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Excerpt: "Here are five reasons why the US should support the Palestinian bid and not exercise its veto at the UN."

A masked Palestinian man waves his national flag during a demonstration in the West Bank village of Bilin, September 9. On the same day, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that the Palestinian people are 'long overdue' in their quest for an independent state. (photo: Oliver Weiken/EPA)
A masked Palestinian man waves his national flag during a demonstration in the West Bank village of Bilin, September 9. On the same day, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that the Palestinian people are 'long overdue' in their quest for an independent state. (photo: Oliver Weiken/EPA)

Yes to Palestine

By Reza Aslan, Los Angeles Times

18 September 11


The US should not veto or vote against efforts to have the UN recognize a Palestinian state.

ater this month, the Palestinian Authority intends to go before the United Nations to request recognition of an independent Palestinian state. Although there is strong backing for the bid, the United States, in the name of supporting Israel, has stated its willingness to use its Security Council veto power to keep the Palestinians from joining the UN as a full voting member. The US has also refused to join in a more symbolic General Assembly vote that could change the Palestinians' status from a "nonvoting observer entity" to a "nonvoting observer state."

Here are five reasons why the US should support the Palestinian bid and not exercise its veto at the UN.

Negotiations have failed.

Two decades of negotiations have not brought the Palestinians a state of their own. Israelis and Palestinians blame each other for the current impasse.

But the question of who is at fault is irrelevant. What matters is that in 1993, when the Oslo accords set up a framework for a negotiated settlement for a two-state solution, there were a little more than 100,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank. Now that number stands at more than 300,000. According to the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem, about half a million Israelis now live "over the Green Line" in what is designated as the future Palestinian state. Every day the Palestinians wait for a negotiated state, another sliver of that state is absorbed into Israel. A few more years and practically nothing will remain.

The current Likud-led Israeli government is unlikely to ever agree to a sovereign Palestinian state.

A decade ago, Benjamin Netanyahu, vying for Likud Party leadership, made his position clear in a speech to the group's central committee: "My friends," he said in 2002, "we must present the situation in the clearest possible way: We won't lend a hand to the establishment of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River.... We must vote as one in favor of the draft resolution against a Palestinian state."

It is true that seven years later, under intense pressure from the Obama administration, Netanyahu, as Israeli prime minister, grudgingly accepted the notion of a Palestinian state in principle. But the unprecedented conditions he called for - that it have no military, no control over its borders, no capital in East Jerusalem, no right of return for Palestinian refugees and that it recognize Israel as a "Jewish state" - seemed deliberately designed to negate the possibility of true Palestinian sovereignty.

Even if Netanyahu were to begin pushing for a Palestinian state, it is highly unlikely that his ultra-right-wing coalition would allow him to succeed. Indeed, immediately after Netanyahu's 2009 speech, powerful members of his party demanded that he retract his statement entertaining the possibility of a Palestinian state. As one of Likud's most influential Knesset members, Danny Danon, vowed: "I will attempt to cause this sentence, which was said under American pressure, never to come into being."

President Obama has utterly failed to advance the Middle East peace process.

Obama came into office vowing a more active and evenhanded approach to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Yet beyond a few lofty speeches about Palestinian suffering, he has offered no substantive policy shifts or specific proposals for moving negotiations forward. Obama's attempt to temporarily stop Israel from building settlements in the occupied territories backfired when he caved in to Israeli intransigence. The administration then had the nerve to veto a nonbinding UN resolution condemning the very settlements Obama himself had condemned. The president's barely newsworthy suggestion that negotiations for a two-state solution be based on the 1967 borders with land swaps (which, as the basis for the Oslo accords, has been the principle advanced, if not publicly announced, by every US president since Jimmy Carter) was ridiculed by the Israeli prime minister, and in the Capitol building, no less. The president's kowtowing to Netanyahu and the Israeli right wing has made the US look weak on the global stage. If for no other reason than to prove to the world that the US is not Israel's lap dog, the president should refrain from vetoing a Palestinian state.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not political suicide to defy the will of Israel.

There is no doubt that American public opinion remains overwhelmingly pro-Israel. But polls show that the majority of Americans believe the US should not favor one side over the other in the conflict. Among thoughtful leaders in the media, military and foreign affairs, there has been a consensus that our policy toward Israel is severely damaging America's interests and image around the world. According to a 2008 J Street poll, 78% of American Jews said they supported a two-state solution and 81% wanted the US to pressure both sides to end the conflict.

