The Palestinian declaration of statehood at the United Nations will not help to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and neither will some pro-Israel leaders’ responses to it.
Since President Obama has remained transparent on his intent to veto it, the facts on the ground will remain unchanged after the U.N. vote. The heated debate surrounding this declaration will likely cause more harm than good, as the prospect of an imminently independent Palestine gives false hope to Palestinians, while simultaneously galvanizing extremists on both sides. Naturally, this application for recognition makes the prospect of any negotiations between Netanyahu and Abbas seem all the more grim. For those driven by both a pragmatic outlook on the present circumstances and a deep desire for peace, this much is clear.
Equally clear is the pro-Israel world’s overwhelming support for a two-state solution, yet these supporters are put in a tight spot when considering the U.N. declaration. How do you vehemently affirm your commitment to a Palestinian state alongside Israel while opposing this specific avenue for achieving one? In this regard, outlets of the American Jewish establishment have fallen short. The line between opposing a U.N. recognition of Palestinian statehood and opposing the actualization of Palestinian statehood has become blurry. The pro-Israel organizations Americans for a Safe Israel and Amcha blocked traffic outside the U.N. in protest of the vote. The fervency with which these Jewish leaders cried “NO!” in response to the vote is troubling, considering the issue’s complexity. Despite these organizations’ commitment to two states, their nuance-deficient way of responding to the U.N. declaration fails to show it.
Further, the pro-Israel community’s manipulation of the declaration to advance its blame game is disheartening. To some Israel supporters, the Palestinian Authority’s action in the U.N. is evidence that the PA is no partner for peace. Instead of acknowledging the promising collaboration efforts between the Israel Defense Forces and the PA in the West Bank in law enforcement and public works, many have pointed to Mahmoud Abbas’s nonviolent (albeit nonconstructive) diplomatic effort as another instance of failed Palestinian leadership. Most deplorably, pro-Israel lobbyists are pressuring Congress to cut aid to the PA in retaliation. The declaration is unlikely to prove fruitful, but its use as a tool for justifying a perpetuation of the status quo is embarrassing to anyone fighting for two states.
The Palestinian declaration for statehood brings to mind another people who, in yearning for a sovereign homeland, garnered international support and ultimately appealed to the U.N. Though differences in circumstance abound, Israel’s supporters must stop presenting the Palestinians’ diplomatic effort as something foreign to us—or worse, illegal, and reprehensible. As Zionists and humanitarians, it is our responsibility to make our stance more clear: The narrative of blame must end, and two narratives of two peoples must take its place.
Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly included StandWithUs in the groups that participated in the traffic-blocking protest outside the U.N.
The author is a second-year in the joint General Studies and Jewish Theological Seminary Program and serves on the executive board of Just Peace.