In a move that surprised absolutely no one, the US government today made a formal announcement of two intentions vis a vis Palestine:
1) That if the Palestinian Authority (PA) seeks recognition at the UN, the US will veto it, and
2) If the Palestinian Authority seeks recognition from the UN General Assembly (where the US lacks a veto), then the US will move to cut off all aid to the Palestinian Authority.
"If the Palestinian Authority insists on going to the Security Council, the U.S. will use the veto," he told Erekat during a meeting in the West Bank city of Jericho, according to a statement issued by Erekat's office.
"And in case the Palestinian Authority seeks to upgrade its position at the UN through the General Assembly, the U.S. Congress will take punitive measures against it, including a cut in U.S. aid," he said.
As I said, this move surprised no one, but it is not meaningless. At a time when people across the Middle East are demanding more and more freedom and control of their own states, and at a time they are protesting Israeli attacks on Gaza and the killing of at least five Egyptian policemen, this move further isolates the US and damages its standing in that region. Likewise, the hypocrisy in the US position of officially supporting the creation of a Palestinian state while doing everything in its power to block that creation, weakens the US globally. Finally, forcing the vast majority of the world to vote against the US and act in direct defiance of US positions only weakens our influence.
A deeper effect is on the PA. The PA has long suffered from a lack of deep support or enthusiasm from the Palestinian population it supposedly represents. Years of corruption, ineffectuality, and answering to outside interests have taken their toll. The PA has for months been building to this campaign to seek recognition at the UN. For it to halt this action now, in the final days and at the demand of a foreign power, would destroy the last vestiges of authority in the PA and ensure that the Palestinian people would bring it down, whether by popular protest or a coup.
However, the US and Israel (which has also made threats to cut off the PA) together control the purse strings of the PA, and the PA largely survives as a patronage network. Of the purse is closed, then the patronage ends, and the PA is likewise guaranteed to fall. Thus, if the US is serious about its threat, then the US is effectively driving a stake into the heart of the PA.
The era of the PA is likely ending. This fact does not spark great worry on either side directly involved, however. The PA is largely a tool for maintaining the status quo in Palestine. The Palestinians have little love for it, of course, because they hate the status quo. Israeli have little love for it because either the too dislike the status quo, or if they like it then they feel they can maintain the status quo through direct military force without the PA involvement.
About the only people who really love the PA are the US and Europe. For them, the PA acts as a bandage over Palestine, something they can funnel enough money to to prevent things from reaching a crisis level, but something that won’t make demands or change the status quo that could affect the US and Europe. It is not without irony then that the US is effectively threatening to do away with the PA.
Please also see The Troubadour's recent diary on this same subject: