U.N. Recognition of Palestine: What Does It Mean for the Peace Process?

Winning U.N. recognition is unlikely to provide an alternative road-map to Israeli-Palestinian coexistence, but it highlights the way the facts on the ground have changed--and have have to be dealt with as the new reality

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The U.S. appears to have failed in its effort to persuade Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to withdraw or soften his bid to upgrade the U.N. status of the still-hypothetical state of Palestine. And so, on Thursday, the General Assembly will vote on Abbas’ request for non-member-state status. The U.S. will likely be joined by a handful of Western governments in voting “no” on the argument that negotiations with Israel are the only path to Palestinian statehood; more may abstain out of reluctance to be seen saying “no” to either side. But Abbas’ request is likely to be granted by an overwhelming majority. Following hard on the heels of the Israel-Hamas cease-fire in Gaza, Thursday’s events at the U.N. — even if their impact will likely be mostly symbolic — will provide further evidence of Washington’s diminished ability to set the terms for stability in a rapidly-changing Middle East.

The longstanding monopoly of the U.S. on the refereeing role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict offered no mechanism for ending the fighting in Gaza and avoiding a deeper and more damaging war, if for no other reason than the fact that it declines engagement with the key Palestinian protagonist in that conflict, Hamas, which it has listed as a terrorist organization. Instead, the U.S. is now essentially sharing mediation duties with the new Muslim Brotherhood-led government of Egypt.

The Gaza outcome, widely viewed as favorable to Hamas, left President Abbas on the sidelines. And with his political standing already in steep decline because of Palestinian frustration at the status quo on the West Bank, Abbas has chosen to ignore U.S. entreaties (and threats) by seeking recognition at the U.N. Doing so, says former U.S. Mideast negotiator Robert Malley is “an act of [political] survival” for Abbas, calling it “the most moderate expression of his frustration – politically, he has no choice.”

Media reports suggesting Israel will refrain from any dramatic “punishment” of the Palestinian Authority in response to the U.N. vote suggests an awareness of the dangers that arise if the already beleaguered PA  were to collapse under the impact of financial sanctions.

“We examined different ways to react, but eventually the ministers realized that almost whatever we do will hurt Israel at least as much as it will hurt the Palestinians,” a senior Israeli source told Haaretz. “If the [Palestinian] Authority collapses, it will fall on our heads. We don’t have to draw fire immediately after the vote – it’s preferable for the Palestinians to be under pressure to renew the negotiations, as they promised.”

Abbas has, indeed, promised to return to talks immediately after the U.N. vote — a fact that may in fact highlight how little the U.N. verdict will change, because there’s no reason to expect he’ll be offered any more concessions at the negotiating table by an Israeli government led by a party moving steadily to the right than those he declined in previous rounds of talks. Abbas’ Fatah movement, warns the International Crisis Group,  “lacks strategy, direction, resources and momentum, the last of which will be hard to gain as it continues sailing against regional headwinds. Reconciliation with Hamas – that elusive goal, advocated by both sides yet to date genuinely sought by neither – may be the only way to save itself. Once the dust settles, it could perhaps be more earnestly pursued, promoted by Hamas’s new allies, Egypt, Turkey and Qatar. Unifying the national movement also is the best hope for relaunching a credible political process with Israel.”

Although some Abbas aides urged Western leaders to back the U.N. bid or risk boosting Hamas, the Islamist movement appears untroubled by Abbas’ initiative. Indeed, Hamas leader Khaled Meshal on Tuesday announced that he had phoned Abbas to wish him well in the U.N. bid which Hamas “welcomes,” while warning that it shouldn’t compromise Palestinian rights.

Hamas has reason to believe the wind is at its back, not simply because because most Palestinians see it as the victor for surviving its most recent military clash with the Israelis, but also because the Arab Spring has remade the regional political landscape on terms favorable to the Islamists. The longstanding U.S. goal of isolating Hamas while building up Abbas has been rendered moot by the fact that so many of Washington’s key Middle Eastern partners — particularly Egypt, Turkey and Qatar — now see the movement as part of their regionally-ascendant Muslim Brotherhood bloc. That doesn’t mean embracing a Hamas strategy based on violence. On the contrary, these new backers are looking to wean Hamas away from the dead-end road of attacks on Israel, and also away from its alliance of convenience with Iran.

