I wrote this week about new Palestinian tactics in their endless effort to avoid direct negotiations with Israel, including the U.N. Quickstep – the accelerating effort to tap dance around negotiations with “official” recognition of Palestinian statehood in the General Assembly in September.
The more I think about it, the more this seems like a very smart strategy – and a very dumb one.
Short term, it’s shrewd because it exploits Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s biggest weakness on the world stage: the widespread perception, not entirely inaccurate, that he has no interest in moving the peace process forward at this time.
Bibi’s not a viable peace partner, the argument goes, so the Palestinians have no choice but to appeal to a sympathetic United Nations, which might be able to create a Palestinian state the same way Israel was created – by a vote at the international body.
In doing that, Palestinian leaders may reason, they won’t have no need to make politically difficult compromises or take risks; instead, they just portray themselves as as hapless victims and Netanyahu as the biggest obstacle to peace.
Is that fair? No way, but it’s also true that Netanyahu continues to do everything possible to reinforce their strategy, either because he’s afraid of blowing apart his ruling coalition or because he genuinely opposes the concessions any likely agreement would require him to make.
Then we get to the dumb part.
Long term, the U.N. end run is a stupid strategy because it cannot possibly create a real state, and may make one much harder to attain.
It’s true that the expected U.N. vote will only add to Israel’s isolation. But that won’t convince its leaders to make concessions; on the contrary, history suggests it will only reinforce the hardliners who argue peace is impossible and that the current status quo – actually, not a status quo at all, since Israel continues building in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem – is the best the Jewish state can hope for for the indefinite future.
The Palestinians may effectively use the UN to bolster their claim that Israel is an apartheid state and possibly the implied argument by some that it is no longer a legitimate one.
But that will only make the negotiations that are the key to genuine Palestinian statehood more difficult to attain, and possibly lead to new rounds of violence.
Delegitimization and isolation are working; the problem is, they’re not working for the goals the Palestinians say they want. Their efforts to marginalize Israel in the world arena only sows more distrust in Israel and makes the political environment there more difficult for any prime minister who genuinely wants to advance the peace process.