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Say Goodbye to the Failed 'Peace Process' as Palestine Goes to the UN

It's outrageous that Washington is threatening the Palestinians and the UN itself with dire consequences if a move is made toward UN recognition of statehood.

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If not so dangerous, it would be almost funny to see the right-wing pro-Israel organizations, on the defensive, desperate to figure out how to attack the president for not being pro-Israel enough. On the eve of President Obama’s UN speech, for instance, in a full-page  New York Times ad, the neo-con-led Emergency Committee for Israel was reduced to demanding changes in what the president says (he should “refrain from criticizing Israel”), without even hinting at the need for any change in what the president does. They are fine with Obama providing $30 billion in U.S. military aid to Israel over these 10 years, delighted at Obama escalating joint U.S. military exercises with Israel, thrilled with Obama protecting Israel from being held accountable for its war crimes.

But somehow the word is still out: Obama just isn’t pro-Israel enough. Recognizing there’s just not much more President Obama can do to support Israel, that he’s already walking their walk, the influential core of those pro-Israel organizations is reduced to just demanding he talk more of their talk. 

Ironically, if the Palestinians do begin their statehood initiative in the Security Council, and the U.S., as promised, vetoes the resolution, the international negative repercussions will be huge, but the political advantage for Obama’s 2012 election prospects won’t amount to much more than a hill of beans. It will never be enough for Israel’s hardest-core supporters. (The other possibility, of course, is that a Security Council move may not result in an immediate vote-and-veto at all, but rather burial of the resolution for months or longer in the endless morass of UN bureaucracy. That would allow the Palestinian leadership to avoid embarrassing the U.S., and would allow the Obama administration to deflect the issue altogether — perhaps till after the 2012 election.)  

Palestine 194 and 194 for Palestinians

But if the U.S. and Israel are so determined to derail this initiative one way or another, why is Palestinian support for it so uncertain and uneven? Part of the reason this month’s Palestinian UN initiative is so confusing has to do with competing Palestinian claims to the number 194. For the Palestinian Authority (whose leaders are running the Palestinian diplomatic campaign) and for many Palestinian supporters in the Occupied Territory, the significance is visible on balloons, bumperstickers, working papers and online logos: “Palestine 194” — articulating the goal of establishing the State of Palestine as the 194th Member State of the United Nations.

For others in the territories and for many of the millions of Palestinian refugees and exiles throughout the worldwide diaspora, the importance of 194 is less about UN membership than about implementation of the UN resolution of that same number. Resolution 194 guarantees the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the homes from which they were dispossessed in the 1947-48 war that resulted in the creation of the state of Israel. 

From the vantage point of international law and human rights, Palestinians could win at least two significant gains from the current UN statehood initiative, and confront at least two potential dangers.  

The most important gain is the challenge — the first in 20 years — to Washington’s stranglehold on Palestinian-Israeli diplomacy. That alone is huge. As Robert Fisk wrote in the  Independent, with this UN vote “never again can the United States and Israel snap their fingers and expect the Arabs to click their heels. The US has lost its purchase on the Middle East. It's over: the ‘peace process,’ the ‘road map,’ the ‘Oslo agreement;’ the whole fandango is history.” 

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