Tuesday, April 12, 2011

US Must Cut Losses on Palestine

A U.N. assessment today said that the Palestinian Authority is capable of governing a state of its own, and that Israeli occupation is the largest impediment to Palestinian statehood.

Firstly, this is wrong. A lack of investment capital, reconciliation with Hamas, connections between the West Bank and Gaza, and sustainable relationship with Israel are impediments which are at least as important as occupation, if not more.

Secondly, given that this is the U.N., none of that matters. The Palestinian bid for statehood is unlikely to be withdrawn. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has reacted to the planned bid by considering preemptively withdrawing from several areas in the West Bank. Conceivably he could leverage this plan towards a deal in which the Palestinians would drop the bid but receive real autonomy over certain areas. While the PA would be wise to get an on-the-ground withdrawal versus theoretical statehood, it is more likely than not that they will continue to pursue U.N. recognition.

All indications are that the U.S. opposes unilateral efforts to establish a state. But both the U.S. and Israel will face significant PR damage from a U.S. veto of Palestinian statehood.

What all this boils down to is that U.S. strategy planning on the bid for statehood should focus on plans for mitigating the damage of a veto. Given that the veto is likely to go forward, and the U.S. is likely to oppose it, the political aftermath of the resolution may be far worse than the content of the resolution itself. Given the huge unpopularity this position is likely to generate, the U.S. needs to start thinking now about how to best frame the veto so as to mitigate the negative reaction.

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