Of course, the Republicans will try to paint Obama and the Democrats as "anti-Israel" if the president fails to veto the UN vote. But this has been a consistent strategy on the part of the GOP for years, and it has always failed. In any case, the same J Street poll found that only 8% of Jews cite Israel as an issue in deciding whom to vote for for president.

Palestinians are doing almost exactly what Israelis did 60 years ago.

Israel maintains that the Palestinians cannot declare statehood and seal it through the UN. Yet the Palestinians are merely following the trail blazed by Israel six decades ago. In 1948, after the UN voted for the partition of Palestine, debate among the world powers about how to divide the land dragged on and violence between Jews and Arabs grew worse. The Jewish Agency simply preempted negotiations and unilaterally declared the state of Israel; the United States immediately recognized it, and the UN accepted Israeli sovereignty the following year.

The Palestinian Authority has come to the same conclusion that the Jews apparently came to in 1948: Negotiations will not lead to an independent state; the only way forward is unilateral action. By rejecting that strategy outright, Israel is not only being hypocritical; it is invalidating its own existence as a state.

There is one more reason to support the Palestinians' bid at the United Nations. It is the moral thing to do. During his first presidential campaign, Obama said, "Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people." Now, he has the opportunity to live up to his own beliefs and promises, and to provide the Palestinian people with the same sense of dignity that Harry Truman gave Israel 60 years ago.

Reza Aslan is the founder of and the author of "No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam." your social media marketing partner


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+21 # Dion Giles 2011-09-19 00:13
NO ethnic grouplet is chosen by God to be more "special" than any other people in the world. Any state reserved for ANY ethnic group is an abomination. Any religion based on "God promised 'us' your territory" is a menace to its neighbours and ultimately to the world. The racist State of Israel not only sits on land that should not belong exclusively to ANY ethnic group, but it presumes to project its illegitimate power way beyond its borders, as the Boer Republic of South Africa did when it arrogated to itself the "right" to control the UN mandated territory of South West Africa. The "peace" process in Palestine has never been other than a surrender process. At the very least, a separate Palestinian state should have as fully independent rights and powers as any other state anywhere. And the arrangement should be understood to be only until the racist State of Israel goes the way of other excrescences like the British Empire, the Nazi Third Reich and the Apartheid regime in South Africa.
+10 # webfoot doug 2011-09-19 01:25
While Reza Aslan makes some good points, it is likely all moot anyway, as the recent Democrat defeat in a heavily Jewish/Democrat ic Congressional district in New York showed.

With President Obama's reelection already uncertain, it is unlikely he will risk alienating the powerful Jewish lobby even further. He can't even stop Netanyahu from building more of those wretched West Bank/East Jerusalem settlements.

One has only to remember those embarrassing standing ovations Congress gave Netanyahu to understand the unlikelyhood that Palestinians can expect justice from America. While American Jews may be reasonable on this issue, AIPAC has the power and they won't budge.

While this Palestinian UN move is risky and a diplomatic defeat for America, one can understand their frustration after years of negotiation produced nothing but more settlement "facts on the ground" in Palestinian territory.

With this probable UN failure, we can expect some Palestinians and their supporters to turn from the peaceful policies of Abbas to the more violent alternative of Hamas. That would be tragic.

These next weeks are a time for all of us who hope for a fair and peaceful settlement for both parties to speak out and pray before it is too late.
+6 # Dion Giles 2011-09-19 02:35
There's a very clear summary at
of the real background to these urgings for a two-state "solution".

The principles set out by the same authors at
outline a solution that would be hard to fault on grounds of the sort of justice most of us accept for ourselves, so what makes Palestinians "submen" of some sort that they should be asked to accept less?
+6 # Paul Larudee 2011-09-19 08:36
In 1972, Newsweek published a statement of mine that "If self-determinat ion was good for Palestinian Jews in 1948, why is it bad for Palestinian Arabs in 1972?" Aslan's fifth point reiterates this argument.

There are, however, a number of problems with the premises. First, was a Jewish state good for the Jews? Many would argue that Israel is second only to the Holocaust as a disaster for Jews, and some would reverse the order.

