[Editor's note: I've not done a political rant on here for a while, but the recent Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN has got me all riled up. You have been warned. Also, as the Middle East is not my main area of expertise, I'm sorry if I get details wrong]
So, Palestine is trying to get recognised as an official state by the UN. This is a great idea, it will give Palestine clout on the international stage and theoretically allow them to be treated as equals by Israel in their ‘ongoing’ negotiations. Except it won’t. Mainly because the US will veto the move.
Surely the first step toward a balanced and equal peace and reconciliation process, which both parties say they want, is that they become equals in the eyes of the UN (and the rest of the world). Then the two states can come to the negotiating table—perhaps not chaired by the US this time, as their record is less than exemplary—and work together to find a solution. Or at least give it more than a half-hearted attempt. Benjamin Netanyahu I’m looking at you, son.
But unfortunately this will never happen, well at least not in that order, and not if the US has anything to say about it. I see this as somewhat hypocritical of the US as they’ve been pushing for an end to negotiations for years, and Obama spent a lot of political capital trying to restart talks in 2010. To no avail of course. So why on earth are they promising to veto any move by Palestine to obtain statehood (which, by the way, isn’t enough for some Americans)?
I think there are at least two things at play here. The first is the large Jewish lobby (or at least Israelophile lobby) in the US, and the other is America’s stake in Israel. The Jewish lobby is seen to be a large power in American politics, and presidents tend to try and avoid annoying such a large (and powerful, and rich) section of society. Unsurprisingly this means denying the Palestinian bid for statehood and I think also extends to a lack of impartiality on the subject of the Middle East negotiations, hence my call for someone else (perhaps the EU, or the UN) to chair negotiations.
Secondly US has a large stake in Israel (it’s where Israel gets most of its weapons, for example), and therefore has a vested interest in ensuring the continued prosperity and ‘safety’ of the state of Israel. A Palestinian state would mean equality between the two states, (hopefully) leading to a more balanced and responsible negotiation between the two sides. If this negotiation were overseen by a pan-national body such as the UN or the EU (with the co-operation of several Arab states), then that body would be in a position to impose tariffs or trade restrictions on Israel if it failed to stick to its side of the bargain. The same goes for Palestine, though most of the territory around the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is controlled by Israel anyway. This would expose the US and its unwillingness to be tough on Israel, hopefully sending home the message that it will not be tolerated on the international stage.
As to the final terms of the deal, well I’m not informed (nor politically deft) enough to know what that would look like, but Palestinian statehood is surely the first (and best, given the results of negotiations thus far) step on the way to peace in the Middle East.