The unilateral Palestinian statehood gambit: isn’t this a rerun?

Jewish leaders are suddenly in a frenzy about the possibility the Palestinians may go to the United Nations and seek approval for a unilateral declaration of independence, and well they should be; such a move would put Israel in an impossible position without doing anything to really resolve the conflict.

But haven’t we seen this movie before?

So many times in the past when negotiations have hit an impasse, the Palestinians have floated the idea of doing something unilaterally.

In the past, it’s mostly been another ploy to put international pressure on Israel to make concessions without the Palestinians having to make any – and it hasn’t worked very well. Is that what it is this time, or is there some serious intent here? Based on the rhetoric we’re hearing, I’m inclined to believe it’s the former, not the latter.

Jewish leaders here want the Obama administration to speak out strongly against the idea, and that idea has merit. As a negotiating ploy, threatening unilateral declarations and such will make the Israelis even more skittish about negotiations – and thereby undercut administration efforts to keep the almost-dead-on-arrival negotiations going.

Backing Israel into the unilateral declaration corner has been a counterproductive tactic in the past, and it probably won’t be different this time around.

And if the Palestinians are serious about taking the unilateral route, it can only lead to more conflict.

Israel will never accept a unilateral declaration because it will lack all the elements it regards as critical for its security going into the future. A unilateral declaration is unlikely to take into account previous understandings on issues like settlement blocks.

And from Israel’s perspective, only a negotiated settlement can produce reasonable, though far from ironclad, assurance that the conflict will be over once and for all.

I understand the Palestinians frustration, but some of it is the result of their own leaders’ bad decisions. The harsh reality is that neither Israeli nor Palestinian leaders want a peace agreement enough to swallow hard compromises and face serious political repercussions at home.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.