Reasons Not to Veto Palestinian Statehood

Ready or not, the application for statehood by the Palestinian Authority goes before the United Nations on Friday. In order to be admitted as a full member state, the UN requires a recommendation through a majority vote by the Security Council with no veto being exercised by the five permanent members. If achieved, the application is then sent to the General Assembly where a two-thirds vote is necessary for the application to be granted. Although the United States has promised to exercise its veto, it should reconsider. Instead of vetoing the application, the United States should allow the application for Palestinian statehood to move forward. The veto will further alienate the Arab world while isolating the U.S. from the international community.

Rather than denying Palestine’s application for statehood, the United States needs to reevaluate its position and accept its responsibility for the failure of Israel and Palestine to arrive at a negotiated settlement. For over 20 years, the Palestinians have participated in negotiations mediated by the United States that promised a two-state solution. Rather than ending occupation, the Israelis have ignored their agreements with the Palestinians and continue to annex land through the construction of the “Separation Wall” and the establishment of new Israeli settlements throughout the West Bank. Israel has made it clear that it will not leave behind the over 300,000 Jews currently living in West Bank settlements in a Palestinian state. This leads many to believe that Israel will never support a two-state solution.

One might also point to diplomat Dennis Ross for the failure to moderate a negotiated settlement. Ross served as a leading Middle East diplomat and chief negotiator of the Israeli and Palestinian peace process prior to being appointed by President Barack Obama as the National Security Advisor for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia. However, what is notably left out of any discussion is the fact that Ross co-founded the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). This raises questions about a possible pro-Israel bias that Ross brought to the table.

AIPAC is the second largest lobby in the United States. The New York Times refers to AIPAC as “the most important organization affecting America’s relationship with Israel.” Their power of the purse is persuasive. Congress’ disdain for Obama’s policy on Israel was illustrated with its 29 standing ovations for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he appeared in front of a joint meeting of the House and Senate in May, just in time to influence the opinion of Congress regarding Palestine’s application for statehood. Over 80 members of Congress were provided with a free junket to Israel as guests of an affiliate of AIPAC in the summer. Moreover, Congress has also stated that it will bring an end to Palestinian aid should they go forward with their application.

These instances alone are enough to convince the Palestinians that the U.S. cannot be an objective and unbiased mediator in future negotiations. Palestinians understand that U.S. demands to be the sole mediator of the peace process leaves them vulnerable to Israeli influence. Palestinians understand that taking this step at the United Nations is their best and maybe only option. 

The United States needs to reevaluate its policies and acknowledge the importance of sovereignty for the Palestinian people. Failure to do so will have important implications for the U.S. in the international community. The U.S. has stood by the side of those seeking freedom in the Middle East during the Arab Spring, a veto will be perceived by the Arab world as another instance of American double standards. The veto will symbolize America’s unwillingness to admit failure in reaching a negotiated settlement. Most importantly, the veto will further isolate the United States from the international community, leaving it to stand alone with Israel. This may not be the best position for the U.S. to find itself in.

Photo Credit: Denise DeGarmo