The Roman philosopher and politician Cicero urged orators to “Strain every nerve to gain your point.” The Obama Administration appears to have taken his advice to heart in its attempts to make the case that the United States should oppose Palestinian efforts to gain membership in the United Nations this fall.
No vote at the United Nations will ever create an independent Palestinian state. And the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the United Nations or in any international forum. (Applause.) Israel’s legitimacy is not a matter for debate.— President Barack Obama, Remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference, May 22, 2011
There are so many historical inaccuracies, deliberate obfuscations of political realities, and hyperbolic assumptions that it is difficult to know where to begin to unpack these three crucial sentences.
To assert, boldly, that no action will ever achieve its goal, then at the very least the President should have the historical record on his side. Despite the President’s bluster, he is powerless to stop the UN from voting to create an independent Palestinian state because it already did so—in 1947. UN General Assembly Resolution 181, which ironically never would have passed were it not for the intensive diplomatic arm-twisting of the United States, recommended partitioning Palestine into two states: a Jewish State comprising 55 percent of historic Palestine, and an Arab State totaling 45 percent, with Jerusalem as acorpus separatum, an open, international city administered by the UN. The UN voted to endorse this partition plan, which was never implemented, at a time when Palestinian Arabs owned approximately 93 percent of the land, and Jews owned 7 percent.
For these past 64 years, Israel’s actions to ethnically cleanse as much of historic Palestine of as many Palestinians as possible has been the primary obstacle to implementing the UN Partition Plan. Today, Israel relentlessly continues to colonize the 22 percent of historic Palestine (the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip) that has been envisioned as a Palestinian state in proposed two-state resolutions to the conflict since 1967, rendering even this bread crumb a remote likelihood.
Also, if the President is going to stake out such an unequivocal position on an issue, then at the very least he should state clearly the actual issue at hand. As the President knows, the UN may be asked to admit the State of Palestine as a member, not to vote on creating a Palestinian state. Since the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) declared independence in 1988, more than 120 countries have recognized and established some form of diplomatic relations with the State of Palestine. As the international lawyers of the State Department must surely know, the UN does not recognize states. Only states can recognize other states. The UN can only determine if that state is admitted as a member. By conflating these two issues, the President intentionally ups the ante of what is at stake as a pretext to justify his opposition to this Palestinian initiative.