Cross posted at The Progressive Zionist
The history of the Jewish people has been a history fraught with hard decisions. In biblical times, Jacob has ist name changed after an all night wresting match with an angel in Genesis 32: 24-30,
24-25 But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him untidaybreak. When the man saw that he couldn't get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob's hip out of joint.
26 The man said, "Let me go; it's daybreak."
Jacob said, "I'm not letting you go 'til you bless me."
27 The man said, "What's your name?"
He answered, "Jacob."
28 The man said, "But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it's Israel (God-Wrestler); you've wrestled with God and you've come through."
29 Jacob asked, "And what's your name?"
The man said, "Why do you want to know my name?" And then, right then and there, he blessed him.
30 Jacob named the place Peniel (God's Face) because, he said, "I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!"
Current times are no different and now the American and Israeli Jewish communities face some difficult decisions. The week of the Palestinian push for Statehood at the United Nations is here and what happens this Friday will alter the course of relations in the region for years to come. Oh, maybe not at first but, down the line this will be a "game changer".
At the end of this week the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas will ask the United Nations Security Council for a vote on Statehood. As things currently stand, the United States is planning on vetoing this measure (or so it has announced). Both the United States and the European Union favors direct negotiations over this move but as far as anyone can see only the U.S. is planning a veto.
As for the main players.. .the Israeli people strongly oppose this move though there are widely dissenting opinions on how to handle it. Interestingly enough, the Palestinian People are mixed on this. Palestinian polls offer widely differing opinions on the matter. According to the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
83% support going to the UNSC to obtain recognition of Palestine as a state. Moreover, 74% believe that there is no point in returning to negotiations with Israel without acceptable terms of reference or without freezing settlement construction and that therefore president Abbas is right in seeking UN involvement.
The Palestine Center for Public Opinion had this to say:
Whilst (59.3%) of the respondents are of the opinion that it’s necessary to go first back to the negotiations with Israel as to reach a permanent peace with the Israelis then resort to the UN, (35.0%) however support going directly to the UN seeking the recognition of the Palestinian state unilaterally without the need for concluding a peace accord with the Israelis.
So if the people involved are so divided, how should American progressives and liberals look at this upcoming vote and it's implications for The United States and the region?
First of all, it should be a given that this measure has enough votes to pass the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). It most likely has Security Council support or at least abstentions from everyone BUT the United States (who plans to veto). Given this America now needs to make an informed and important decision.
For American progressives and liberals this question is fraught with pitfalls, longterm traps, and really no good answers. On one hand, there are many reasons to support the Palestinian quest for Statehood (a quest I support along with supporting the maintainence of a strong Israel as the Nation State and Homeland of the Jewish People), from the yearning of the Palestinian people to be free to run their own polity to the necessity of maintaining the Jewish people's legitimate rights to self-determination. On the other hand, the Palestinian Polity is badly fractured between a group that actively calls for the destruction of the State of Israel (Hamas)and a group of individuals that are committed to creating a State that considers Jews as settlers in the land and talks of their expulsion of an ethnic group (Fatah/PLO). Neither Fatah/PLO or Hamas represent anything remotely progressive or liberal in their polity. SO... the question remains what should the U.S. do.
Further complicating the matter for the American team is a potential draft of wording on the resolution which DOES NOT call for establishing borders based on June 4th, 1967 armistace lines but on declaring Statehood and deciding borders based on negotiations (land swaps) of those borders at a later point. This position has been a big part of the American position regarding the resolution of borders for the conflict.
SO... here is a short list of the political and realistic Pro's and Con's of an American Veto:
CON'S (Why a veto would be bad)
1. America's standing and prestige in the area will take a hit. American prestige is already low and is being challenged by both Turkey and Iran (who are also lining up as opposing forces). This symbolic move for statehood is popular both with the "street" and with governments within the region. A U.S. veto would be go directly against these wishes and would inflame the Arab "street" making relations with the U.S. difficult. Though many of the governments involved here (Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc....) have strong ties to the U.S. they would be faced with massive unrest should they continue their relationships with the U.S.
2. Ultimately the Palestinian people need a State and as such will keep asking the United Nations for recognition. Despite the wishes of the Israeli ruling coalition and the U.S. administration, this move will succeed in the U.N. at some point even if it does not succeed in the UNSC. It will pass the UNGA this time around. Should there be responsible behavior on the part of the Palestinian polity it is just a matter of time for it to pass the UNSC as well. When the U.S. veto's the Palestinian resolution it will reduce America's ability to influence
3. This measure would bring about strong international pressure to actually end the conflict. Whether the Israelis like it or not, this would force their Right Wing into decision making mode and there would be no more ambiguity to what position they would take regarding a number of issues involving the West Bank and Jerusalem. As the colloquial saying goes... at this point Israel would have to "Shit or get off the pot" relative to what they see as the fate of the occupied territories.
PRO'S (Why a veto is the right thing to do)
1. This will do nothing to settle the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. Given recent Palestinian pronouncements regarding ethnically cleansing Jews from their territory, pronouncements on Right of Return, and Hamas' recent signal that they might accept the Palestinian move at the U.N. as long as the future Palestinian State refuses to recognize Israel. The Israelis are simply not going to end their occupation because this measure passes. Far from that, what will likely happen is that the security meme will become dominant (as it is already) and that even Israeli Center - Left groups will adopt the Center-Right's narrative on Security (see my article Avodah Rising). This in turn would lead to conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians and could even lead to a violent Third Intifada.
2. The Palestinian polity is simply not ready for this despite the popularity of such a move. There is no coherency or unity there. Should there be a State, it would be a split policy with Hamas ruling part of the State and the Palestinian Authority ruling the other part. Who would anyone negotiate with as far as borders or peace? It potentially could set off a Palestinian Civil War, a conflict that could explode in other parts of the Arab world.
3. Unilateralism does not solve conflicts. The U.S. (rightly so) feels this issue should be settled through direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. The U.S. feels that it is not up to the United Nations to set borders between two nations and that only direct negotiations between the parties involved can do that.
4. The United States made a pledge to Israel, Whether right or wrong, the U.S. has "made it's stand". What would this tell our allies about what our words mean? Not too mention that Israel has been our strongest friend in the region. Not vetoing this would be seen as us turning our back on some of our best friends in the world.
So given what we are facing we are indeed faced with a task no less than Jacob was when he wrestled with an angel of G-d. He was wounded in the fight (as was evidenced by his permanent limp following the battle) but he emerged stronger and with the new name of Israel. How we wrestle with our own angels will determine how we come out of this fight.