Why Won't Israel Use the Upcoming UN Vote to Its Advantage?

Matt Yglesias asks a smart question:

Ever since the unilateral declaration issue was floated, I've been gobsmacked by the lack of Israeli creativity around this issue. Why not spend the past year seeing this as an opportunity to force the Palestinians to make a clear statement of what borders they're claiming? Or to try to get the United States to forge a compromise in which we agree not to veto a resolution if the Arab League will agree to finally extend diplomatic recognition to Israel, thus turning the Palestinians into lobbyists for a pro-Israel measure?

Yglesias is on to something important: If the issue of Palestinian independence comes before the General Assembly next week (still not sure that it will), Iran, among other countries, will be forced into an awkward position: To declare that the state of Palestine exists the West Bank and in Gaza begs the question: What, then, do you call all that other territory between the Jordan and the sea? Israel, of course, is the answer, which is why the Iranians are in pickle, for the same reason that Hamas is in a pickle: Such a resolution could mark the end of the eliminationalist dream, of a Middle East without Israel.

A creative Israeli prime minister could have jiu-jitsued this resolution, and turned it into a call for the members of the United Nations to formally declare their understanding that Israel, within its 1967 borders, is the nation-state of the Jewish people. But Netanyahu is a prisoner of a minority of the Israeli polity that has made continued possession of the West Bank more important, in some ways, then the preservation of Israel as a Jewish-majority democracy. Yes, the Western Wall lies outside the 1967 borders, and of course Israel is not giving it up (or much of Jerusalem, for that matter), but such a resolution by the General Assembly could have formed the basis for negotiations on the remaining issues, and both parties would have been secure in knowing that the world believes they both have a right to exist, and in the manner in which they define themselves.

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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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