Signs of the shift became evident last year when Hamas angered Tehran by moving its headquarters out of Iran’s ally Syria and defied the Islamic Republic’s pressure to support the Assad regime against the rebellion. Instead, the movement’s exile leadership has set up shop in Cairo and Doha.

The break is hardly absolute, of course — Hamas still relied on Iranian weapons for its most important strikes of the recent Gaza clash, and thanked Tehran for its support. Still, the Hamas leadership is split over whether to align principally with Iran or with the more moderate Sunni Islamist bloc. But Hamas’ drift towards the Egypt-Turkey-Qatar camp is certainly causing consternation in Tehran, while prompting some Israelis to see new possibilities. Nahum Barnea, senior columnist at Yedioth Aharonot  noted the reliance of the U.S. on an emerging Sunni Islamist bloc comprising Egypt, Turkey and Qatar, both in respect of the Gaza cease-fire and also in achieving the goal of ousting President Bashar Assad in Syria, and curbing Iranian influence in the Arab world. That bloc had made common cause with Hamas, but in doing so was limiting Iran’s influence in Israel’s immediate neighborhood. “Hamas has been moving away from Iran since the revolution in Egypt,” writes Barnea. “The Gaza operation expedited this process. From this point forward Iran will base its hold on Gaza on Islamic Jihad, which is fully-funded by Tehran.”

Over the past two years, Washington has been forced by the limits of its own influence and capacities to outsource some of its traditional Middle East roles in responding to such crises as Libya and Syria. It now finds itself in a trickier position in respect of Israel and the Palestinians: the moderate Sunni Islamist bloc may oppose Iranian influence and want to avoid war with Israel, but its members are hostile to the Israelis on issues such as the Gaza blockade and the West Bank occupation. “The U.S. now wants the region to fix its own problems as much as possible,” says Daniel Levy, former Israeli peace negotiator now at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “But none of the key actors on which it would have to rely in order to achieve that — Turkey, Egypt and Qatar — are old-school subjects of Pax Americana, or supportive of traditional U.S. policies and allies.” While they have been American allies for decades, Turkey and Egypt have Islamist regimes that many in the U.S. still are uncomfortable with–and which have social agendas of their own–and Qatar has been pursuing policies in Libya and Syria which have a kind of alacrity that may alarm Washington. Case in point was the Emir of Qatar’s recent pre-conflict visit to the Strip.

The Gaza cease-fire and the U.N. vote don’t offer an alternative roadmap to Israeli-Palestinian coexistence, as much as they lay to rest the peace process as we’ve known it. “There is no clear path forward for international diplomacy, but it is quite obvious what does  not work: Waiting for Hamas to go away,” notes George Washington professor Nathan Brown. “As the Obama administration moves into its second term, it makes more sense to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that really exists rather than to pretend that there still is a ‘peace process’ that only needs one more round of quiet talks to succeed.”

Indeed, the takeaway from both the Gaza cease-fire and the U.N. vote on Palestine is that the old peace process has run its course,and the terms of a new one are being negotiated–with more players at the table, not all of whom would have been welcome before.

21 comments
I_Know
I_Know

@addydaddy59 Yes, AddyDaddy- Hamas and Al Quaida share the same objective. You mentioned that "their chartered goal is the destruction of Israel". Yes, that’s obvious. However, the next line "by the unapologetic targeting of civilians" is a false statement. Did you notice that Palestinian rockets did not land in the populated area? Maybe the killing civilians was not on Hamas agenda. Now, look what just happened in the 2012Nov- the skirmish between Hamas and Israel. Israel won by a big margin- 163- 5 (that is 163 deaths of Palestinians- including children, civilians and Hamas operatives as compared to 5 Israelis casualties). That's a big win.

Tomothy
Tomothy like.author.displayName 1 Like

It means several things: firstly, it shows that the majority of the world are happy to see Palestine continue its path towards independence; secondly, it shows that the USA's attitude towards the Israel-Palestine conflict is different to the majority of other countries' attitudes and that the USA increasingly appears detached and misguided; thirdly and most importantly, it is a positive indicator that the Israel-Palestine conflict is entering its final stages and that there is an overwhelming wish for the two sides to have an equal standing so that they can work out how to resolve this sorry mess without either side being considered more legitimate than the other. 

