Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Free Palestine!

One of the biggest stories in the news this week is taking place at the United Nations. Palestine and its representatives are pushing for a UN vote on Palestinian statehood, much to the chagrin of Israel and the United States. This move is being seen as very controversial and a way to circumvent the peace process in the Middle East.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama are hard at work trying to either A.) prevent the UN from taking the issue up for a vote and/or B.) urge Palestine to not force a vote on this. The United States has promised a veto on Palestinian statehood if it does come to vote, which would kill the resolution.

This of course would be a political and cultural landmine the United States would be stepping on. President Obama has already left his Jewish Democrat base and the Israelis feeling miffed by openly declaring his support for Palestinian statehood. The Islamic countries in the Middle East (and around the world really) are already in a great deal of turmoil and have long excoriated the US for its support for Israel. A commitment to a Palestinian state can go a long ways towards earning the trust and respect of Arabic nations in the hopes of scaling back some of the vitriol directed towards America. By stopping a vote or vetoing it, it sends the message (whether justified or not) that the United States is only paying lip service to Palestine’s aspirations.

Israel is condemning Palestine for going to the United Nations, claiming that it is just a ploy to get the rest of the world to bully and beat on Israel some more. This is preposterous. Israel condemns acts of terrorism committed against them and the use of violence as a means of solution. That’s fair enough; terrorism isn’t a solution. But to condemn them for taking it to the UN has nothing to do with it circumventing their negotiations with Palestine.

It has to do with the fact that outside of the United States, the rest of the world recognizes and speaks out on Israel’s complicity in limiting the peace process. Their responses to terrorism could be considered as such themselves and the economic and political repressions of the Palestinian people do not jive with the concept of Israel as victim. This isn’t even mentioning their constant expansion of new settlements on Palestinian territory and the severe restrictions they insist upon in any peace agreement. A vote before the UN isn’t kicking Israel around; it’s airing Israeli’s part in the hostilities in the region on a public stage.

For a supporter of a Palestinian state, this whole situation reeks of Obama kowtowing to a base he is afraid of losing to Republicans and an unwillingness to truly sway from decades of longstanding American policy of unwavering support for Israel. No one in American foreign policy is looking at a UN vote as something that could actually help to force a peace agreement between the two. If Israel is forced to have to recognize Palestine as an equal, it has to at least consider negotiating in good faith. On the other side, if Palestine is considered an actual state, it would be compelled to stop allowing terrorists to act on its soil, or at least try to stem that tide. If it wants to be considered legitimate, it would have to act like a responsible nation and negotiate as such with Israel. And at the very least, a vote and its consequences has just as good (if not more of) a shot at success than any other method. Its not like any other option has worked.

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