By Fareed Zakaria
The Palestinian Authority has won its campaign to be recognized as a non-member state of the United Nations. The question now is whether this will change anything.
Probably no. It will give the Palestinians a little more recognition and greater legal status in certain international fora. But the vote doesn’t change the reality that the only way the Palestinians are going to get a state is if Israel decides that it is in its interests to make it happen. Israel has the power on the ground, The country’s leaders have made it clear that they are not going to be pressured by the UN, defeated in battle, they are not going to be intimidated, they are not going to be terrorized – I think the history of the last three decades has made all of this very clear.
So the question the Palestinians should be asking themselves is, how do we get the Israelis to see this as in their interests?
There was an intriguing column earlier this week by Jeffrey Goldberg, who makes a suggestion that has also been made by some Palestinians in the past, that the Palestinians should stop pushing for a two-state solution, and instead push for a one-state answer.
Here’s how I would imagine the scenario unfolding: Mahmoud Abbas would announce that he is dissolving the Palestinian Authority in three months because he has recognized that there is no prospect that it will lead to a state under the current framework. He would also explain that he is returning all obligations and authority to the state of Israel.
Palestinians would then start a process of non-violent protests and agitation, asking that they be given what every other person under the authority of the Israeli government has, namely the right to vote in Israeli elections.
The effect of this kind of strategy, would be to force the Israeli public to ask itself whether it was really willing to deny the Palestinians the right to vote. And if they were not willing to deny the Palestinians this right, wouldn’t it be much better to allow them to vote in their own state, rather than the state of Israel, because allowing them to vote in Israel would, of course, fundamentally compromise the Jewish character of Israel.
This is all somewhat far fetched. But the lesson from it is that the Palestinians really have to have a strategy that is geared more directly at persuading, convincing, cajoling – or perhaps even pushing – Israel to make some moves on this front. Getting the United Nations and the council of world opinion to do this is essentially meaningless, because nobody has the ability to make this happen other than the Israelis.
The question Abbas needs to be asking is not whether the Palestinians can get Ban Ki-moon to give them a state, but can they get Benjamin Netanyahu to give them one?
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