U.S. Bias Forced Palestinians To Turn To The U.N.

September 15, 2011 6:18 pm ET — MJ Rosenberg

Henry Siegman, a fellow at the Center on Foreign Relations, an Orthodox rabbi and the former head of the American Jewish Congress, explains in a piece over at Foreign Policy that U.S. bias is the main reason why the Palestinians are headed to the United Nations later in the month. Had the Obama administration played the "honest broker" role that many expected after the president's Cairo speech, the Palestinians would have stuck with bilateral negotiations. But once Obama abandoned any pretense of neutrality, they had little choice but to find another venue for conflict resolution.

The U.S. might have persuaded President Abbas to abandon the U.N. initiative in favor of resumed negotiations had it reassured him that if the Netanyahu/Lieberman government does not offer them a peace plan within a reasonable period of time based on the 1967 borders, agreed-upon equal territorial swaps and the sharing of Jerusalem, the U.S. would itself present such a plan to the Security Council.

Unfortunately the U.S. lacked the political courage to do so. Instead of enabling President Abbas to withdraw his U.N. initiative by providing him with a justification for such a move, the U.S. has sought to intimidate Palestinian leadership into changing course by threatening to exercise its veto in the Security Council and ending America's financial support for the Palestinian Authority. Leaving aside the perverseness of this threatened "punishment" -- which will not only end Israeli-Palestinian security collaboration but will increase the likelihood of a third Intifada -- when has an American president recently threatened an Israeli government with any kind of punishment for their rejection of U.S. advice, even when Israeli actions have been in clear violation of international law?

Siegman supports the statehood effort and questions the forceful negative reaction from the Obama administration, which has invariably looked the other way as the right-wing Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu settles more and more Israelis on diminishing Palestinian territory.

The Palestinian "crime"-- turning to the U.N. for relief from one of the longest military occupations in modern history, in part to deter those within its own ranks who have lost all hope from resort to violence -- that has elicited so draconian an American response might in fact be seen as an act of statesmanship, to be encouraged and rewarded. But stealing the Palestinian people's territorial patrimony -- which is how the U.N. Partition Resolution of 1947 defined not only the West Bank but territory twice its size -- is a crime in international law, as is the transfer of Israel's citizens to those territories. Yet these crimes have never drawn more than empty American reproaches, invariably followed by solemn reaffirmations of the immutability of America's bonds with Israel.

The contrast between America's reaction to Israeli and Palestinian transgressions dramatically illustrates the futility of relying on the U.S. to present the parties with a fair and balanced framework for a final status solution and then using its considerable clout to see to its implementation. Instead, the U.S. can be counted on to make the protection of Israel's interests -- as defined even by its most reactionary and xenophobic governments -- its first priority. The U.S. Congress, if not the White House, will see to that.

For that reason, he concludes that the "two-state solution will have to be achieved not only without U.S. help but in face of its opposition."