Zakaria: I oppose the Palestinian U.N. bid for practical reasons
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attends the 66th UN General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York, September 21, 2011. (Getty Images)
September 22nd, 2011
10:33 AM ET

Zakaria: I oppose the Palestinian U.N. bid for practical reasons

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

I am opposed to the Palestinian effort at the United Nations because I think that it is going to get them nowhere. This is not the time for romantic gestures. This is the time for them to do something that will actually help them get a Palestinian state - a goal that I support.

What is the likely outcome at the U.N.? The likely outcome is that the push is going to go nowhere in the Security Council. It may get to the General Assembly, and there may be a symbolic vote. But the result of that symbolic vote may well be that they lose funds - financial support from Israel, the U.S. and potentially some European countries - and it will make the Israelis feel that the Palestinians have gone in a unilateral direction when the only viable strategy is a bilateral one.

At the end of the day, there is only one way you’re going to get a Palestinian state. And that’s if the Israelis agree to it. They have the land; they have the guns; they have the money. Palestinians may regard it as deeply unfair, and I understand that. But it is the world that we live in. The only way they’re going to get a Palestinian state is to engage directly with the Israelis.

The Israelis have not been willing to be a productive partner in recent years, though it is worth remembering that the Israeli government under Ehud Barak did make a very serious effort and the Israeli government under Ehud Olmert made a very serious offer to the Palestinians. So, let’s not confuse Benjamin Netanyahu’s intransigence with all Israeli governments in recent years. The current government in Israel is clearly motivated by Israeli domestic politics. It fears the fragile governing coalition will fall apart. Perhaps, it is also motivated by ideological reasons. It is not in any way being a constructive partner.

I think the U.N. vote is an understandable act of frustration on the part of the Palestinians, but they’re not going to get a Palestinian state through frustration. They’re going to get it by being smart and figuring out what they need to do to get the Israelis to engage in serious negotiations. I think Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s strategy of building a state from the ground up has been an incredibly successful one, and you can see it in the fact that Israelis have increasing respect for the institutions on the ground in the West Bank.

I think the next big push the Palestinians need to figure out is how to get control of Gaza. If you have half of the Palestinian leadership that engages in terrorism and does not accept Israel’s right to exist, the Israelis are simply not going to create a Palestinian state under those conditions.

Again, I’m leaving morality aside for now and just asking, “What is the practical path to a Palestinian state?” And the practical path has to be to sideline Hamas in some way or another. The more good governance the Palestinian authority is able to demonstrate, the more likely it is that Hamas will be sidelined.

I’m convinced of the cause; I would like to see a Palestinian state, and I would like to see it broadly speaking on the boundaries that President Clinton’s plan talked about.

Someone who has frequently been in these negotiations has told me:

“It’s not that there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. Everybody sees the light at the end of the tunnel. The light at the end of the tunnel is blindingly clear and obvious. The problem is there’s no tunnel. There is no actual concrete path to getting to that light.”

And it isn’t going to happen with grand gestures at the United Nations. It’s going to happen through a series of very smart, thoughtful and practical steps along the way.

soundoff (937 Responses)
  1. dugee

    The old testament was written by the people who took the land from other people.It reads like a giant excuse for bad behavior from cover to cover. Having said that, I live in North America- also on stolen land. The fact is land changes hands over history.Trying to make it look legitimate with a holy book is lame. How about we look at the human catastrophe and sort it out on that basis.

    September 27, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Reply
  2. TXJack

    Let’s get a few things straight people.

    The proposed Jewish state Israel, was suggested by the Zionist representatives at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, prior to that it never existed.

    However first clear use of the term Palestine to refer to the region synonymous with that defined in modern times was in 5th century BC.

    The Israelis and the Palestines are both from the same father Abraham.

    The 1st son of Abraham was by a slave woman and then when Sarah had her own son, the 1st son was banned to the desert. That is where Palestines came from.

    So from the beginning of time and until the end of time there was and will be unrest there.

    It is not about the US helping Israel so we could have oil.

    The US had Oil wells there long before the state of Israel was established.

    Do you think that the Arabs that were living in the desert and living in tents drilled the oil wells?
    It is all about politics and who really runs the US Government. Think about it.

    Prior to WW2 we did not have this problem, but since then it has bee then it has been the US burden and not the UK or the UN. This was by US political choice.

    This needs to end NOW.

    After all the US is Broke. I don't see Israel or Palestine helping us out.

    The US needs to STOP supporting them and let them work it out.

    I say it is time to end the Marshall Plan and stop the US World Welfare Plan.

    We need to get our own House in order again

    September 28, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Reply

    Zakaria answers his own statement why“The current government in Israel .... is not in any way being a constructive partner.”
    “If you have half of the Palestinian leadership that engages in terrorism and does not accept Israel’s right to exist, the Israelis are simply not going to create a Palestinian state under those conditions.”
    And did you see the softballs Zakaria threw at Turkey's Erdogan on the show last week?
    No question as to Erdogan's conflicting position that the Palestinians should have their own state-but how about the Kurds?

    September 29, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Reply
  4. Al

    This article is weak on analysis. As I understad it,Farid recognises that legitimate rights of the Palestinians to their own state in their ancesteral home land, however, in view of the objection from the US and Israel he does not believe it can happen at the UN. Most of us who are familiar with the situation understand that this move will not result in a Palestinian state but neither will the status que. A UN resolution even at the general assembly will provide the Palestinians with a better negotiating position by being able to use international legal venues that are not availble now. The issue of losing Israeli aid, com'oooon Farid you know better. Based on a recent UN funded study it was determined that the Israeli occpation is costing the Palestinians $4.5 billion per year by limiting accessis to natural resources and limits on movement of people and products. Farid should have clarfied that the funds Israel tranfers and often uses to blackmail the PA are Palestinian taxes collected by Israel on behalf of the PA by agreement and not aid provided by Israel. By saying that this is not the right approach and the Palestinian need to be smarter in finding ways to achieve a Plaestinian state is basicly accepting the status quoe. I expected Fraid would have recommended clear alternatives rather that just stating the abvious that this move will not result in a Palestinin state. Israelhave violated every agreement with the palestinians with impunity and the Palestinians had to to do something to shake upthe stalemate.

    October 2, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Reply
  5. Marianne

    Israel is a racist and colonialist contry.

    Israel is contnuously killing civilians and is often killing children.

    But US does not care... beacause US loves the money of jewish organizations, and US loves to sell arms and to feel powerful by killing innocent people.

    Both the United States that Israel refuses to respect international law and human rights

    All the history of US and the history of Israel are made of mass killings.

    Neither democracy nor civilization in the United States or in Israel. Money, and weapons of mass destruction are their values.

    October 31, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Reply
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    December 3, 2011 at 6:02 am | Reply
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    February 7, 2013 at 10:21 pm | Reply
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