Something I'm genuinely curious about is the public justification for the US veto of Palestinian statehood at the UN security council meeting next week (11 November), and for this week denying $60m to UNESCO as a sanction against the recognition there. Is there any logical argument that recognition of a party to potential negotiations makes those negotiations either more unlikely or more difficult, or somehow harms the prospect of Middle East peace and security?
According to AFP, Israel's ambassador Nimrod Barkan criticised UNESCO members that "have adopted a science fiction version of reality by admitting a non-existent state". That sounds like it's not just saying that a Palestinian state is non-existent, but that it could only "exist" in science fiction. My position may be idiosyncratic, but surely all states are fictions, affirmations of which happen to be convenient for some (although maybe inconvenient for others)? I'm trying to understand what the argument really is, because then I can see what if any counter-arguments there are. Is the argument perhaps that the state would not ye2011-08-15 13:10:48 +0100t have defined borders? But the counter-argument goes: is that not encouragement to negotiate over land swaps as soon as possible?
Henry Porter in the Guardian compares the current situation to "when Israel applied for membership of the UN in 1949"; "it argued that issues about refugees and the status of Jerusalem stood a better chance of being resolved if Israel was awarded statehood". Porter also notes the effect of "the Israel lobby" in the US in stifling rational debate. Israel's government certainly appears scared of the negotiating table and the exposure of their aims that might come from it. For example, Uri Avnery suggests the prisoner exchange with Hamas two weeks ago was a publicity master stroke against Mahmoud Abbas, whose "moves in the UN have profoundly disturbed our right-wing government.... This government, like all our governments since the foundation of Israel – only more so – is dead set against Palestinian statehood. It would put an end to the dream of a Greater Israel up to the Jordan River, compel us to give back a great chunk of the Land-God-Promised-Us and evacuate scores of settlements."
So I've been trying to decode Obama's statement at the United Nations, wherein he paradoxically says that "peace will not come through statements... at the United Nations". In parts it still seems committed to a two-state solution: "We seek a future where Palestinians live in a sovereign state of their own, with no limit to what they can achieve. There’s no question that the Palestinians have seen that vision delayed for too long." However, this implies his ambition is a "vision" rather than realisation of the vision (or is science fiction here sufficient?), and a vision that has been permanently assigned to the indefinite "future". Many bits sound sensible: success is encouraging "the parties to sit down, to listen to each other, and to understand each other’s hopes and each other’s fears", but there must be some Greek term for the rhetorical device of implying something contentious in a forest of truisms.
Because the critical part that is code for the veto that the White House was briefing about must in the shortest sentence: "There are no shortcuts. And that is what the United Nations should be focused on in the weeks and months to come." Aha! A shortcut implies, while eschewing evidence, that somehow diplomatic moves would bypass a peace process. That's the argument in total. It's effectively alleging that Abbas is not interested in negotiating (even if Israel upholds existing UNSC resolutions and international law). Is that what Obama really believes? In any case, it comes down again to asking for evidence for and against that belief.
Anyway, this is all thinking aloud, and informed comments would be welcome. If you think absence of argument is an argument petition for US to reverse veto decision.