You have to hand it to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He always finds a way to circumvent bilateral talks with Israel and attempt to establish a Palestinian state unilaterally.
Last September, he floated the idea past the United Nations Security Council, where it failed to get the necessary nine votes. This year, he is approaching the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 27 to ask that Palestinian membership be granted, technically as a non–member state.
Given the U.N. member states’ sympathy to the Palestinian cause, and the body’s concomitant antipathy toward Israel, Abbas almost certainly will succeed. But it will only be a symbolic victory, and a hollow one at that.
The United Nations traditionally is hostile territory for Israel. Over the years, resolution after resolution has condemned Israel for all sorts of manufactured abuses, while such paragons of human rights as Sudan, Syria, North Korea and Iran sit in judgment.
At the same time that the U.N. story broke, the Jerusalem Post reported that Palestinian Authority officials are pondering the cancellation of the Oslo accords.
Though most observers, including Israelis and Palestinians, would concede Oslo proved a long-term failure, the signing of the accords in 1993 opened the door to face-to-face negotiations between the parties. They helped shape the template for whatever progress we have seen on the ground on a host of bilateral concerns.
For the P.A. to cancel Oslo is to spit on that progress and seemingly bolt shut the door on future talks.
True, this has not yet happened, and the Post story suggests there is tense debate in Ramallah over any proposed cancellation.
But even if the P.A. avoids that symbolic step, taking the other one — a unilateral bid for U.N. membership and, thus, a unilateral bid for statehood — would effectively cancel the accords, which demand negotiations on all final status issues.
Could it all backfire? Absolutely. Israel will not sit still for unilateral Palestinian moves of this magnitude, and neither will the United States or the European Union, for that matter.
The road to peace, which requires direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, has always been a rocky one. But there is no other road. Winning a door prize from the United Nations is no substitute for the hard work necessary to achieve real peace.
Should the U.N. grant Abbas’ wish, Israel will not fall for it, nor will the United States. Once the confetti is swept up, and harsh reality reasserts itself, Palestinians will come to wonder what was gained by such a stunt.