I have taken U.S. history classes all my life. In each of these the same message was conveyed. The United States, bristling under oppression by the British, demanded freedom, fought for it and was finally recognized as controlling its own land and destiny. Why then, does the United States have a problem with the Palestinian people asking for the same thing?
In 1948, Israel asked for a vote from the United Nations for partition. They wanted their own nation. They took land legally recognized as belonging to other nations and carved out their own. The United States led the lobbying to win this vote. Now, both Israel and the United States want to prevent the very same vote from occurring and prevent the creation of a Palestinian state.
President Obama told the U.N. General Assembly there is no shortcut to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He told members a vote for a Palestinian nation would not bring peace or solve the dilemma the two peoples face. He is correct. Ultimately, there will have to be negotiations. The Palestinians will have to recognize Israel's right to exist and give up the right to return, and Israel is going to have to agree to negotiate from pre-1967 borders and, most importantly, stop the building of illegal settlements and surrender many settlements already constructed on Palestinian land. There are other questions too ranging from water rights to whether the boundaries of the new state will be contiguous and all will require give and take.
None of these disputes addresses the fundamental question of whether or not the Palestinians should be recognized as a separate nation. The answer is clearly yes. There is no question about their ancestral connection to the land. Historically they were left out in the cold when Israel was created. They were rejected by Jordan and Syria and became a displaced people. It is time to end that wrong.
President Obama says the United States will veto any attempt by the U.N. Security Council to grant membership to the Palestinians. Why? The simple answer is pure politics. Recently, the Democrats lost a House seat formerly occupied by Anthony Weiner. It had been in Democratic hands since the 20's. It contained a large number of Jewish voters who are angry with Obama for a perceived lack of support for Israel and his demand for a freeze in settlement construction and for using pre-1967 borders as a starting point for negotiations. With 2012 shaping up to be a very close election, Obama cannot afford to alienate Jewish votes in the key battleground state of Florida. Thus, the veto threat.
Israel's supporters cheered when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publically upbraided Obama in front of a joint session of Congress. Netanyahu continues to support the building of more illegal settlements. He refuses to even agree to a starting point for negotiations. He supports continued construction in East Jerusalem knowing it makes the Palestinians more intransigent in their demands. He is on the wrong end of history and he is attempting to stop what will eventually occur.
Netanyahu could get away with stalling and posturing in the past, but that time is over. The change in governments in Tunisia and Egypt, particularly Egypt, could leave Israel totally isolated in the region. While the military government of Egypt says it will honor the peace treaty between them and Israel, there is no guarantee a new democratically elected government will agree. Turkey has withdrawn its ambassador from Israel and relations are chilly at best. Syria and Lebanon are unstable and Iran's influence is increasing not decreasing thanks to the U.S. war in Iraq. The plight of the Palestinians is the spark that could set off a whole round of repudiations of Israel and create a serious national security problem.
The United States has for years supported dictatorships willing to be friendly to Israel. The Iraq war was fought to get rid of Saddam Hussein because of his support for the Palestinians. Some Jewish interests in this country attacked President Obama for throwing Egypt's Mubarak under the bus. They had no concern for the freedom of the Egyptian people. With Mubarak in charge, Israel had a leader who was willing to maintain the peace between the two nations even as he crushed his own people. So much for freedom loving Americans.
It is possible the Palestinians could win a vote in the General Assembly to be upgraded to observer status. The U. S. could not stop such a vote. Observer status, among other things, would allow the Palestinians to control their own air space and give them access to the International Criminal Court in the Hague where they can press their case Israel has been committing war crimes. This might generate even more pressure on Israel or isolate it further and could also push them to restart negotiations. As of now, Netanyahu has shown no such willingness.
The Palestinians have a moral right to their own nation. The Israelis have a moral right to live in peace. As long as Israel and the United States continue the hypocrisy of promoting democracy and freedom for any people, other than the Palestinians, this conflict will be a flash point in the Arab world and a threat to U.S. national security.
The Palestinians will get no help from Obama. He is deathly afraid of alienating the Jewish vote and will not pressure Israel to open a new round of talks prior to the election of 2012. Republicans will try to attract Jewish and evangelical voters by unconditional support for Israel and condemnation of the Palestinians. Ironically, they once again will choose the wrong path as they have done for the last 11 years. It's a position that weakens American security but plays well politically. Now that is the definition of appeasement.