Palestinian bid at UN ends peace process as we know it (video)
The weak foundations of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process may well come tumbling down this week.
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What will happen if Abbas moves forward on Friday? The US is hinting at a Security Council veto, a moment that is likely to shred its last remaining credibility among Palestinians as an impartial, honest broker when it comes to Palestinian-Israeli peacemaking. After all, the US position has been for years that a Palestinian state should be based on the pre-1967 borders. While Washington says that such a state must be achieved through negotiations, not at the UN, standing in the way of the UN bid will, rightly or wrongly, send a message to the Palestinians – and the restive populations of neighboring Egypt and Jordan – that the US is committed to doing the bidding of Israel's current government, not to delivering a Palestinian state.Skip to next paragraph
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Blogger Issandr El Amrani flags a revealing conversation between State Department spokesman Mark Toner and the AP's Matt Lee last week, in which Mr. Lee asks why UN recognition can't be seen as a prod to new and meaningful negotiations, rather than as an obstacle. As Lee pushes his point, Mr. Toner seems flummoxed – continually repeating the US position that it prefers direct talks and that recognition is "counterproductive." Lee, apparently frustrated, finally says: "To the Palestinians, it gives them some kind of hope, some kind of confidence, that when they do sit down – let me finish – when they do sit down at the negotiating table, that they have more leverage than some kind of nonentity that they’re treated as now."
Palestinian respect for the US has already been waning fast. Veteran negotiator Dennis Ross went to the West Bank last week in a bid to convince Abbas to back off from the UN vote, and his proposal reportedly infuriated Abbas. Palestinian officials said Mr. Ross had presented a plan that, among other things, referred to continuing Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank as "demographic changes" rather than illegal, thus implying US support for them. The Israeli enclaves, which house more than 300,000 Jews in the West Bank, are considered illegal under international law, which forbids the transfer of citizens into occupied territory.
In the wake of a US veto at the UN, it's hard to see American peace process professionals like Ross retaining any clout with Palestinian leaders at all. In Egypt and other regional states, the belief that when the chips are down that the US always backs Israel will be strengthened – and limit US influence in other arenas. Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former Saudi ambassador to the US and as close as any senior Saudi official to the US, provided a stark warning of regional consequences in an op-ed in the New York Times last week.