. They stopped sort of saying it was to be a state for the Jewish, but the Jewish people were a part of the plans for the territory since at least 1917. I'm not aware of those plans ever being dropped, even if the will to push for it waned.
posted by Hoopo at 10:17 PM on September 22, 2011


"Jewish state" means that Israel gets to define its own immigration policy.

Israel gets to define its own immigration policy no matter what the Palestinians decide to call it.
posted by andoatnp at 10:32 PM on September 22, 2011


Hoopo: The perfidious British requested a change in the status of (what was) Transjordan almost immediately after securing their mandate. They gave it to Abdullah 1st, the great-grandfather of the present monarch, for his assistance during and following WW1.

It wasn't as if Abdullah was born anywhere near Transjordan or even had relatives there. The direct impetus seems to have been a fireside chat in which Winston Churchill promised to make him a king somewhere if Abdullah didn't attack French forces in now-Syria. Transjordan wasn't good for much else, so they gave it to Abdullah. Honestly, you would not believe the cynical and casual way the colonial powers carved up the Middle East. Unless you were paying attention when they carved up Africa, I suppose.

Andoatnp: As I said, it isn't about what the Palestinians call it, it's about whether the Palestinians accept its right to define its own immigration policy and therefore its existence. Read this article from Lebanon's Daily Star. Abbas' administration plans to keep Palestinian grievances against Israel alive indefinitely.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:57 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a rogue nation, Israel is welcome to do what it wants.

It just shouldn't expect my tax dollars to support it.
posted by bardic at 10:59 PM on September 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


We eat it, they eat it...it's vegetarian, it's healthy, it's beans.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:16 PM on September 22, 2011


It's a distinction between the representatives of the Palestinians dropping the right of return or other immigration related issues as part of an agreement versus Netanyahu insisting that the Palestinians have to call Israel, "The Jewish State".

I'm not a fan of ethno-religious states so I don't like calling Israel, "The Jewish State" and I think it's odd the way Netanyahu places so much emphasis on getting the Palestinians to call it that.

Settle your disagreements (including over immigration) and make a peace deal, don't worry about what the other side calls you.
posted by andoatnp at 11:44 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jewish, schmewish:

Frankly I don't give a shit about what a person eats or what they do on Saturdays, but a country that just strolled in and evicted millions of people from their ancestral homes, that continues bombing and invading their neighbors, violating previous peace agreements, bulldozing houses of it's people, and has a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction does not deserve the US's moral, monetary, or military support.

It's quite ridiculous that we will go to war with another country, occupy it, watch its leader executed, and torture its citizens for years on a false rumor that they were thinking about building a single nuke at the cost of thousands of American lives, but Israel gets a pass.

For a country so deeply rooted in, and quick to call on it's religion as a justification for it's existence, they sure look an awful lot like a regime of thugs to me.
posted by timsteil at 11:58 PM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Presumably, if Palestine were a country, it'd be able to decide for itself who becomes a citizen and how. Cf. Israel.

Presumably, if Palestine were to be established for the purpose of providing a state for the Palestinians, it would let Palestinians become citizens. Especially those already living within its physical borders.

Somehow, those Palestinians living in refugee camps (both within the West Bank/Gaza and in Lebanon and elsewhere) would be denied citizenship simply because they are currently living under the control of the UNRWA; If I may be so bold as to inject my own commentary here, I should think that it is those living in UNRWA camps that, more than any other person claiming Palestinian identity, are deserving of citizenship in a state purportedly established to give people like them a national home.

So... if a Palestinian state will not be a state in which stateless Palestinians can become citizens, what exactly would the establishment of such a state serve?
posted by holterbarbour at 12:08 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


And, I should point out, Israel's Law of Return (enacted in 1950) was basically just the legislation formalizing the existing practice and long-stated goal of being a national home for the world's Jews, whether refugees or settled in any other country. Providing the world's Jews with a national home was the very purpose of the Balfour Declaration, the Partition Plan, and is expressly stated in Israel's Declaration of Independence.

However, the Palestinian plan makes clear from the outset that whatever its goals are, they do not include the provision of a national home for Palestinian refugees. Quite the opposite from the goals of the establishment of Israel.
posted by holterbarbour at 12:32 AM on September 23, 2011


The troubling thing is, if Israel wants to remain a Jewish state, it has to accept a two state solution.

Israel has accepted that privately for a long time and publicly for at least a couple of years.


But was that a genuine 2-state solution, or something like South Africa's bantustans, in which the Palestinians would be given some useless land and the deeds to a fictitious Bophuthatswana-style pseudo-country with no real sovereignty and no control over borders, and no means of autonomy?
posted by acb at 2:01 AM on September 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


OK, Joe in Australia, but Transjordan is now Jordan, yes? I mean, what we're talking about is still what was referred to then as 'Palestine', right? Where there was to be a national home for the Jewish people? We're not really talking about Transjordan here.
posted by Hoopo at 2:08 AM on September 23, 2011


"Defensible" doesn't mean you can keep everyone out or that a border isn't extremely porous, it means that you have the ability to mount a conventional military defense against a serious attack.

which is only useful if your enemy mounts a conventional attack - it's pretty clear to me that it wouldn't happen that way
posted by pyramid termite at 2:40 AM on September 23, 2011


which is only useful if your enemy mounts a conventional attack - it's pretty clear to me that it wouldn't happen that way

Only if it's impractical. A conventional military attack would be a lot more efficient than a protracted suicide bombing campaign.
posted by acb at 4:52 AM on September 23, 2011


So... if a Palestinian state will not be a state in which stateless Palestinians can become citizens, what exactly would the establishment of such a state serve?

The ultimate resolution of these issues is predicated on the existence of a negotiated settlement between these two states Israel and Palestine. It is very easy to pick on or party of the other for their behavior and sabatogue of agreements. The international community recognizes this as ultimately a problem between two states.

There is already a Palestinian State that issue passports and has citizenship criteria. This state is recognized by 130 countries which have embassies of the State of Palestine. The UN does not recognize states. Its recognized leader is Abbas. Countries recognize states. The UN admits state to it's membership.

There are many states which belong to the UN that have similar problems to those you identify as problems for Palestine. Should they be expelled from the UN?
posted by humanfont at 5:27 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Israel has accepted that privately for a long time and publicly for at least a couple of years.

But was that a genuine 2-state solution, or something like South Africa's bantustans



I am by no means an expert, but Camp David 2000 seemed reasonable.
posted by rosswald at 6:50 AM on September 23, 2011


Abbas and Netanyahu speaking at the UN in the next half hour...
posted by dougrayrankin at 9:02 AM on September 23, 2011


Abbas is speaking now. Live feed.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:10 AM on September 23, 2011


One of the things he said is that his government could collapse if Israel keeps building settlements on land that is designated for the future Palestinian state.
posted by zarq at 9:52 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


So... Hamas rules Gaza. Not the PA. And Hamas opposes this statehood bid by the PA. Abbas has made no headway in consolidating leadership of the West Bank and Gaza, but is presenting an image of a united Palestine, eager for statehood.

Assuming they were to achieve that goal, what happens next? More civil war? Everyone uniting under the PA flag? Seems unlikely: in decades of conflict against a common enemy, that hasn't happened.

The Palestinians deserve better leaders. Better treatment by the Israelis and the global community. And their own, sovereign state. But statehood isn't going to solve the majority of their problems.
posted by zarq at 10:04 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


It really doesn't matter what you or I think or would like, or even what is right. A Palestinian upgrade at the UN in the next two years is inevitable. There is very little downside for the Palestinians in pursuing this action, and it gains them leverage in the negotiations, which is a benefit to them. The only reason not to pursue it would be if they got a concession from Israel or some other country of greater value. They have the votes in the General Assembly to upgrade their delegation. First they get to force the US and others to make a really ugly veto in the UN Security Council. Even if you think the veto is what the US ought to do, consider that it will be damaging to US relations with many other countries. Ultimately it only slows things down a bit.
posted by humanfont at 10:25 AM on September 23, 2011


humanfont, was that directed at me? Because not once in this thread have I said or implied that this was the wrong action for the PA and Abbas to be taking.

I'm simply saying that this isn't going to end a lot of their troubles. Nor solve a lot of their problems.
posted by zarq at 10:33 AM on September 23, 2011


I wasn't directing my comments at you in particular. I disagree in your assessment that this will make the Palestinian's position any worse than it isn't today. It seems like something that will marginally improve their negotiating position. It is certainly better than suicide bombers and sending rockets over the borders.
posted by humanfont at 3:31 PM on September 23, 2011


Poll: 70% of Israelis say Israel should accept UN decision
posted by homunculus at 4:43 PM on September 23, 2011


Abbas' speech on YouTube
posted by humanfont at 4:54 PM on September 23, 2011


‘The Scream’: Israel Blasts Protesters With Sonic Gun
posted by homunculus at 6:22 PM on September 23, 2011


Hoopo: the area was originally part of the Ottoman Empire and wasn't really divided in ways that make much sense today. But Britain was given (what is now) Israel, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza as the mandatory power, with the goal of turning it into a national home for the Jewish people. This was in the early days of then-nascent Arab nationalism, and they had misunderestimated the opposition these plans would arouse. There would have been no way of turning the whole area into a Jewish homeland, but Britain still acted appallingly in using their mandate as an excuse to pay off a Bedouin warlord. Anyway, to the extent that the whole area had one name, that name was "Palestine". The term was only limited to the area west of the Jordan after the British had carved away three quarters of it as "Transjordan", later "Jordan".

The complete story of the British role in the region has not yet been written, but they've admitted to running everything from assassination squads to false-flag terror attacks against civilians. It's really quite extraordinary how these things get overlooked.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:25 AM on September 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


But Britain was given (what is now) Israel, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza as the mandatory power, with the goal of turning it into a national home for the Jewish people

Britian conquered the area with the aid of Sharif Hussein of Mecca. They made specific promises to him under the Hussein-MacMahon correspondence, which wasn't just a fireside chat with Churchill. Sharif Hussein also was more than just some bedoin warlord. At the same time they also made the Sykes-Picot agreement with France to further their true imperial ambitions.

Later the British would issue the Balfour Declaration, a unilateral policy declaration by British War cabinet. That didn't promise a state, only a national home. It also said it would protect the rights of local non-Jewish populations.
posted by humanfont at 6:16 AM on September 24, 2011


Yes, that's my point: at the San Remo Conference Britain accepted a mandate over then-Palestine in order to achieve
the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
At the time Britain accepted this mandate it had made secret plans and commitments to breach it. That's why I think they were perfidious. Incidentally, Sharif Hussein lived out his life as a pensioner; it was his son who was granted a monarchy - and that was only because he didn't come to the aid of his brother Faisal in (French-occupied) Damascus.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:42 AM on September 24, 2011


Worth reading: Netanyahu's speech to the U.N. General Assembly
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:53 AM on September 24, 2011


The quest for Palestinian statehood at the UN has worsened a climate of fear on the ground in the Occupied Territories.
posted by adamvasco at 8:32 AM on September 24, 2011


The Guardian keeps it classy as usual, with this cartoon depicting the Gadarene Swine dressed as bankers wearing Israel's national colors. The demon is Tony Blair, a former British Prime Minister, and Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East. The comments below the cartoon heartily approve the idea that the swine are being forced to jump off a cliff and die.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:11 PM on September 24, 2011


Israeli political leaders react.
posted by humanfont at 7:57 PM on September 24, 2011


Juan Cole: Palestine, Bahrain and US Hyprocrisy
posted by homunculus at 8:05 PM on September 24, 2011


I'd respect Juan Cole's integrity more if he said that the Palestinians deserve the same thing that the Egyptians, Libyans and Bahrainis do: democratically elected leaders. When he says that "the Palestinians [...] are far more deprived of basic political rights than the people in Egypt or Tunisia last year this time" he blames the Israelis, but the fact is that it's Abbas' PA in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza that refuse to hold elections.

Honestly, can anyone tell me why Abbas is recognised as a national representative when he is neither a de-facto nor a legitimate leader; when he rules the West Bank only with Israeli support; when he lacks broad support among Palestinians; when he has done everything he can to stymie democracy and suppress competition?
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:16 PM on September 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


81 members of the House of Representatives who traveled to Israel in August, flying business class and staying in luxury hotels for a week of meetings and sightseeing paid for by the charitable arm of a pro-Israel lobby.
posted by adamvasco at 1:26 AM on September 25, 2011


US Congress freezes $200 million in aid to Palestinians
posted by homunculus at 1:33 PM on October 1, 2011


Unesco clears way for Palestinian membership vote: The board of the UN cultural agency Unesco has agreed to put a Palestinian bid for full membership to member states for approval.
posted by homunculus at 10:23 PM on October 5, 2011


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