It’s not often that the Israeli government and Hamas agree on something. Sure, each has sought to assassinate members of the other, neither of them much fancy pork, and they both thought that the United Nations inquiry into the Gaza flotilla raid was “unjust,” albeit for completely different reasons. But today, they speak with one voice: the UN vote on Palestinian statehood is a terrible idea.
They even phrase their reasoning similarly: both insist that security must precede statehood. The way Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put it before the UN — “Israel wants peace with a Palestinian state, but the Palestinians want a state without peace” — isn’t that divergent in its assertiveness from the stance of Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas leader and disputed Palestinian Prime Minister. He bashed the UN move on Friday, explaining that “states liberate their land first, and then the political body can be established.”
Obviously, Netanyahu isn’t talking about Palestinian security, much less security in Hamas’ claims to the entirety of “historical Palestine,” and Hamas isn’t talking about Israel “liberating” Gaza and the West Bank. But that doesn’t change the fact that demanding security should precede statehood is incredibly unrealistic. The new state of South Sudan is hardly secure, but no one opposed their admission to the UN last week or insisted they guarantee the security of northern Sudan beforehand. Most states — even Israel and the United States — are born of conflict. It’s completely delusional to expect peace to reign in a situation where spoilers, from Hamas to the extreme rightists of Israel, abound.
Nor do their diametrically opposed goals diminish Hamas and Netanyahu’s shared opposition to Abbas’ UN appeal. The status quo of stymied negotiations and failed diplomatic overtures benefits Hamas by proving Fatah to be ineffective. Netanyahu is also aided by a stagnant Palestinian drive for statehood; it is what holds his coalition together and keeps the right-wing crazies who threaten to dissolve the government, like Avigdor Lieberman — who has implicitly called for Gaza to be nuked — at bay.
So where does America find itself amidst all this?
Frankly, we don’t have many options. In spite of our sending Israel crateloads of so-called “bunker buster” bombs and imploring them to halt settlement construction, Netanyahu snubbed us to hold his far-right friends close. Several members of the American defense establishment — most notably former Defense Secretary Robert Gates — haven’t been too happy with this behavior, either, according to a report filed by Bloomberg. This at least partially contributes to the predicament we face in the UN today.
Despite its unlikelihood, the prospect of a yes vote is tempting: it would strengthen our image among Palestinians and in the Arab world, and deal a potentially fatal blow to Hamas. But at the same time, the declaration of statehood submitted by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, defined by the 1967 boundary lines, leaves nearly 400,000 Israelis within Palestine. A conditional vote like the one proposed by former Israeli cabinet minister Isaac Herzog is simply not feasible. Yet our seemingly inevitable no vote leaves us in terrible shape; as Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia wrote in the New York Times, a no vote “would further undermine [America’s] relations with the Muslim world, empower Iran and threaten regional stability.” Israel is redoubling its guard, preparing for massive crowds to march on its borders — bad news for a country that secretly admits it doesn’t “do Gandhi very well.”
Stuck between siding with an illiberal thug who spits in our face and forcing a chaotic and violent paradigm shift upon Israel, the choice isn’t a good one. And whatever we end up doing, the results won’t be pretty, either.
Jack Newsham is a sophomore in Morse College.