President Obama spoke Wednesday at the United Nations, reiterating his talking points on the Mideast. In his Sept. 23, 2010, speech he had set a goal of an Arab-Israeli final accord and a Palestinian state admitted to full membership at the UN by this session. Instead, the Palestinians will push for a recommendation for full admission from the Security Council, demanding a vote despite Obama’s promise to veto the resolution if need be. Failing that, the Palestinians will seek a General Assembly vote granting them observer-state status, and likely get it.
The Palestinians will not delay their statehood request, but won’t press for a quick vote either. This makes them look diplomatically reasonable, working to avoid a confrontation. They can count on the U.S. and Europeans to press Israel hard for yet more unreciprocated concessions up front. With Palestinian mobs chanting in the streets of Ramallah (the capital of the Palestinian Authority’s proto-state) President Mahmoud Abbas cannot abandon the effort.
The slow-motion diplomatic train wreck President Obama set in motion during his first week in office has at last come to pass. Pressuring Israel to make up-front concessions to appease the Palestinians only induces Palestinian intransigence. Obama has added three non-negotiable demands to the Palestinian list: (a) a permanent settlements freeze (the term encompassing everything built by Jews, even in East Jerusalem); (b) bypassing direct negotiations by going to the UN—a flagrant violation of the Oslo Accords (which Obama now regrets encouraging); (c) using the 1949 ceasefire lines as the presumptive starting point for final negotiations, a position that reverses the emphasis placed on Palestinians negotiating for return of occupied territory. (The 1949 lines are not, as President Obama has called them, “borders;” the Arab states refused to recognize Israel as a sovereign state, so no final boundaries could be drawn.)
President Abbas has publicly stated that he got the idea to seek UN recognition as a member state from Obama’s 2010 UN speech. Abbas also told Israeli television, as to a settlements freeze becoming a precondition for talks, that he could hardly ask for less than do the Americans. The Palestinians sit back and wait to see how many up-front, unreciprocated concessions America can wring out of Israel. They have no incentive to do otherwise.
This mess comes despite President Obama knowing just how barbaric Palestinian conduct has been. In his latest UN speech Obama said:
Let’s be honest: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile, persecution, and the fresh memory of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they were.
Mahmoud Abbas reiterates that he will never accept a Jewish state. His Israel would be an Arab-dominated one. That is why he insists upon a Palestinian right of return for an exile Arabs created in 1948. It would be the end of Jewish Israel.
Here is the UN official refugee tally. There are 2.4 million Palestinians living on the West Bank, 1.5 million in Gaza, and 2.9 million dispersed in 132 countries. Of 6.8 million worldwide, 1.8 million are officially designated refugees by the UN (689,000 in the West Bank and 1.1 million in Gaza). Add these to 2.9 million exiles and a “right-of-return” could see 4.7 million Palestinians flood Israel.
Israel’s 7.5 million citizens include 1.5 million Israeli Arabs, 20 percent of Israel’s current population, who increasingly call themselves “Palestinian Arabs”—NOT Israelis. Now add the 1.8 million refugee-status Palestinians living in camps and Israel would have 9.3 million residents, of whom 3.3 million—35 percent—would be Arab. Adding 2.9 million more Palestinians worldwide, and Israel would have 12.2 million people, of whom 6.2 million—51 percent—would be Arab. Even if no far-flung Palestinians return, factor in a higher Arab birthrate, and an Israel with 1.8 million Arabs from the camps would in a generation become majority Arab.
Yet despite President Obama’s own knowledge of Palestinian barbarism—and full knowledge that the Palestinians, in bypassing direct negotiations by going to the UN, are trashing the Oslo Accords—Obama presses Israel to make even more concessions to an implacable foe. When Palestinians realize nothing has changed on the ground after one or more UN membership votes, they may start another major war. The cost of diplomatic folly can be high indeed.
John C. Wohlstetter is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a trustee of the Hudson Institute, author of The Long War Ahead and the Short War Upon Us, and founder of the issues blog Letter From the Capitol.