Did the Palestinian Authority think through its U.N. gambit?
The conventional wisdom is that the Palestinian Authority has outwitted Israel, the United States and the “international community” and stands poised to get a a declaration of statehood from the United Nations. Yes, the United States will be obligated to veto any measure in the U.N.Security Council, but the PA can go to the General Assembly, get an impressive vote and then have a club to use against Israel in its lawfare operation to discredit and delegitimize the Jewish state.
Well, the evidence is now mounting that this may have been a good career move for Mahmoud Abbas, who can retire with a feather in his cap, but a disastrous move for the Palestinians.
This week former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams wrote:
For years the Palestinian leadership has taken legal advice from a law professor at Oxford University, Guy Goodwin-Gill. But now it seems that they forgot to consult him before demanding a U.N. vote on Palestinian statehood. In a recent legal brief for the leadership, the good professor demolishes the arguments for U.N. recognition.
As reported in the Palestinian media, the brief argues that a U.N. decision to recognize Palestinian statehood replaces the . . . [Palestine Liberation Organization] with the Palestinian Authority, and this would have what the article calls “dramatic legal implications” . . . .
These include the legal and practical limitations on the PA (Its lawyer says that the PA “is a subsidiary body, competent only to exercise those powers conferred on it by the Palestinian National Council. By definition, it does not have the capacity to assume greater powers.”) And there are three more knotty problems for the Palestinians.
The first, of course, concerns U.S. aid. A report in Ha’aretz claimed that the U.S. consul general in Jerusalem, Daniel Rubinstein, told chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat that “in case the Palestinian Authority seeks to upgrade its position at the U.N. through the General Assembly, the U.S. Congress will take punitive measures against it, including a cut in U.S. aid.” Alas, this refreshing clarity was swiftly disclaimed by the State Department. A State Department official authorized only to speak on background told me Friday afternoon, “While we cannot get into private diplomatic discussions, this report is not an accurate portrayal of the U.S. position, nor did CG Rubenstein make the comments purported in the media.” So much for that. (The official added the usual boilerplate that the only way forward is for the two sides is to engage in “serious and substantive negotiations between the parties, and that remains our focus.”)
But Congress is another matter. There is broad, bipartisan support in Congress to cut off the PA should it take the step of seeking a U.N. declaration. Moreover, House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) is preparing to introduce a bill to cut off funds to the United Nations as well. In an op-ed in the Miami Herald she explains: