Some Observations About the UN Palestine Vote (UPDATED)

1. Ehud Olmert, the former Israeli prime minister, writes in The Times today:

The parameters of a peace deal are well known and they have already been put on the table. I put them there in September 2008 when I presented a far-reaching offer to Mr. Abbas. According to my offer, the territorial dispute would be solved by establishing a Palestinian state on territory equivalent in size to the pre-1967 West Bank and Gaza Strip with mutually agreed-upon land swaps that take into account the new realities on the ground.

The city of Jerusalem would be shared. Its Jewish areas would be the capital of Israel and its Arab neighborhoods would become the Palestinian capital. Neither side would declare sovereignty over the city's holy places; they would be administered jointly with the assistance of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

The Palestinian refugee problem would be addressed within the framework of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. The new Palestinian state would become the home of all the Palestinian refugees just as the state of Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people. Israel would, however, be prepared to absorb a small number of refugees on humanitarian grounds.

Because ensuring Israel's security is vital to the implementation of any agreement, the Palestinian state would be demilitarized and it would not form military alliances with other nations. Both states would cooperate to fight terrorism and violence.

These parameters were never formally rejected by Mr. Abbas, and they should be put on the table again today. Both Mr. Abbas and Mr. Netanyahu must then make brave and difficult decisions. (italics mine)

Perhaps the Security Council should ask Mr. Abbas his position on the Olmert offer, and why he never responded to it in some definitive way, before it weighs his request for symbolic statehood.

2. Abbas's UN ploy is an entirely symbolic exercise ("liberation theater," let's call it) in part because Israel will only withdraw from Palestinian territory as the result of a negotiated deal (and its tendency in moments like these is to hunker down), but in even larger part because Mahmoud Abbas doesn't control a large chunk of the territory he wishes to rule, namely Gaza, which is ruled by his rival, Hamas. It would seem to be prerequisite, when seeking recognition as an independent state, that there be one, and not two, governments prepared to rule this independent state.

3. It is assumed, based in large part on the statements of the former Saudi official Turki al-Faisal, American rejection of the Palestinian bid will cause a break between Washington and its Arab allies. He wrote recently that Saudi Arabia will "no longer be able to cooperate with America in the same way it historically has. With most of the Arab world in upheaval, the 'special relationship' between Saudi Arabia and the United States would increasingly be seen as toxic by the vast majority of Arabs and Muslims, who demand justice for the Palestinian people." I have a feeling, however, that Saudi Arabia will deign to let America protect it when it is threatened by Iran.

4. I'll write this in the form of a question: How did Benjamin Netanyahu allow himself to be out-manuevered by Mahmoud Abbas? It really is astonishing, when you think of it.

More later.

UPDATE: Hussein Ibish has a very interesting piece up on Atlantic.com about the fallout from Obama's speech. This struck me as particularly interesting:

American opposition to the statehood bid is driven in part by a desire to protect the U.S.-brokered, bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiating process, although it has effectively broken down in recent years. It's also based on reasonable observations that such negotiations are ultimately the only way to fully resolve the conflict. No other party is seriously vying with the United States for the role of broker. Moreover, Israel would be deeply wary of any other way forward, given that it only really trusts the Americans.

It's now become conventional wisdom that the Palestinians don't trust the Obama Administration enough to allow it to broker negotiations. But the Israelis don't trust the French, so that idea is a nonstarter. So who, then, would broker such a deal? Ultimately, it will be the U.S., I believe. There isn't another choice, except the obvious choice, which is to acknowledge that the time is not ripe for a two-state solution. Which leaves us with the apocalypse, that's all.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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