Saturday, September 17, 2011

Trouble, Trouble, boil and bubble

The Obama administration faces a tough issue this coming week: Palestine is coming to the UN asking to be recognized as a nation-state.  They will first go to the Security Council, where the US says it will use its veto to block the proposal (the US favors a negotiated statehood--because that has been working so well for the last 30 years?), and Palestine will then go the General Assembly, where it looks like they will get a majority vote in their favor to move their status up.  Obama is in a quandary.

On the one hand, the US has been vocally (and materially) supporting Arab democracy movements all throughout the Middle East. Palestine will have a democratically structured government.  On the other hand the US is a staunch supporter of Israel, which does not want a Palestinian state, now more than ever, as hard-line conservatives dominate the Israeli political landscape and as Israel feels more hemmed in by hostile neighbors who are steadily maintaining their anti-Semitic tone and stance. 

So with the veto, the US will torpedo its credibility with the vast majority of the Arab world. (Saudis won't care as long as we keep ignoring their abuses so we can have their oil...) and satisfy an increasingly undemocratic and repressive ally.  Palestine has all that the Obama administration says they want to see in an Arab state, so there is no way to justify the hypocrisy of the veto and, say, the NATO actions in Lybia.  I expect to hear the semantic wriggle of "it is NATO, not the US," in response, as though NATO has an original thought without the US...

The reality is that time has come for Palestinian statehood.  Yes, Hamas is a player in Palestine.  Yes, they are a terrorist group that has vowed to demolish the Israeli state.  Yes, they also provide many social programs that are keeping Palestinians alive. But I'm not sure why Israel and the US don't see that if they allow Palestinians the economic and political freedoms that they are asking for, Hamas loses its ability to influence the young Arabs.  If Hamas is forced to behave as a responsible political actor, they lose their "outsider" cache, lose their militaristic capacity and become just another minority political party. If the economic limitations currently facing young Palestinians (fostered by the Israeli blockade of Palestine) are lifted, Hamas loses its ability to sway Palestinians to its point of view because other organizations can provide medical care, education, food, etc.

The irony in all of it is that Israel is protesting against the exact manner in which it became a state: the UN said it was so, and thus it was.  Now the displaced Arabs, who were not consulted in the creation of Israel 60 years ago, are using the same tool to gain their state back.  The smart thing, the consistent thing, the surprising thing, and the peace-generating thing, would be for the Obama administration AND Israel to vote in favor of the Palestinian nation-state when the time comes.  Then both work arm-in-arm and with the UN to force conformity to international norms of behavior that Palestine would then be obliged to recognize as a nation-state, like trade laws, standards of democratic behavior, military conventions, human rights conventions, and so on and so forth...In that way they would hamstring Hamas, and create a neighbor that could work constructively with Israel, rather than adding yet another hostile force on Israel's embattled borders.

Instead, the Obama administration will attempt to garner Jewish votes, keep Republicans from another talking point, and continue to muddle through its foreign policy like a rudderless ship, trying to be all things to all partners...

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you posted this. I think it's a brilliant move on Abbas's part, and I hope the UN will vote in favor of statehood, thus showing the US and Israel, that the time for Israel to call the shots is over. Palestine will have won a huge moral victory, even if the US vetoes the resolution. Israel will step up the pace of settlements in Palestinian territory and then decry the violence that will follow. With instability in the region, though, the violence that ultimately ensues may be more than just the Palestinians throwing rocks!