We appear to be headed toward a showdown at the United Nations later this week concerning Palestinians’ attempt to bypass the peace process with Israel and win international recognition for a state of their own. Israel’s government has long accepted the principle of a two-state solution to the world’s thorniest conflict. But the Palestinian Authority’s dalliances with Hamas — the terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip and refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist — has prevented any progress on the outstanding issues between the two sides, such as the borders of each state. Now, Palestinian leaders are going for broke at the U.N. General Assembly in New York this week.
One person who’s been active in trying to forestall such a development is Georgia’s Johnny Isakson, who serves on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He’s co-signed letters to leaders of African nations asking them to vote against recognition of a Palestinian state (he’s ranking member of Foreign Relations’ subcommittee on Africa) and a bipartisan letter to President Obama asking him “to speak strongly, forthrightly and publicly about U.S. concerns over these developments. …[and] to make it clear that we will not tolerate continued threats to Israel by governments or individuals in the region or attempts to delegitimize Israel at the UN or other international forums.”
“I found it almost unbelievable,” Isakson told me by phone Tuesday, “that the entity that created the state of Israel 60 years ago, the U.N., would consider giving statehood recognition to the Palestinians when they will not recognize Israel’s right to exist.”
Such recognition, Isakson said, would “take away any carrot to the Palestinians” to continue peace negotiations with Israel and would be “a bad precedent for the U.N. to establish.”
While he said he was confident the United States would veto such recognition at the U.N. Security Council, he also said a lesser form of statehood recognition by the entire U.N. General Assembly would also mean “less of a reason for the Palestinians to be honest negotiators.”
He also pointed out that the statehood issue doesn’t necessarily concern all of the Palestinian people: “There are 7 million people in Israel. One million of them are Palestinians who vote, live there, pay taxes and participate in society.”
Ultimately, the kind of statehood recognition the Palestinians seek a the U.N. this week is only going to make it more difficult to reach a durable agreement with Israel. Let’s hope for success from all efforts to avoid such an outcome.
– By Kyle Wingfield