Palestinians, fed up with stymied negotiations while yearning for statehood, have signaled that they might seek autonomy from Israeli control through a United Nations vote in mid-September. But the United States resolutely opposites the unilateral action.
At the risk of isolation in the 193-member General Assembly of nations, the United States announced, in clear terms, that it would veto such a move.
In an interview with the German news magazine Der Spiegel, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said he has been traveling around the world for four years advocating Palestinian statehood. A frustrated al-Maliki highlighted that it took South Sudan six days after submitting its application to become a full U.N. member.
“Six days!” he exclaimed. “And how much longer are we supposed to wait?”
In reality, South Sudan fought a long and vicious civil war against Sudan, ultimately gaining independence through negotiations. A negotiated two-state solution with Israel has eluded the two parties for generations and seems unlikely in the near future.
Although the Palestinians declared statehood in 1988 — with several dozen countries now recognizing the State of Palestine — it will only become a fully legitimate country through United Nations recognition.
But the road to full membership must go through the U.N.’s Security Council, where a single veto by one of the five permanent members such as the United States will block the Palestinians’ aspirations.
Alternatively, the Palestinians could petition the entire General Assembly for enhanced observer status. While the Palestinians already have observer status, an enhancement would give them more authority to seek sanctions and legal recourse against Israel for alleged humanitarian crimes.
At a Security Council hearing in July on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the United State said “symbolic actions” to create a Palestinian state would be a waste of time. “The United States will not support unilateral campaigns at the United Nations in September or any other time,” said Rosemary DiCarlo, U.S. deputy permanent representative to the United Nations.
A New York Times survey revealed mixed reaction to the Palestinians’ gambit. European nations are divided, as nine of the 27 E.U. countries already recognize Palestinian independence.
“In the Security Council, Germany seems opposed to membership with France and Britain sounding supportive if noncommittal,” the newspaper reports. “Arab states, while supporting the Palestinian effort, are leaning toward the General Assembly option as a way of avoiding a confrontation with Washington.”
DiCarlo called for “a just and fair resolution.” She pointed to a plan that President Barack Obama outlined in May, which would require Israel to recognize the 1967 borders that existed before Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza in the Six-Day War against Arab forces.
“My government has been clear all along,” DiCarlo declared. “The only place where permanent status issues can be resolved, including borders and territory, is in negotiations between the parties — not in international fora such as the United Nations.”
Israel opposes the Palestinian U.N. strategy as well as Obama’s approach to peace. Expressing concern for its security, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the 1967 borders “indefensible.”
At the Security Council hearing, Israel’s U.N. representative, Ron Prosor, stated that the Palestinians have neither a fully functioning state that controls its territory nor a monopoly on the use of force. That was a reference to the presence of Hamas, the Palestinian organization opposed to the existence of Israel that continues to launch rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel.
Indeed, the United States also expressed concerns about Hamas. At the same time, though, DiCarlo criticized Israel about its settlement.
U.N. special coordinator for the peace process Robert Serry also chastised Israel at the hearing about its settlement building. He noted that Israel recently “confiscated” private Palestinian land in the West Bank. “An outpost, illegal even under Israeli law, was located on that land, a departure from Israeli public undertakings not to build new settlements or set aside land for new ones,” he stated.
Several Security Council member states — including the United States — also criticized Israel’s stranglehold on Gaza. Israel has blockaded the territory to prevent rockets, mortars and other weaponry from entering Gaza. But the embargo has also hindered humanitarian assistance from reaching Gazans.
Serry and other diplomats lamented that negotiations have reached an impasse. “We continue to urge the parties to find a way forward at this sensitive and important time,” Serry stated. “We hope that the international community can help by shaping a legitimate and balanced framework.”
In the meantime, the parties are waiting to see how this drama unfolds as the new General Assembly session nears.