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. Edward Lang


    If it is a matter of managing your career, you are fully qualified to be a top guy with BBC who, obviously, has much higher standards than CNN . But on a second thought, I don't think that BBC will be willing to hire you after writing this piece of trash.

    What aid does Israel provide??? Israel is practically starving the Palestinians. They prevent trade, medicine..... They are withholding money they owe the Palestinian Authority from tax dollars owed to the Palestinians.

    You should be ashamed of yourself telling lies.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Reply
  2. donny johnson

    im sure this will go down in history as mr Zs most popular post ever; also his most infamous. he really proved who pulls his strings, and how anemic mainstream american journalism is. being practical, and putting morality aside, mr Z says he doesnt think much or "romantic" gestures. but of course it matters, and mr Z knows it. writing as if what compelled him to write was not compelling is the greatest tell of all.

    September 25, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Reply
  3. Sam

    You are a liar, Mr. Zakaria. You say that you support the Palestinians in their desire for a state where they finally get to govern themselves and make their own decisions. Yet when they make their own decision on how to pursue statehood, you preach condescendingly to them about how they're making the wrong move. You argue that Mahmoud Abbas should sideline Hamas to win the Israelis' trust, yet conveniently forget that winning UN support for Palestinian statehood is precisely the most effective way to sideline Hamas, because it will help Abbas gain the Palestinians' trust. Worst of all, you make a condescending remark about how a pragmatic leader should think about the fact that Israel has the land, the guns, and the money. You seem to forget, Mr. Zakaria, that the Palestinians have something much more powerful than all of that: the basic human right to be free.

    September 25, 2011 at 10:29 pm | Reply
  4. anotherfareed

    So, Zakaria's advice to Abbas is to isolate Hamas? Well, in fact, Abbas could not have done that more effectively than with his UN bid. By opposing Abbas' move, Hamas has suffered a huge loss of credibility in the Palestinian street. Zakaria, along with Israel and its useful idiots (also known as the US Congress) are allying themselves with Hamas on this one, not because they want a Palestinian state as they claim. The Israelis, aided and abetted by the USA ruined any chance of that years ago with their settlements.

    Abbas has scored against Hamas the most effective, peaceful, and democratic way that he could have. What Zakaria and the US/Israel seem to want is to incite civil war amongst Palestinians. Just as we (the US) did in Iraq so effectively that we developed instant amnesia (with the help of CNN and other media) and didn't recognize our own work when it blew up in our faces, If Abbas takes Zakaria/Israel/US advice, within two years we will see mass slaughter in Palestinian territories and Zakaria and all US media will be saying "nothing to do with us, mate".

    September 25, 2011 at 11:32 pm | Reply
  5. zion101

    Mr. Zakaria – you show me that you know nothing about this Pal problem, but, you are popular, and this gives you the right to speak out – not because you are intelligent about the Palestinian issue, but rather because you are on TV. Firstly, the Pals already have a state, and its called Jordan, and the world refuses to examine this issue – especially you ! Why ? because sticking it to the jews is a nice past time and very fashionable these days. All of the arm chair prognosticators, of which, you are just another, know nothing about the real issues – and you show it. Is the U.N. pro Israel ? Are the Pals pro peace ? Does the media understand or appreciate the issues ? The answer to these questions is NO NO NO. Secondly, remember that Bibi had been waiting to negotiate, and ceased all construction for 9 months – on our holy land, and guess what ? The Pals didn't want to negotiate, and so, as Abba Eban says: The Pals never miss an opportunity to miss the opportunity. Thirdly, Mr Zakaria (a jewish name) Judea and Samaria is historic Israel, and you may push this aside, as a populist talking head that you seem to be, but, you know nothing about our history and our connection to the land, because you are just a popular speaker, and writer, but, you are no expert when it comes to jewish history or torah. Fourthly, their is no such people as Palestinians, it is the name given to all occupants of Judea, and you (and readers/viewers) continue to conveniently overlook this fact – as jews were Palestinian as well, otherwise we came from Judea, now Israel, and there is no such people as Palestinians. We also do not want a fake people as our neighbors, who send rockets and suicide bombers – would you ? Wake up Fareed, you are being conned by terrorists beset with hatred for jews, and wanting nothing more than to kill us, and you need to start thinking for yourself, and realise that Yasser Arafat was just a liar and a thief in a kafiya. Israel gave up Gaza for peace – and what did we get ? And so why shouldn't we push tha Pals (arabs) to Jordan – their only homeland that they will ever have, and besides the queen of Jordan is Palestinian, and so is 80 % of its population – but I am almost sure, that your popular intransigence and stupidity will not be overcome by me – trying to convince you, because, you are just like Ban Ki Moon and I'll let you fiugure that out for yourself

    September 25, 2011 at 11:46 pm | Reply
  6. Humanoid

    Fareed, you contradict your self, you support the Palestinian state but not through UN. But, amid war in 1948, same body which was then called League of Nations made Israel. So if Israel can become a state through UN why not Palestine? Secondly about terror, take out settlers from West Bank, al of them, make Palestine a state, and then see Jewish terrorism acts against Palestinians. The problem in UN is, 5 people have veto, rest are there to have a good meal. Its like 11 people, and 10 out of them are crooks, and one is righteous, the crooks can vote him out, but in UN its even worst all the crooks have veto! So now the reason why not a Palestinain state, the reason is not the BS about negotiations, its about declining US influence. Right now its just Israel, when theres Palestine, then they can forge alliance with Turkey, China, Russians and so on, not good for Israel. Jewish lobby in US cannot let this happen, so when Bibi said it was "badge of honor" he actually showed Obama and US who the daddy was!

    September 26, 2011 at 12:24 am | Reply
  7. m.s.mohamed ansari


    M.s.mohamed ansari

    All press and media Arabs leader and G20 leader under control by A TO Z + 8
    QUEEN + 8
    Royal wedding cost. 10 generation total $ 57 trillion
    Each every politician rolling 8 years only
    But queen family enjoying 10 generation

    GLOBAL ECONOMIC FALL REASON WAR. Improve economy Only peace and prayer

    I am also happy kill osma bin laden
    Turing point of global economy. Islam not allowed Terries Terries people not for Muslim
    1. Please avoid war. Day by day war cost increase $ 3.5 trillion
    2. Global economy in crisis
    3. International job less
    4. Global financial crisis financial crisis for every manufacture
    5. Every Day OPEC Oil Price Increase
    6. World poverty problem
    7. Each every single man effected
    8. Ignore future death million of already death
    9. Million of people wounded
    10. Global environment climate will be change this will lead global agriculture problem

    From. Mr.M.S.Mohamed Ansari,
    154, Angappa Naicken Street,
    Chennai – 600 001.
    Tamil Nadu,

    To , The Hon’ble Chief Justice,
    The Supreme Court,
    United States of America,
    Washington, D.C.
    Fax no: 213.547.8080

    Dear Sir,
    Sub: Prosecution of previous President Mr. George W.Bush, for violation of International Code of Conduct.
    Mr. George W.Bush, the previous President of United States of America, initiated a war against IRAQ, without obtaining the previous sanction of United Nations Organization (UNO) on the pretext of having nuclear weapons, even though the then IRAQ government openly exhibited to the whole world that it has no nuclear weapons.
    According to the CNN WORLD report, in the war 6, 75,000 civilians killed, 7500 troops of USA and its allied forces killed 3 25 000 people wounded and $ 3.5 Trillion Dollar spent for the war. This spending of $ 3.5 Trillion Dollar is the main cause of action for the present economic crises prevailing all over the world.
    After winning the war against IRAQ, the United States of America’s President Mr. George W.Bush, also admitted the same fact, and he openly stated that the Intelligence agency misguided him.
    Later on, even the United Nations Organization (UNO) also certified that the IRAQ has no nuclear weapons.
    Then it is the bounded duty of the United States of America and its allied forces to withdraw from IRAQ.
    But instead of withdrawing from IRAQ, the United States of America and its allied forces formed a government in IRAQ, under their control and administered the entire IRAQ, and its peoples.
    This indicates a clear violation of duty by the President of United States of America Mr. George W.Bush and also a clear case of violation of the International Code of Conduct for UNO members.
    Thus Mr. George W.Bush attracts prosecution for the above said offence.
    Thus I hereby pray this Hon’ble Court initiate criminal proceedings against Mr. George W. Bush, and give him maximum punishment for
    a) initiating the war against the IRAQ
    b) killing its innocent IRAQI peoples
    c) Killing troops of USA and allied forces and
    d) The present economic crises.
    e) 3 25 000 people wounded
    Dated on this day of 13th day of April, 2009.
    Yours truly, (M.S.MOHAMED ANSARI)
    The Chief Justice, the International Court of Justice, The Hague, Netherlands.
    The Secretary General United Nations Organization
    The Chief Justice, the Supreme Court, IRAQ.
    His Excellency Mr.Barack Obama, the President of United States of America, White House, Washington D.C.

    September 26, 2011 at 4:21 am | Reply
  8. Ahmed

    Abbas has never been a puppet to US and Israel as some people claim, Abbas has always been pro-piece that's why some people believe that he is taking commands from the US!
    I know Abbas personally and I know that he has the desire to resign from his position a long time ago, and he wanted to be remembered for this historical moment, at least he achieved a successful campaign in the hardest job in the world: President of the Palestinian State !

    September 26, 2011 at 5:15 am | Reply
  9. jaya

    for around 40 Palestinians were being pushed out from Jewish settlers. When USA politicians are held by collar by the Jewish lobby groups and Jewish controlled media, awaiting for Israel to hand back what they have taken by gun and thuggery from Palestinians by their own account will never happen.
    so some thing is better than nothing and it also show the nakedness of USA politicians including Obama.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:25 am | Reply
  10. Ahmed

    Dont even count what a Zionist say as and opinion, dont take a word from the mouth of a fanatic!
    Palestine is for the Palestinians, and through the long land history from 5000 BC till now, the Jewish represented less than 1% of that history, and they were no more than outlandish settlers at some point of the history and were kicked out of the land long time ago.
    The truth cannot be buried. And Injustice will never be forgotten.

    September 26, 2011 at 7:25 am | Reply
  11. JJ

    The simple fact is that the US has backed itself into a corner by supporting a terrorist government like Israel. Now the US has to decide if it has the b@lls to stand with the righteous or if it's going to get on all fours and bend to the whims of the jews.

    September 26, 2011 at 7:45 am | Reply
  12. RockSolid

    This Freed Zakria guy is the biggest American puppet I have ever seen. It seems he owns the Yankeez. I think it is a first case of Muslim Zionist nutcase in the world. This guy makes me laugh, Palestinians you should proceed what you can do, in UNO the world is with you!!! This is the only way to go make Israel and USA isolated, amke your case open to the whole world, bring the worlds best and nations with dignity towards yourself.

    September 26, 2011 at 8:09 am | Reply
  13. Willie 12345

    As someone that gets paid by the Obama administration, Freed needs to provide a disclaimer before each article. CNN also needs to consider his on-going employment. Freed can't have it both ways.

    September 26, 2011 at 9:21 am | Reply
  14. Harold

    If Fareed has lived under apartheid bantustants in Namibia and South Africa, he would not use insensitive langauge such as: 'it is going to get them nowhere' and 'romantic gestures'. It pains to read you saying that the only way the palestinians are going to get a Palestinian state is to engage directly with the Israelis. Oppressed people do not think like you Fareed. They have a genuine desire for a piece of land they can home!

    September 26, 2011 at 10:27 am | Reply
  15. Harold

    If Fareed had live under apartheid bantustants in Namibia and South Africa, he would not use insensitive langauge like 'it will take them nowhere' and 'not time for romantic gestures'. Oppressed people do not think like Fareed. They have a genuine desire for a piece of land they can trully call home.

    September 26, 2011 at 10:43 am | Reply
  16. bill

    DEAR FAREED: based on you calling Palestinian leadership involved in terrorism in Gaza, shows you are a puppet.

    September 26, 2011 at 11:05 am | Reply
  17. Salman

    I think Zakaria should read Abbas's speech. It was the best speech ever given by any Arab, and it far exceeded my expectations of him. I truly believe that the US government and its' media puppets need to open their minds and at least make a solemn attempt at understanding the situation in the Middle East.

