Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

Print Print Cite Cite
Style: MLA APA Chicago Close


The “Palestine” Vote at the United Nations

by Elliott Abrams
November 28, 2012


Tomorrow the UN General Assembly is scheduled to vote on “non-member state” status for “Palestine.” That vote will lift the status of the PLO, which is now an observer, but will do nothing for Palestinians.

I’ve discussed this issue in detail in a previous post, and argued that Israeli and American reactions should not be excessive. This is a foolish move by the PLO leadership but not necessarily a very consequential one. It all depends on what follows: does the PLO, now called “Palestine” at the UN General Assembly, engage in “lawfare” against Israel? Does it rush to the International Criminal Court [ICC] to seek indictments of every Israeli general?

Recently the Israeli government has taken this same view, that the vote matters less than the PLO’s actions after it has taken place. National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror told Meet The Press that the PLO move was “mostly symbolic.” Asked how Israel would respond, he said “We will have to wait and see what he [PLO Chairman and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] does with it, and then act.” That’s smart, and the United States and the European nations should be advising Abbas to cool it. Every UN agency “Palestine” joins will quickly be bankrupt, for the United States will withdraw from each as we have withdrawn from UNESCO–and in most we pay 22 percent of the budget, a shortfall the PLO’s champions have not offered to make up. Moves in the ICC will gain Abbas one day’s notice in the Palestinian press but more permanently embitter relations with Israel. And two can play the same game: if he wishes to act against Israel under color of international law, Israel can ask why he is committing acts of aggression against it week after week. I refer to rockets out of Gaza, which “Palestine” claims as part of its sovereign territory. If Palestine is a state, and he leads it, surely he and his government are responsible for such terrorism. Of course the likely reply is that he doesn’t rule Gaza and in fact can’t even visit there. True–but this only shows how ridiculous is the General Assembly’s insistence on calling “Palestine” a state and him its leader.

Nothing so dramatizes the fact that “Palestine” is not a state than this UN vote. It is a tragedy for Palestinians that instead of actually building a decent, prosperous, democratic state, their leaders and their self-proclaimed well-wishers abroad seek this melodrama in Turtle Bay.

Post a Comment 11 Comments

  • Posted by Jorge Troncone

    Palestinians have the right to exist as a nation as much as Israelis. Therefore, recognition ebb this limited one tone voted today, is a matter of existences a a nation away from alienating criticism and excuses you proclaim here.i hope the World, today will embrace the rights of Palestinian people.


  • Posted by Maayan

    Historically, there is no “palestinian nation” other then the jews, whose home country Palestine is.
    If you mean muslim arabs that live in Gaza – then a country run by a known terrorist group(Hamas) will not benefit anyone, including it’s own citisents.

  • Posted by Sharon

    Palestinian national identity is a modern, artificial construct borne out of a response to Zionism. There is not just as much a right for Palestinians to have a state as there is for Jews to. Jordan, already 75% exists right next door.

  • Posted by diana

    the best thing that Abbas and the West Bank should do is join Jordan and support King Abdullah. He could become a Prime Minister “without portfolio” or whatever honorary title he could dream of………….Queen Rania is a Palestinian and if she stops spending money in nonesense, and trys to help her husband creating jobs, she could become very popular……well I know I am daydreaming…………

  • Posted by Pierre

    When is the US finally going to understand that the Palestinian question is a crucial issue for world peace and that the US should use its clout to convince its Israeli allies to seriously engage in peace talks with the Palestitians and stop making things worse with the current settlement policy ? Why these double standards ? If a large majority of countries, including a large part of Europe, support this symbolic move, then why speak about a “foolish move” ? In my opinion the fools are the US, not the rest of the world.

  • Posted by Pierre

    … and I would also like to comment on Maayan’s post. By what right does Palestine belong to the Jews and only to the Jews ? Does that mean that America belongs to the Native Americans and that all European settlers should pack their bags and go live elsewhere ?

