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Let the Games Begin

Let the Games Begin
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced Friday that he will be submitting his bid for Palestinian statehood to the United Nations Security Council at its upcoming meeting. In the last few days, the media has widely quoted Arab League President Nabil El-Araby’s statement that Abbas intended to bypass the Security Council and submit the statehood proposal straight to the General Assembly. While Security Council approval is required for full membership status, the United States has promised to veto this proposal. Alternatively, approval by the General Assembly would allow the Palestinian to upgrade its status at the UN from ‘observer entity to that of ‘observer state.’

While the United States has engaged in a last-ditch effort to persuade Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to resume negotiations and thereby avoid a UN vote altogether, it presumably leaned on Abbas to submit a GA-only vote as “Plan B”. A veto by the United States would only further diminish its popularity in the Arab world. In a recent op-ed in the New York Times by Saudi Arabi’s former intelligence chief Turki Al-Faisal entitled “Veto a State, Lose an Ally”, Al-Faisal explicitly states that a United States veto will fracture the American-Saudi alliance, and spells out with surprising detail exactly how Saudia Arabia will pursue regional policies antithetical to United States interests.

Given these grave consequences, its unclear why Abbas apparently changed his mind at the last minute about the statehood proposal. In his announcement on Friday, Abbas maintained that his statehood proposal is not meant as a political ploy to ostracize Israel, but is rather a means to highlight the legitimacy of the Palestinians’ territorial claims. He appeared to suggest that bringing the vote to the Security Council is a matter of principle, an exercise of national self-affirmation. However, Abbas’ insistence on a Security Council vote weakens his claim that the statehood proposal is a good-faith initiative spawned by Israeli stubbornness. His decision serves no practical purpose other than to cast the United States as Israel’s isolated enabler, and it belies Abbas’ assertion that that he is earnestly moving toward an American-brokered negotiation with Israel. Instead, it appears that Israel’s recent troubles with Turkey and Egypt have persuaded Abbas that cynically capitalizing on the region’s revitalized anti-Israel sentiment would yield more political advantage right now than would the goodwill of the United States.

 

Author

Zev Wexler

Zev Wexler is an associate at the law firm of Vinson & Elkins LLP, where he represents investment managers. In 2009, he took a sabbatical year and volunteered as a strategic consultant in Malawi for Millennium Promise, a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. Zev is a board member of American Jewish Committee's ACCESS young leadership program, and serves on the Committee's International Relations Commission. Zev is also a board member of the Microfinance Club of New York. Prior to working at Vinson & Elkins LLP, Zev worked at the law firm of Skadden, Arps, and at the asset manager BlackRock Financial Management. He received a BA in Public Policy from Princeton University and a JD from New York University School of Law, and is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). Zev currently lives in New York.

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