Monday, December 3, 2012

Palestinian 'Statehood': The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

December 2, 2012

Palestinian 'Statehood': The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

By Leo Rennert

Given that the venue was the notoriously anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian U.N. General Assembly, it came as no surprise that the vote to upgrade "Palestine" to non-member observer "state" sailed through by a lopsided majority -- 138 for, nine against, and 41 abstentions.

Still, the roll-call did have some importance in that it sorted out Israel's genuine supporters from fair-weather friends and, worse, those willing to throw Israel under the bus.
So, herewith find the breakdown of some nations that ended up in the GOOD column, or the BAD column, or the downright UGLY column.

The GOOD guys:

First and foremost Canada, which pulled no punches in its strong support of Israel before casting a firm "no" vote.  A nod also to the Czech Republic, the only European country to vote against the resolution.  Give also credit to Panama and four tiny Pacific island nations who stood with Israel.

The BAD guys:

Those who ducked, ran for cover, and ended up abstaining.  Most prominently, Australia and Germany had been widely expected to oppose the resolution but didn't.  Both apparently became enmeshed in domestic politics and beat a retreat.  Germany's abstention demonstrates that it's not ready yet to take its place as the pre-eminent leader on the European scene.  Britain ended up in this column from the other end -- ready to support the resolution if it received assurances that the Palestinians wouldn't use their new status to haul Israel before the International Criminal Court.  With no such guarantees forthcoming, the U.K. abstained and washed its hands of the whole thing.  Other European countries that went into hiding with abstentions included Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, and Romania.

The UGLY guys:

First and most prominent at the head of the line of supporters of the resolution was France -- the France of Socialist President Fran├žois Hollande, the France with the largest Muslim population in Europe.  Also in this column were Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, and Sweden.

Finally, the POISON PILL in the resolution.  While it may be a largely symbolic bow to Palestinian national aspirations, the resolution contains language on final borders that would require Israel to withdraw from the entire West Bank, all of Gaza, and all of East Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, Mt. Scopus, the Mount of Olives, and the Old City of Jerusalem, including its Jewish Quarter.

The resolution's language is in complete sync with Mahmoud Abbas's declaration from the General Assembly's rostrum that "we will accept no less than the independence of the State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on all the Palestinian territory occupied in 1967."  No mutually agreed land swaps. 

But what about the resolution also urging direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on final-status issues, including borders?  Doesn't this mean that borders still have to be negotiated?  Well, the U.N. is well-known for double-speak.  It adopts a resolution that determines final borders while urging negotiations on this very topic.  Welcome to Turtle Bay.

And while we're still in the UGLY column, let's not forget Mahmoud Abbas, who pulled out the full range of incendiary slanders to tar Israel.  This was no Anwar Sadat moment of high statesmanship.  The world instead was treated to an old brawler spewing hatred.

But hold on: where in all this is the United States?  Good question.  It actually figures in all three columns -- the GOOD, the BAD, and the UGLY.

The GOOD grade is for the Obama's administration solid support of Israel in this regard over the last year or so.  From the outset of Abbas's quest to get U.N. statehood recognition, Washington was firm in opposing it.  Kudos also for the White House's strong security and intelligence cooperation with Israel.  And for helping to finance Israel's Iron Dome missile-defense system, which saved countless lives during the recent eight-day war with Hamas.

The Obama administration, however also earns a BAD grade for misjudging Abbas as a genuine peace partner and never demanding some responsibility and accountability from him while showering him with billions in aid.  In doing so, the Obama administration became Abbas's enabler to make  an end-run around Washington on the pernicious rationale that he had to be propped up at all costs, given that he still is better than Hamas.  U.S. diplomacy ended up paying a high price for this delusional strategy.

And why also position the U.S. side in the UGLY column?  Again, because at the outset of his first term, President Obama, while on a charm campaign to the Muslim world, tried to strong-arm Israel to make one-sided concessions -- an enormous diplomatic error which opened the way to the lopsided support for Palestinian statehood at the U.N.  Time for Obama to regroup and reconsider.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers.

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