    September 26, 2011 at 11:56 am | Reply
  18. Steve

    Zakaria's source is right and wrong – right that there is not tunnel and wrong that there is no light. Israel cannot concede territory gained in a war of aggression (one of several) to extinguish their country and rationally expect to remain viable. Israel must take the long view of nationhood and realize that stability comes from defensible borders, regardless of momentary assurances and pretensions of peace.

    September 26, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Reply
  19. Jeetu

    I am comnvinced that Palenstinians deserve their own State. Here is what I think the UN Security Council can do and should do: pass the resolution recognizing Palenstinian State and direct Palenstine and Israel to workout their boarders in a finite amount of time. Then with another vote, UN can declare the boundaries of the two countries. If these countries cannot comeup with an agreement in that given time-frame, then UN Security Council can drwa and approve the boundaries.

    If we do not do the above, we will continue to have the problems we do at the present for another 40 plus years. I think it it time for us to put this behind us, find a solution and move on to other problems.

    For the same reasons, I do not think USA should veto the UN Security Council resolution creating the Palenstine State. They should be happy if all that is left is to decide the boundaries of the countries.

    September 26, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Reply
    • Alanmichael

      The UN has already done something similarly to what you suggest. The UN drew up boundaries for both countries, Israel accepted and Palestine rejected it and Egypt, Jordan and Syria attacked Israel. Israel won and the Arabs lost more land, and that is the land the Arabs want to now give the Palestinians. When Egypt, Jordan and Syria owned the land they never gave the Palestinians a second thought. The Palestinians were being used by the other Arabs as pawns then and they are being used now. Who do you think funds Hamas, Middle Eastern countries who hate Israel. Put it this way, the Palestinians want peace, believe it or not Israelis want peace because no one wants to be in a constant state of fear. Who benefits from ciaos? Hamas, that is how they stay in power and countries like Iran.

      September 26, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Reply
  20. AlanMichael

    Finally! Someone finally speaks about the true barrier to Palestinian Statehood…HAMAS!! Did anyone at the UN mention the word HAMAS? In the president’s speech I don’t think he mentioned HAMAS. Listen to me; listen to Zakaria, there will never be a Palestinian State as long Hamas controls Gaza and half of Palestine. Think about the root cause, would any of you be able to negotiate with anyone who fires rockets and has the stated goal to wipe you off the face of the earth. No, and that my friends is HAMAS, the barrier to Palestinian Statehood. All other issues can be resolved.

    September 26, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Reply
  21. James Ransdall

    The drive to recognition and statehood by the Palestinians seems bot principled and practical. The principle is clear: they are a distinct people, with a distinct culture and history, living in a defined piece of real estate. That the Israelis are in illegal occupation of much of that real estate, is a practical challenge, which only serves to highlight the underlying principle. As a practical matter, Israeli politics have become, and are becoming more, not less, intransigent. The settlers, now 500,000 strong, are religious and political extremists, whom many Israeli governments over many decades have cynically made the agents of occupation. So, what harm results from deciding to negotiate with Israel from the basis of statehood? Clearly, it has put tremendous pressure on the US and even on Netanyahu to act. Further, I don't think the Palestinians should, at this point, enter into negotiations without conditions. Rather, they should cede to the Israelis that Israel is a "Jewish State" and demand, in return, an immediate cessation of settlement expansion.

    September 26, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Reply
  22. mumtaz

    Bettersay you oppose palestinian state due to personal reason.Palestine is the last occupied territory in modern world and it is only a result of apathy by powerful nation of modern world. What is the reason south sudan, east timor get a nation in quick time? Palestine one of the oldest nation and nationals since the history of planet earth is still struggling to be recognised.two state solution is really not practical when one state is too powerful and the other with small ares of lands interspersed with military barracks of powerful enemy country with strong non ending support from worlds super powers.However for Israel it will be difficult to accept palestinian within its nation and give even fourth class citizen rights to them.So they want two state solution so that they can continue keep palestinian out with all unhumane tactics.

    September 27, 2011 at 10:03 am | Reply
  23. 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
  24. 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
  26. 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
  27. 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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