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The Odd Israeli/US Reaction
To Palestinian UN Recognition

By Terrell E. Arnold


It seems highly unlikely that Israel has forgotten its own approach to statehood. On May 15, 1948, the day after its unilateral declaration of statehood, Israel asked the United Nations for recognition. That first request was refused, but Israel kept applying until it was finally admitted to the UN a year later on May 11, 1949. If Israel thought this was so important in its own case, one might well inquire why a formal association with the UN is now thought inappropriate for the Palestinians. The answers seem entirely clear, however, as well as entirely Israeli Zionist self-serving.

To put it simply, colonizing a neighboring state is radically different in international law from taking over settlement spaces in occupied territory. Israeli settlement building is illegal in any case, but all of a sudden, as of November 29 in fact, the Israeli settlers became invaders of the territory of a neighboring state. Note moreover that they have never paid for any of the land they took from Palestinian owners, nor do they have any legally recognized documentation of title to the spaces they occupy.

They are indeed invaders, and what might be done at this point about the Palestinian territory the Israeli settlers have occupied remains to be seen. But the short answer is they should pack up, get out of Palestine, and return to Israeli territory. A less attractive option might be for them to apply to the Palestinian Government for permission to become citizens of Palestine. That option, of course, would be very awkward for several senior officials of the Israeli Government who for some time have parked themselves on lands now part of the newly recognized State of Palestine.

Thus the declaration of Palestinian statehood is very awkward for the Zionists, all other devotees of Greater Israel and perhaps many other land-hungry Israelis. Defining Palestinian territory as a state unceremoniously defines the borders of Israel. No longer is Palestinian land fair game for the Israeli takers. That land is now the sovereign estate of a recognized nation state. Respecting the so-called West Bank, the 1967 green line is where Israel officially ends. As President Obama observed not too long ago, that historic armistice line would and should be the border.
At some point, as the President also noted, actual boundaries may be the subject of horse trading over bits and pieces, an exchange or even handed swaps respecting, for example, areas around East Jerusalem where the Israelis have recently built apartment blocks. Ignoring strenuous objections of the US, Britain and France, as of 3 December the Israelis were scrambling to enlarge and complete such areas, obviously seeking to foreclose any prospect for a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.

Just where does that set of outcomes leave the United States? For years US policies toward Palestine have been largely set out of consideration for Israel and often contrary to primary US interests. With a US Congress about 100% ready to do Israeli bidding, the Republican-led House of Representatives already has come up with three resolutions designed to punish the Palestinians for pulling this off. Are they looking at the range of US interests in the Middle East as they rush to pass such legislation? No. They are looking at the Jewish vote. Whether US interests in the region would be served by those resolutions was simply not considered.

One good outcome of the situation might be that Israeli meddling in American foreign and domestic policy, as well as irresponsible actions of Americans on Israel's behalf, would diminish. That could be an outcome about equal in impact with Palestinian statehood: The rebirth of sovereign American foreign policy.


The writer is a retired US Senior Foreign Service officer, a regular contributor to and author, co-author and editor of six books on foreign policy issues. His most recent work, "Let's Talk About Palestine", is now available on Amazon in both print and kindle editions.





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