One hundred thirty-seven countries have recognized the State of Palestine. President Obama, will the United States be the 138th?
In a recent New York Times Opinion Page Jimmy Carter stated, ”We do not yet know the policy of the next administration toward Israel and Palestine, but we do know the policy of this administration. It has been President Obama’s aim to support a negotiated end to the conflict based on two states, living side by side in peace.”
President Obama could use his remaining month and a half in office to ensure that a UN Security Council resolution recommending the recognition of Palestine be permitted to pass. According to Camille Mansour, adviser to the PLO negotiating team, Obama could accomplish a number of goals with such a decision. It would be his gift to the Middle East before leaving office June 20, 2017.
“He has the ability to instruct his UN representative to support or abstain from a resolution that will become irrevocable once the UN Security Council passes it. Even Donald Trump would not be able to reverse it.”
As I argue in Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides, the idea of a Security Council resolution regarding settlements or a framework for a future resolution could easily be reversed by the newly elected president but recognition of a state once it is approved by the United Nations would be more difficult to reverse as the state would have received international legitimacy.
There are skeptics who think Obama will not have the courage, as a lame duck, to make such a bold decision. Right-wing Israeli officials are betting that Donald Trump’s election has buried the idea of a Palestinian state. Allowing a vote for Palestinian statehood—whether by withholding a veto or abstaining—would be a small step in helping translate thus far unimplemented US policy and guarantee that the new president could not bury the two-state solution.
The three possible actions President Obama could take are:
Unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state within specific or approximate borders following the 1948 armistice lines where no Palestinian state ever existed. In virtually all world forums, this would more judicially move the status of Israel’s administrative presence in “Judea and Samaria” from disputed to occupied.
Abstain from vetoing a pending French resolution that would impose settlement lines and/or recognize a Palestinian state within 18 months absent agreement by the parties.
Impose a territorial settlement within a two-year deadline if the parties do not craft one by themselves. Of the three options, recognition of Palestine would be the toughest, a condemnation of settlements the mildest.
Already Israel and Trump’s pro-Israel supporters are sending signals to Obama to forgo any action at the United Nations.
A positive decision on Palestinian statehood would be a peaceful response to the right-wing Israeli Prime Minister’s anti-Obama interventions in US policy, especially regarding Iran. Such a decision would help redeem his presidency not only in the eyes of the Palestinian people but those seeking peace both within the United States and around the world.
The United States can still shape the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before a change in presidents, but time is very short. The simple but vital step this administration must take before its term expires on Jan. 20 is to grant American diplomatic recognition to the state of Palestine, as 137 countries have already done, and help it achieve full United Nations membership.
In September 1978, after signing the Camp David Accords, President Jimmy Carter stood before a joint session of Congress and said “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” As Mr. Begin and Mr. Sadat sat in the balcony above Jimmy Carter, the members of Congress stood and applauded the two heroic peacemakers.
Could Barak Obama be hailed as a peacemaker and finally earn his Nobel Peace Prize?
You have until January 20, 2017 to leave such a legacy, Mr. President. Will you be bold enough to commit to such a noble act?
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