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Palestinian Statehood Bid Likely To Backfire, Experts Say

Sarah Sax |
October 12, 2011 | 1:56 p.m. PDT


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Photo via Creative Commons).
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Photo via Creative Commons).
The Palestinian Authority's push for state recognition from the United Nations are likely to backfire and further imperil the peace process in the Middle East, a USC panel agreed last week.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, “crushes hope for peace” by bringing the Palestinian bid for statehood application to the U.N., eliminating the chance for “direct negotiation” with Israel, said Roberta Seid, research director of StandWithUs and one of five panelists at the Five For Peace in the Middle East event. 

Other panelists included Sam Edelman, executive director of SPME; Dr. Jonathan Adelman, lecturer and author on the Middle East; Kenneth L. Marcus, chairman of SPME’s Legal Task Force; and Donna Robinson Divine, Palestinian history author.

Abbas went to the Security Council September 23 to request admission to the U.N.—an action that violated the Oslo Accords, a 1993 agreement where both Israel and the Palestinians agreed that neither party would take unilateral steps to achieve peace.

Divine encouraged the student audience to ponder Abbas’ motives in going straight to the U.N. 

“Is he trying to use instruments of the U.N…to tear down another state?” Seid said.

If the Palestinians achieve global state recognition, they will then under international law be able to file charges against Israel for humanitarian violations. 

Meaning settlements that Israel already built, and where Israelis currently dwell, would suddenly be invading Palestinian territory.  Therefore, receiving international recognition “increases potential for violence,” Seid said.

“Many are concerned that it’ll become a stepping stone for recognizing the Palestinian terrorists,” she said. 

If the U.N. accepts the Palestinian application, then Hamas, which governs Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, would have international support.  This would provide a terrorist organization the same international security benefits as other countries and would cause global diplomatic struggles.

Although the panelists said they were confident that the Palestinian bid for statehood would not pass the Security Council vote, they acknowledged that Abbas was strategic in his political agenda.

Abbas “knows who his friends are,” Adelman said.  “He knows who his enemies are.”

After the vote, Abbas will be able to show evidence to Palestinians that countries support their efforts for statehood — ultimately gaining leadership power over Hamas, which is also fighting for political power.
Each panel member emphasized that President Barack Obama’s veto of the Palestinian bid at the U.N. Security Council will make a substantial difference. 

The “American position counts,” Adelman said.  Vetoing the bid makes “a big statement” because the United States’ vote is 40 percent of the Security Council, he added. 

If America vetoes the Palestinian bid, the Palestinians will not be able to claim statehood.

Neither side, the Palestinians nor Israel, is capable of satisfying the other with an agreement on borders and settlements, Edelman said.

Several challenges make the quest for peace in the Middle East a difficult goal to achieve: Hamas does not accept the idea of a Jewish state; Israel will not take back refugees from the 1967 war; and the division of East and West Jerusalem is tricky to reinforce due to the city’s geography.

Both political leaders, Abbas and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, haven’t been able to decide on a peace agreement for years, and the “rampant decline” of discourse is apparent, Edelman said. 

“[Abbas’] turn to the U.N. was to gain more legitimacy internationally,” Divine said to the audience of USC students as she leaned over the podium. 

But even if Abbas goes to the General Assembly after his proposal is rejected from the Security Council, Abbas still will not collect enough votes to establish a recognized Palestinian area, Adelman reassured the audience.     

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