How the United States treats the Palestinians’ new status as a non-member state at the United Nations depends on how Palestinians plan to use it – as cudgel or outstretched hand.
Beneath the outcries of disappointment at the lopsided U.N. vote, both the United States and Israel showed signs of acquiescence to its inevitability. There were the grim warnings of financial consequence for both the Palestinians and the United Nations, but there was also a willingness to take at face value Palestinian claims that the vote is an avenue to return to talks – something Israel and the United States have been demanding for two years.
The public statements by U.S. and Israeli officials, however, focused on the negative.
“It places further obstacles in the path to peace,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at a Foreign Policy Group address after the vote on Thursday. “We have been clear that only through direct negotiations between the parties can the Palestinians and Israelis achieve the peace that both deserve: two states for two peoples, with a sovereign, viable, independent Palestine living side by side in peace and security with a Jewish and democratic Israel.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement after the vote that the Palestinian initiative “violated the agreements with Israel” and that he would “act accordingly.”
That apparently presaged leaks to media outlets on Friday that he planned to build 3,000 new homes in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, including in the corridor separating Maaleh Adumim, a large Jewish settlement in the West Bank, from Jerusalem.
A broad array of Jewish groups condemned the vote, which passed by a margin of 138-9, with 41 abstentions. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, in one of its rare public statements, predicted blunt and dire consequences for the Palestinians and the organization representing them in Washington and New York, the Palestine Liberation Organization.