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.
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