In Which the Palestinians Decide to Make Life Difficult For Everyone

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on September 17, 2011

I am sure that it would warm Palestinian hearts to ask for full UN membership for a Palestinian state, and I am sure that many Palestinians really do believe that getting full U.N. membership will allow the Palestinians to bargain on an equal basis with Israel, and with the United States. In fact, however, all that the Palestinians will accomplish will be to focus anew the anger of the Israel-hating segments of the international community onto Israel, and isolate the United States in the process by forcing the Obama Administration to have veto any application for full U.N. membership in the Security Council–thus enraging Arab countries that publicly express their concern for the Palestinian cause, but privately could not possibly care less about what is happening to the Palestinian people.

Of course, rekindling the anger of the Israel-hating segments of the international community is as easy for the Palestinians as is falling off a log. But it is a bad idea; all that such a move will accomplish will be to harden the resolve of obstructionist elements within Israel. Non-obstructionist Israelis who genuinely want to see a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace settlement implemented will nevertheless be alienated by the coming campaign of ostracism on the part of the Israel-hating segments of the international community, and will find it more difficult to sell the obstructionist elements within Israel on the idea of making peace with the Palestinians. Furthermore, isolating the United States is a self-defeating act. For all of the problems now attending the peace process, the U.S. remains the country best situated to broker an agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, which means that the Palestinians should work to treat the United States as a potential ally, rather than trying to put the United States on a collision course with the Israel-hating segments of the international community. Any self-respecting American administration should and would respond to Palestinian efforts to isolate by making it clear that the Palestinians run the risk of losing the United States as a partner if they go ahead with plans that would put the United States in a tight diplomatic spot. No one should be allowed to blackmail the United States into taking a particular foreign policy stance.

Of course, those who regularly attack and assail Israel for butting heads with the United States–like Andrew Sullivan, for example–will not say a word against the Palestinians for going against American interests. Expect little commentary from certain others regarding their hypocrisy. As for the Obama Administration, it would be nice to see it finally deliver on its promises to increase American soft power–and thus, the ability of the United States to influence world opinion–by convincing the Palestinians to abandon their effort to get full U.N. membership at this time, and by convincing the international community not to punish the United States for objecting to Palestinian efforts. But given that Team Obama has not really delivered on its promises to make us more liked and respected in the world–in shocking news, the international community is not like high school, and therefore places fewer premiums on evanescent attributes like popularity–I really don’t expect this to happen.

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