Commentary Magazine


How to Avoid a U.S. Veto at the UN

In the Wall Street Journal, Fouad Ajami writes that by proceeding to the UN for a resolution, the Palestinians are misreading what transpired at the General Assembly in 1947. Jewish statehood was not the result of the UN resolution that year, but came from institutions formed over decades:

The vote at the General Assembly was of immense help, but it wasn’t the decisive factor in the founding of the Jewish state. The hard work had been done in the three decades between the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the vote on partition. Realism had guided the Zionist project. We will take a state even if it is the size of a tablecloth, said Chaim Weizmann, one of the founding fathers of the Zionist endeavor.

The Palestinian Arabs rejected a state in 1947 because it required the acceptance of a Jewish one, and have rejected two more offers of a state since 2000 only a tablecloth short of their territorial demands, unwilling to give up a “right of return” intended to reverse the results of the war they started (and lost) 63 years ago. They are turning to the UN without the basic political institutions necessary for a peaceful state (repeatedly unable even to hold scheduled elections) and without a self-sustaining economy (annually dependent on huge contributions by Western “donor states”). They seek a UN resolution not to effectuate a two-state solution, but as Noah Pollak noted, to create a weapon for lawfare against the first one.

President Obama thought he could head off the UN effort with his May 19 speech—effectively endorsing the 1967 lines, signaling he was prepared to run roughshod over Israeli objections, and calling for resumed negotiations notwithstanding the Fatah-Hamas agreement. He reversed himself three days later, saying his address had been misrepresented, having once again antagonized both sides. A knowledgeable Democratic congressman told me yesterday that Obama appears to lack a Plan B.

So here is a suggestion: convene the Quartet and have it reject the Palestinian effort, applying the principle the Quartet has repeatedly asserted (most recently on February 10): “unilateral actions by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community.” It is a principle that—unless it is applicable only to one side—would require a unified rejection of the Palestinian effort.