Second, was self-determinat ion being practiced in either case? Which Jews made the decision in 1947-48, and which Palestinians are making the decision in 2011?

Many Palestinians are concerned that UN recognition of statehood might actually disenfranchise the majority of them who have already been expelled, and that in any case a de jure state is actually an impediment to a de facto state. Some feel that even the Palestinian Authority should be dissolved because it deceives the world into thinking that Palestinians actually have the freedom to govern themselves.

There is no doubt that the U.S. should not veto the Palestinian application. Even if recognition is successful, however, will it result in all of Palestine's inhabitants being allowed to return to their homes without segregation and without denial of their rights?
+4 # Tuskahoma 2011-09-19 08:40
One thing I haven't noticed: If the U S votes "for" a Palestinian state it will insure a Republican victory in 2012. Look what happened in the N Y House election and that is what will happen, only harder, if we vote for the state. The only path we have is to "vote present" as many of your Congrrrrsss do on controversial bills.
-10 # Martintfre 2011-09-19 10:12
What about the fact that Jews will not be allowed to live in Palestine? Sounds like fellow socialist Adolph would be proud of them.
+7 # Activista 2011-09-19 10:37
USA must NOT veto Palestine state. We could abstain to please election strategists.
But VETO would put US in direct conflict with most of the World.
AIPAC policies are pro Israel - not for USA.
-7 # Meriam 2011-09-19 11:58
The comments that I read all ignore the reality that every Arab spokesman has said they will never recognize the state of Israel. Where does that leave room for negotiation?
+1 # Activista 2011-09-19 15:36
Saudi peace initiative originally launched in 2002.
The plan offers Israel recognition and permanent peace with all Arab countries in return for Israeli withdrawal from lands captured in the 1967 Six Day War. It also calls for setting up a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital and a just solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees.
+4 # jwb110 2011-09-19 12:33
If the GOP/TP appears to be pro-Israel, that is far from the truth. Lunatic fringe religious right is pro-Armageddon. Who wins then?
+2 # webfoot doug 2011-09-19 13:29
@ Martinfre-
Some half million Jews (the "facts on the ground") have moved on to the Palestinians' overcrowded land since '67-- how many would you like to have remain?

As far as Obama, friend of the investment elite, and his so-called socialism--and any similarity of socialism to Hitler:
the German Socialists, the SPD, were the strongest opponents Hitler had-- read Otto Wels' heroic speech (on-line) of March 1933 opposing the Nazi's takeover.
(the pro-capitalist Nazis (NSDAP) included "socialist" in their name only to attract naive workers' votes.)

Read Abbas' UN plan-- by recognizing the 1967 borders, the PA is recognizing Israel's right to exist on the other side. This is why Hamas, who hasn't recognized Israel, is not very supportive of the Abbas plan.
Please don't believe everything AIPAC tells you.

@Dion Giles--
While I see your basic point, using extreme language such as comparing Israel to "the Nazi Third Reich and the Apartheid regime in South Africa" only inflames the situation and makes Israel's supporters more fearful and stubborn.

We all need to refrain from violent rhetoric if a peaceful solution is to be found.
+1 # giraffee2012 2011-09-21 11:33
There is not enough room for all the people living in that area! BUT it was USA/UK who told the Jews to go to the Islamic area -- appealing to their "roots" -- WHY? Because these Christian based nations (don't tell me it's a Christian-Judeo base) don't like anyone who is not part of their "roots" (prejudice against Jews, asians, people of color, different religions HAS ALWAYS been the case)

When the Jews can HELP the Christians -- they are accepted. I know - bc my parents were Jews and made it out of Germany in the late 30s to find "prejudice" also in the USA. So they did not practice their religion to SURVIVE -- and SURVIVE they did. END.

There is no right or wrong to letting Palistine into the UN. The USA must veto so we can get a Dem into the W.H. -- else we'll be under the TP/GOP who we KNOW are racists. They have demonstrated their values in every act, speech, etc. -- look at how they now are withholding aide to those hit by Irene. Look at TX and Georgia -- they execute more black people than whites by a HUGE percentage.

End game. The USA must veto or lose the 2012 election which puts the USA into hands of those who failed to accept the Jews into the USA after WWII (even during WWII the USA turned many boats full of JEWS away from our ports)

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