November 29, 2012

Palestinians Secure UN Observer Status, New Battles Await

Today the Palestinians took a step towards self-determination after a popular landslide in the United Nations General Assembly voted in favor of their observer status.

The vote culminates a multi-year plan by de facto Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose term officially ended in January 2009, and his dangerous dance with Israel and Western powers. These forces had hoped to use Abbas as their own pawn during final-status negotiations, a plan that contributed to Abbas's image as an U.S.-Israeli puppet, but they appear to have underestimated his pliability and survivalism. Abbas will now face a higher level of Western pressure to reengage the Israelis on their terms, before his UN mission and future elections potentially decreases the control over Palestinian leadership.

"Regardless of what happens in New York today," the State Department's Victoria Nuland told a group of incredulous reporters shortly before the vote, "the United States is going to continue to try to bring these parties back to the table. Obviously we’re going to. The President is committed to that, and I think the only question is what kind of environment we’re working in."

Obviously - because President Barack Obama has been so supportive of the Palestinians and generally engaging towards a frozen peace process.

There is no questioning the type of environment that Washington envisions. The Obama administration's new diplomatic push will almost certainly be directed behind Israeli and Western interests, rather than an equitable two-state solution. Accordingly, the administration attempted (futilely) to counteract these immovable perceptions by deploying UN Ambassador Susan Rice with a serious piece of doublespeak:
For decades, the United States has worked to help achieve a comprehensive end to the long and tragic Arab-Israeli conflict. We have always been clear that only through direct negotiations between the parties can the Palestinians and Israelis achieve the peace that both deserve: two states for two peoples, with a sovereign, viable and independent Palestine living side by side in peace and security with a Jewish and democratic Israel.

That remains our goal, and we therefore measure any proposed action against that clear yardstick: will it bring the parties closer to peace or push them further apart? Will it help Israelis and Palestinians return to negotiations or hinder their efforts to reach a mutually acceptable agreement? Today’s unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path to peace. That is why the United States voted against it.
The rest of her speech continues to advance this argument: only the Israelis and Palestinians can solve their problems, therefore no one should get in the middle. Except if Rice meant what she said, Washington wouldn't dictate terms to the Palestinians at the behest of Israel - deciding Jerusalem's fate or a demilitarized Palestine, for example. Rice's twisted logic is designed to whitewash America's own dirty hands in the process, and to spin the source of obstruction from the Israelis back into the Palestinians. Israel's blockade of Gaza and disproportionate warfare is counterproductive to peace. So too is the U.S. bias in Israel's favor, whether inside or outside the Palestinian conflict. The Obama administration isn't protecting regional or world peace, only the private interests of Wasington and allies, and the Palestinians must guard against Western diplomatic retaliation.

Today's vote is widely viewed as a vote for or against oppression and occupation. The Obama administration possesses no rhetoric capable of burying this reality, but it will try in the coming months.

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