MikeCarter
MikeCarter

In 1937, the Arab leader Auni Bey Abdul Hadi told the Peel Commission: "There is no such country as Palestine."In 1946, Princeton's Arab professor of Middle East history, Philip Hitti, told the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry: "It's common knowledge, there is no such thing as Palestine in history."In March 1977, Zahir Muhsein, an executive member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization ("P.L.O."), said in an interview to the Dutch newspaper Trouw: "The 'Palestinian people' does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the State of Yisraél."

Dachman
Dachman

Hamas is just like the rest of the Muslim's in the Middle East they have the need for spilled blood. You realize when they are not attacking Israel they are fighting each other. Palestinians are being used by the rest of the Muslim world as pawns against Israel. If you really think the rest of the Muslim world cares about Palestine you are delusional. If you pay attention their is very little unity in the Muslim Middle East and if Israel were not there they would begin their Tribal fighting as you see in Afaganistan and Iraq. Notice nearly everyday in Iraq and Afganistan they bombing each other because of Muslim infighting.

KompasCom
KompasCom

BREAKNEWS From Broken Indonesia:

Like East Timor did: 

Sumatra Proclaims Independence separated from indonesia. 

Java Proclaims Independence separated from indonesia. -

Borneo Proclaims Independence separated from indonesia. 

Nusa Bali Proclaims Independence separated from indonesia. 

Celebes Proclaims Independence separated from indonesia. 

Moluccas Proclaims Independence separated from indonesia. 

West Papua Proclaims Independence separated from indonesia.

LigeWachter
LigeWachter

The comment by this reporter that "Thursday’s events at the U.N. — even if their impact will likely be mostly symbolic — will provide further evidence of Washington’s diminished ability to set the terms for stability in a rapidly-changing Middle East," is just more evidence of the imminent lack of understanding of the U.S. government's motives, goals, and abilities in the Israel and Palestinian conflict, and 80% of the conclusions on U.S. government stance are purely wrong.  Because of the fundamentally terrorist acts of Hamas this month, the true and proper rights of Palestinians will be, in fact, jaded with misunderstanding for a measurable time because  Palestinians are de facto seeking stature and standing, and thinking that they can pursue justice after the Hamas terrorist attacks, in representing their property rights, but by and through terrorist acts of war, with non-military civilian Israeli targets intended.  That Israel can be propelled to giving Palestinians accord in property rights--as Palestinians may have a right to, in fact--just days after the Hamas terrorist attacks,  is fundamentally akin to a situation in which  if after  911, al Qaeda would have been permitted to seek new representation and symbolic standing in the United Nations directly after 911, when 4-6000 civilians were murdered.  Will Palestinian authorities reject Hamas as a terrorist sect that is an enemy of peaceful negotiation and an enemy of proper negotiation, or will Palestinians subsume they can follow on terrorist Hamas' coattails in seeking stanture in the U.N.?  I think its an appreciable fact that Israel has never once engaged in an unprovoked  violent attack on Palestinian civilians, but the Palestinians who allow the presence of the extremist sect Hamas are in no way innocent of this charge.  How can the other sovereign nations in the Middle East NOT AFFORD to descry the terrorist attacks of Hamas, that are fundamentally illegal on all kinds of legal grounds in international law, including the U.N. Charter and various treaties?  The proper beginning of the peace process in the Middle East will be occurring quickly, when the involved and interested sovereigns ally, with the support of the United Nations general assembly, to place Hamas, as a previously organized terrorist sect in Palestine, in the fundamental status of dangerous extremists who--the whole time--could have way further advanced the (possible but maybe so) rights of Palestinians by NOT resorting to terrorism and war to such a deadly degree on civilian Israeli targets.  The proper understanding of Hamas in international relations (and international law) as a fundamentally terrorist sect will preclude as a  -political imperative-  a CURRENT change in the status of Palestine by and through  a U.N. vote this week.  Because the U.N. subsumes that it is a body that abides by international law, it is plainly clear that the time is not ripe for the U.N. to vote acquiescence to a gain in Palestine's political stature because there has  been a Palestinian-based terrorist attack on Israel so recently  and with the evil motive of  terrorism and war used as it was by Hamas as a      ''justified political intervention.'    

