Palestine UN Membership: Why it Could Create a Dangerous Precedent

The Palestinian National Authority will attempt Thursday to gain “non-member state observer status” at the United Nations General Assembly. A similar move, meant to gain state status without negotiating peace with Israel, failed in September of 2011.  In that regard, the PA’s attempt to try it again seems puzzling.

If France and Great Britain agree to support Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, that would be a major vindication for the PA. . Last year, Israel enjoyed the support of the Western democracies against the Palestinian unilateral move. This time, reports out of France and Britain indicate that they may turn.

Support from London and Paris, however, would set a dangerous precedent in an unprecedented situation.

The predicament is quite unique in that an autonomous, non-democratic regime, in a land dispute with a Democracy, is turning to the international community for support. It is important to remember that Israeli concessions on land began nearly 20 years ago with the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.  

Israel began to turn over control of major cities in the disputed West Bank, including places with centuries of Jewish/Israeli history. Today, the PA is the sole body that governs the lives of millions of Palestinians in cities like Ramallah, Qalkilya, Tulkarem, Jenin, Nablus, Hebron, Jericho, and Bethlehem.

With nearly two decades of governing experience, one would think the international community would consider the record. Mahmoud Abbas would prefer that they do not. 

Under Abbas, the PA looks an awful lot like the Middle Eastern dictatorships ousted by the Arab Spring. Journalists have been routinely jailed. A blogger last year was arrested for posting atheist material. Muslims who convert to other religions are persecuted. 

Christians have fled the PA including those in Bethlehem, where they are now a minority. It is illegal to sell land to Jews under their rule, and last year, a PA official said that no Jews would be allowed in the future Palestinian state. The PA has held one free election in two decades.

The PA, moreover, constantly glorifies terrorists through various government apparatus. For example, the PA last year named a town square after Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist who blew up a bus that killed 35 Israelis, including nine children under the age of 10. In 2005, Abbas openly admitted ordering terrorist operations. As recently as last week, a branch of Abbas’s Fatah party, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, bombed a Tel Aviv bus.

Despite all of this, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continually calls for direct negotiations. Acquiescence to the current Palestinian UN bid would reward Abbas’s unwillingness to reciprocate.

This unwillingness to negotiate is the primary reason that Israel has been so adamant in its opposition to the status change . The United States has been rightfully steadfast in its opposition as well, which ensures that such a motion could not pass in the UN Security Council.

As a result, French and British support would be largely symbolic. But the symbolism is troublesome because it would represent deterioration in their commitment to Democracy. For the first time, a despotic regime is going to the United Nations to resolve its land dispute with a Democracy.

France and Great Britain should make a statement that if the international community is willing to create brand new countries in 2012, they ought to meet a basic level of democratic standards.