Arab News (Editorial)
September 8, 2011 - 12:00am

On Sept. 20, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to ask the UN General Assembly to recognize Palestinian statehood and give it a seat at the organization. As things stand, that will not happen. Although the Palestinians can count on the support of a handsome majority among the 193 members of the UN, Washington is opposed and threatens to use its veto in the Security Council to block the request. (It is with the Security Council, not the General Assembly, that the decision to grant UN membership rests.)

Washington is opposed because the Israeli government, for its own nefarious reasons, is opposed and President Barack Obama has decided to be Israel’s craven puppet. He has done for the most base of reasons. He wants to be re-elected next year and fears the consequences if the powerful Jewish lobby turns against him. He fears the loss of funding — it was the Jewish lobby that was prominent in funding his 2008 campaign — and he fears their influence with US public opinion being diverted to the Republican camp. A current of anti-Americanism flows deep and strong in the Arab and Muslim worlds, and beyond, especially in the ten years since 9/11; but Washington and its allies have learned to live with it. It will be as nothing compared to the rage against all things American if the US vetoes the application. There will be new boycotts, new anti-US demonstrations. Arab governments will seek to distance themselves as far as possible from Washington. Plotters will certainly plot; we can only hope that they are caught before they manage to do any mischief.

The White House knows all this. It knows too that it is completely isolated on this issue. America’s European allies, notably France and the UK, though firm in the belief that Israel should have total security, see no conflict between that and agreeing to Palestinian statehood.

What matters it to the US if Palestine is declared a state? It is not going to change the nature of Middle East peace negotiations.

Despite knowing the consequences, despite its isolation, the Obama administration clings to its slavish obsession with Israel that goes way beyond the issue of Israeli security. It puts Israel’s demands above that of America. The result is political absurdity that borders on malevolence. With US unemployment figures showing no growth in jobs last month and Obama’s standing in the polls plummeting, a White House in panic tries to arm-twist Abbas into abandoning the UN attempt by threatening to cut off US aid. Abbas knows that to do so would be a betrayal of his own people. Nor should he accept the lesser offer being touted, that of a permanent nonmember observer state. It may do for the Vatican, but the Vatican is not a nation of people. It is an insult to the Palestinians.

Abbas must stick to his guns and make his call. If the US then uses its veto, the responsibility lies wholly with it. It must take the consequences. But Obama should have the courage to accept Palestinian statehood. It does not affect US security. It does not even affect Israeli security. It is the morally right action to take. In refusing to do so, Obama vacates whatever moral high ground he claimed to possess.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017