(HOST) The Palestinians are set to seek de facto recognition as a state by the United Nations in a process that’s expected to officially begin today. As commentator and veteran ABC News diplomatic correspondent Barrie Dunsmore tells us this morning, it’s a process in which there will be no winners.
(DUNSMORE) Whatever happens with the Palestinian effort to be recognized as a full member of the United Nations, or at least to achieve improved status in the General Assembly, we can be fairly certain of one thing – when the dust clears, peace between Israel and the Palestinians is not going to break out. However, as one who has closely watched the evolution of the Palestinian state over the forty-four years since the 1967 Middle East War, I completely understand their attempts to do something to legitimize their claim to statehood.
Given Israel’s enormous military advantage, war has never been an option for the Palestinians. Terrorism has been tried much too often and is both immoral and counter-productive. Yet nearly two decades of peace negotiations haven’t produced much either. These days the hard-line government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has no apparent interest in the so-called "two-state solution" and continues to expand Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. Meanwhile Egyptians, Tunisians. Libyans, Syrians and Yemenis have been battling, with some success, to shed their dictatorial rulers. And in some cases they may now be freer than are the Palestinians.
In a perfect world, you would expect that President Barack Obama would recognize the Palestinian leaders need to give their people something tangible. The president insists, correctly, that the only way this issue can be resolved is through direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. But you might think that America could at least abstain and not fight any resolution granting the Palestinians enhanced UN membership status. After all President Obama has been eloquent in his support for the democracy movements in the rest of the Arab world. Why not the Palestinians?
The answer of course is – this is not a perfect world. In this case, Obama has to weigh the foreign policy impact of a veto, which will damage America’s image and interests, against the domestic political consequences if he were to abstain, which would be disastrous.
That’s because a huge majority in the United States Congress; powerful conservative Jewish groups and most Christian Evangelicals; and all the Republican presidential hopefuls will portray anything less than an American veto of Palestinian UN membership as a total sellout of Israel. Most of the media would certainly play it that way. In a phrase, Obama could kiss his second term good-bye.
In spite of the fact that Obama has actually been every bit as supportive of Israel as his predecessors, his Republican opponents are already depicting him as an appeaser or worse.
In New York Tuesday, Texas Governor Rick Perry, criticized Obama’s treatment of Israel as, "naïve, arrogant, misguided and dangerous." Not to be outdone, Mitt Romney condemned Obama’s Israeli policy for "repeated efforts over three years to throw Israel under the bus."
When the choice is between an American veto of full UN membership for Palestine, or electing a new president who doesn’t have a clue about the realities of the Middle East or the world, I reluctantly choose the veto.