Thursday, September 22, 2011

Palestinian UN vote: Let's hope statesmanship wins

This morning's article in the Globe and Mail says it all. The US, and even Israel, would be far better off supporting the Palestinian bid for UN membership.

The US and Israel would gain by finally showing Arabs that they can do what is right. Support would help quell radical tendencies and lend greater influence to moderates in the Middle East. That, in turn, would help boost security on all sides and lead to earlier and lasting peace.

Not supporting the Palestinians would fuel the fires of radicalism that have burned for decades. The potential setbacks and harm are unimaginable.

Israel clearly knows that the Palestinians will one day have their own state. Why not now? The Israelis clearly are concerned about security and want to maintain bargaining power: "You will get your state when you agree to terms that are more favourable to Israel". But that kind of heavy-clout bargaining just fosters anger in the weaker party.

Give the Palestinians their state now. There are plenty of nations that have disputed borders and other issues to resolve with their neighbours. The disputes can be resolved at a later date.

The Israelis claim that the Palestinians have not been willing to bargain, and shouldn't be allowed to do an end-run around the process. With some legitimacy, the Israelis say that Palestinians don't make enough effort to control their terrorists and hence support violence when they haven't got what they want. But Israel uses somewhat-heavy-handed military 'defensive' might when attacked by the terrorists, and then won't bargain because it fears more violence. Both sides refuse to bargain because they are being attacked in different ways. This will never stop unless moderates are given more influence, and the statehood bid is one way for that to happen.

It is easy to see why many in Israel, and Jewish people (and their friends) in other countries want to keep all the bargaining cards they can against the Palestinians. They are deeply emotionally tied up in the issue. But it is even easier to see why the 'underdog' Palestinians and their Arab supporters (and their friends) feel especially aggrieved. As a friend to many Arabs and Jews I really hope that the opportunity is now seized to get past at least some of the long-standing roadblocks.

It all really boils down to politics though: Obama needs votes from people who don't want the UN vote to pass. Let's hope statesmanship wins.

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