  • Posted by Steve

    Pierre: The land that Israel now occupies was created by the same august body that yesterday moved Palestine one step closer to full UN particiapatory statehood, except that the UN did the same thing in 1948. At that time Jordan, Egypt and others elected instead to invade Israel in an effort to deny its existence and wipe if off the map. There was no Palestine then. It was Israel surrounded by Egypt and Jordan who owned the area that is now claimed to be Palestine. Thus, the short answer to your question is that the Jewish right to the land was created by the UN.
    The longer answer is that there is an unbroken 4,000 year connection between the land and the Jewish people. Whatever you may think of the Bible as a religious tome, it certainly is a history book and you only need read it to see that the jewish people occupied the area for 4,000 years. There are no longer any Philistines or Nabatenas or any other ancient people named or mentioned in the Bible except the Jews.
    The Palestinians will not even admit that the Jews once had their holy Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which was long before the Muslim religion began. Some years ago the Muslim Authority that administers the Temple Mount elected to remove some debris on either side of the Temple Mount. Israel allowed it with one stipulation that the soil removed be retained for archeological investigation. Guess what, more than 5,000 silver coins from the 1st and 2nd Temple periods were found proving, if nothing else, that the Jewish people have been in ancient Jersualem for thousands of years.
    Notwithstanding that very long history of the Jewish people with Jerusalem and the rest of ancient Judea and Samaria, some years ago Prime Minister Olmert offered to make Jerusalem an international city in peace talks with the Palestinians but the Palestinians walked away from that offer and the talks.
    By the way, Israel is not telling anyone to go pack their bags and go live elsewhere but since 1948 Israel has been told that by its neighbors. Until Egypt and Jordan signed peace treaties, no Arab nation would even recognize Israel’s right to exist. Today, Morsi refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist and the Gazans are showing just how they feel about Israel by continuously hurling rockets at Israel which until a few weeks ago, went unabated for years (not months).
    How would you like to be working in your place of business and your child is in day care across town when air raid sirens go off and you know your child has 15 seconds to make it into a shelter. You hope and pray that the day care worker scoops up your child and all of the others and gets to the shelter on time. You are powerless to do anything to protect your child. This is what the citizens of Southern Israel have been living with the last 4 years since the last cease fire. This is from an enemy that believes Israel has no Right to exist in this area. To hell with the fact that the UN created the Jewish state in 1948 and to hell with the fact that the Jewish people have lived there for 4,000 years. They just want us to pack up our bags and leave.
    Let’s be very clear about this, that is never going to happen. So they either make peace with Israel (which Israel is more than willing to do) or there will be war in the areas until Israel’s enemies agree that yes Israel too has a right to exist.

  • Posted by EthanP

    Eliot; It’s not the reality that matters. I need not point out to you that in the Arab/Muslim world, perception and image count more than reality. What the savages see is a world drawing ranks against the little satan. This punctuates their false sense of victory in Gaza. So while the reality may not have changed, the image in the minds of the Palestinians and Arabs is one step closer to victory and genocide.

  • Posted by Craig


    “The US should use its clout to convince its Israeli allies to seriously engage in peace talks with the Palestitians [sic]…” You’re not serious, are you? Israel has been offering to engage in peace talks with Abbas for over a year, and what has been Abbas’s response? *He* has refused to “engage in peace talks with the Israelis, resulting in the charade we witnessed yesterday at that joke of an institution, the UN.

    And as regards your comment about Israel’s settlement policy, I have news for you – settlements never were PA preconditions for negotiations pre-Abbas, and they are not the issue now. Many of what you refer to as “settlements” are not settlements at all – they are full-fledged suburbs of Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel. http://tinyurl.com/czcj8h7, http://tinyurl.com/ya8jyvx

  • Posted by Al-S

    Perhaps I don’t know much about this situation, but let me ask these questions:
    1) If Israel is the historical home cournty of Jewish people, why did it have to be created in 1947 by the U.N.?
    2) Why does every article i read by Israeli’s and/or their supporters worry so much about the ICC?
    3) Why should the U.S. cut off aid to UN agencies that Palestine joins?

  • Posted by ghada

    Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel.

    Craig keep dreaming

Post a Comment

CFR seeks to foster civil and informed discussion of foreign policy issues. Opinions expressed on CFR blogs are solely those of the author or commenter, not of CFR, which takes no institutional positions. All comments must abide by CFR's guidelines and will be moderated prior to posting.

* Required