NEW YORK - Could we see a great leap forward next week on the Palestinian’s long quest for statehood?
Not quite. The Palestinian Authority (PA) says it will ask the United Nations General Assembly to upgrade from being a non-voting “observer entity” to an “observer state.” This bureaucratic-sounding change hardly seems earthshaking. The Vatican is an “observer state.”
But the earth is shaking. A majority of the world’s nations are fed up by the endless suffering of the stateless Palestinians and support creation of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza.
Turkey’s increasingly influential premier, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, went to Cairo last week and spoke for the world: “Let’s raise the Palestinian flag and let that flag be the symbol of peace and justice in the Middle East.”
The United States is desperately scrambling to head off a favorable vote in the UN. Washington threatens to veto any pro-Palestine vote in the Security Council - that alone can grant statehood status to a new state. The US is exerting huge pressure on allies and dependant states to vote against any resolution in the General Assembly.
Threats and blackmail aside, the US, Israel and newly pro-Israel Canada are largely isolated on this issue. Israel is in a panic and is using all its mighty influence to sidetrack a vote. Its hard rightwing government is threatening the Palestinian territory with unspecified “grave consequences.’
A special Congressional election in New York City last week gave Israel and its American supporters powerful new ammunition. A Democratic candidate in a long-time Democratic district was soundly defeated after he and President Barack Obama were denounced for “throwing Israel under a bus.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is heading the anti-Palestinian diplomatic drive. She clearly has future political ambitions and is buttering up Israel’s supporters. Her goal is to arm-twist the feeble Palestinian leadership, which critics call a stooge of Israel and the US, to accept some sort of diluted compromise that does not upset Israel.
Israel’s right- wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu clearly controls Washington’s Middle East policy through its US lobby. This has poisoned US interests in the Muslim world at a time that American domination of the turbulent region is weakening.
Turkey’s Erdogan just called Israel, “America’s spoiled child,” a view shared by many. The 9/11 hijackers who attacked New York and Washington made plain they were doing so to punish America for its unquestioned support of Israel’s repression of Palestine. Other attacks are likely to follow.
In a black comedy, US efforts to make PA leader Mahmoud Abbas back down are being led by Dennis Ross, one of Israel’s staunchest partisans in the US government. The US Congress, ever responsive to Israel’s demands, threatens to cut off all funding for Palestinian refugees and any UN organ that supports them.
Israel, now no longer quietly assisted by Egypt’s former ruler, Hosni Mubarak, or Turkey’s rightwing generals, is feeling increasingly isolated. But it can still count on unquestioning US support.
Many outsiders believe a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians is possible provided irksome details can be resolved. This writer, who recently published a book on the subject, does not share this rosy view.
Israel’s hard right Likud Party and its semi-fascist coalition allies are determined to retain the entire West Bank and Golan Heights. According to the closest thing Israel has to a real sage, Uri Avnery, Likud not only refuses to define Israel’s borders, it has a powerful faction that wants further territorial expansion into Syria and Lebanon.
Israel’s strategy has been to hold endless, phony “peace talks” while rapidly expanding West Bank and Golan settlements. As one Palestinian aptly noted, his people and Israel are negotiating over a pizza while Israel is eating it up.
Now, as President Obama steadily weakens, Israel’s right sees a Republican victory in 2012 that will bring in a new president and Congress even more pro-Israel than Israel’s own Knesset.
An upgrade of Palestine’s orphan UN status won’t do anything to address these basic problems. But it will at least keep the plight of Palestine before the world’s view. It will certainly put the US and Israel on the wrong side of history and justice.