I_Know
I_Know like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

@LigeWachter 

Somehow it became forgotten that Palestinians are indigenous people of this region and they fight for their freedom. Therefore Hamas are Freedom Fighter and that how they are seen around the world (with the exception of US and Israel). In the future, kids will read about them it the history books. If you think otherwise you don't comprehend the reality of this situation. I do not deny to state of Israel the right to exist. The point of my comment is that without accepting this fundamental fact, any current and the future peace talks will go nowhere. It's a very nice essay that you wrote, but in reality it's just a bunch of well put together verbiage without any valid message. 

addydaddy59
addydaddy59

@I_Know @LigeWachter Hamas are freedom fighters in the same way as Al Quaida,  Hamas' chartered goal is the destruction of Israel and hopes to achieve this by the unapologetic targeting of civilians evidenced by their funding by Islamic states with similar goals.  I believe statehood is a secondary objective at best as once achieved, would render Hamas irrelevant.  Whereas you do not deny the fundamental right of Israel to merely exist, they as well as many of their neighbors do .. a cause without which these same neighbors would be forced to look only  at themselves as the perpetrators of their abject circumstances.

Fla4Me
Fla4Me

"What does it mean for the Peace Process?"  There hasn't been a Peace Process in over a decade.  Israel and the US are on the wrong side of history on this.  With each day their position worsens.

Dachman
Dachman

You do realize Israel is never starting the violence? Palestinians are even allowed in Israel as long as they dont have terrorist ties, try to live as a Jew in a Muslim country.

Sakaliet
Sakaliet

@Dachman dude.. you have no idea of what you are talking about ..

what jew in what muslim country !! learn history man

or stop taking news from whatever ur source is ..

Dachman
Dachman

Really you are going to mention Moses. Muhammad wrote the Quran over 600 years after Jesus and around 2000 years after Moses. The who Quran is a rip off from the Jews.

Muhammad is about as relevant to Moses as Joseph Smith is to Jesus.

Dachman
Dachman

This from wiki travel- "Nationals of Israel and those with evidence of visiting Israel will be denied visas, although merely being Jewish in and of itself is not a disqualifying factor." http://wikitravel.org/en/Saudi_Arabia

Dachman
Dachman

Really you are going to mention Moses. Muhammad wrote the Quran over 600 years after Jesus and around 2000 years after Moses. The who Quran is a rip off from the Jews.

Muhammad is about as relevant to Moses as Joseph Smith is to Jesus.

Dachman
Dachman

This from wiki travel- "Nationals of Israel and those with evidence of visiting Israel will be denied visas, although merely being Jewish in and of itself is not a disqualifying factor." http://wikitravel.org/en/Saudi_Arabia

Tamon
Tamon

@Dachman I'm pretty sure Jewish people CAN enter Saudi Arabia. However, it's true that Israelis and people who have visited Israel are often refused entry. It's also true that Saudi Arabia bans non-Islamic religious wear, so religiously observant Jews, Christians, non-Muslims are not permitted to wear yarmulkas or crosses,etc.

Jews have been living in Iran for centuries. Often discriminated against (depending on the political climate) though.

Sakaliet
Sakaliet

@Dachman yes, in Egypt they do .. but even Christians can't get into the holy area's in Saudi Arabia ..and btw 

"Palestinians are even allowed in Israel as long as they dont have terrorist ties, try to live as a Jew in a Muslim country."  is bullsh1t 

.. and if u wanna know why jews are not welcome into muslim countries .. 

check wiki for it, something happen in year 1948 try to find out about it 

look dude,

moses were mentioned in the holy quran, same as juses, we believe in them and we made or peace with it long time ago .. can u do the same about Islam ?? leaving Israel and Palestine aside for while, its about religion and Jerusalem 

i would say make Jerusalem free land under the UN Protection as its a common ground for Jews, Christians and muslims 

and make border for 2 countries on the rest of the land .. if you wanna see peace and be able to enter muslim countries .. u will have to stop the religion war 1st 

Dachman
Dachman

Jews cant even enter Saudi Arabia and if you are an American with a Jewish name they wont let you in.

Are you saying that Jews are welcome into Muslim countries?