Palestinian Statehood: The US Fails the Leadership Test Again

I don’t have a position on whether or not it is a good thing for the PA to seek membership status for Palestine at the UN. That is for the Palestinians to determine – and I know there are a variety of Palestinian opinions both pro and con on this issue.

But I do believe this: the Obama Administration is being highly disingenuous in its attempts to block this declaration by claiming a Palestinian state can only achieved through peace negotiations.

On this one I’m in full agreement with former AJC Executive Director Henry Siegman, who offered this analysis yesterday:

(Is) there anyone who witnessed the frenzied applause that greeted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s most recent speech before the U.S. Congress in which he left no doubt about his government’s intentions for East Jerusalem and for the West Bank, or heard President Obama’s assurances to AIPAC’s conventioneers that the ties that bind the U.S. to Israel are forever “unbreakable,” who still believes that the U.S. will ever exert the kind of pressure on Israel that will finally change its cost/benefit calculations with regard to its colonial project?

Two years ago, Obama stood at a podium in Cairo University and said the following:

America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own…

The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security…

The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.  This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace.  It is time for these settlements to stop…

And now here we are. The Obama administration has done everything it can to undermine its own publicly articulated goals. It continues to support Israel unconditionally as it settles the West Bank with impunity. Last February it cast the sole veto vote on a UN Security Council resolution that condemned the settlements. Now it is poised to publicly oppose Palestinians formal membership at the UN – the very body by which Israel itself became a state.

No, I’m not personally taking a stand on this because I don’t presume to preach to Palestinians what I think is in their best interest. But as an American citizen, I can’t accept my government’s claim that it is in any way committed to this so-called “peace process.”  Until the Obama administration is truly ready to be an honest and effective broker, it could at the very least refrain from smacking Palestinians down when they seek recourse through other means.

And when it comes to the larger implications of a US veto, I’ll say this: whatever good will Obama might have engendered after Cairo is now on the verge of being completely and utterly squandered. You know things are looking dire when a former Saudi Ambassador to the US writes in the NY Times:

The United States must support the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations this month or risk losing the little credibility it has in the Arab world. If it does not, American influence will decline further, Israeli security will be undermined and Iran will be empowered, increasing the chances of another war in the region.

When one of your only allies left in the Arab world makes a public statement such as this, I’d say its time to pay heed.

11 thoughts on “Palestinian Statehood: The US Fails the Leadership Test Again

  1. Richard Kahn

    Don’t you think it’s a bit inconsistent to continuously say that you won’t tell the Palestinians what’s best for them when you often preach to Israel what’s in its best interests?

    1. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author


      I am not Palestinian, but I am an American Jew. As an American, my tax dollars support Israel and enable its policies and actions. As a Jew, the “Jewish state” implicates me in its policies and actions as well. When I express my positions (or as you put it, “preach to Israel what’s in its best interests”) this is a conversation in which I – and all American Jews – have a very real stake.

      I’ve written this often, actually:

      1. Richard Kahn

        It just seems to me that if you think the Palestinians’ actions are contrary to the pursuit of peace (which is not clear at all, just a hypothetical) you have a moral obligation to speak out, even as you are not a Palestinian.

  2. Elaine Meyrial

    When a Hasbara spokesperson why Noam Chomsky why he didn’t direct his criticism to despotic regimes scattered across the globe, he answered that because he is an American, he feels responsible for the US’s complicity in allowing Israel to contravene international law with its illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

  3. Nancy Bruski

    Wow. Right again. Remember how excited and hopeful we were in the fall of ’08? Talk about crushing disappointment, my heart is broken and smashed into smithereens that this man I was so devoted to has done so little on so many issues he has spoken so eloquently on…I’ve come to the conclusion that there is some kind of Shakespearian tragic flaw in our president. He seems simply unable to stand strong on tough issues.

  4. Jordan Goodman

    Shalom Rav,
    You wrote: “You know things are looking dire when a former Saudi Ambassador to the US writes in the NY Times:
    ‘The United States must support the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations this month or risk losing the little credibility it has in the Arab world. If it does not, American influence will decline further, Israeli security will be undermined and Iran will be empowered, increasing the chances of another war in the region.’

    When one of your only allies left in the Arab world makes a public statement such as this, I’d say its time to pay heed.”

    Here’s another POV re the Saudi editorial in the NY Times:

    Shavu’a tov,


  5. i_like_ike52

    Please let me express some skepticism regarding the “concerned American taxpayer” background for Progressive excoriation of Israel, particularly by American Jewish Progressives. American aid, in amounts approaching that given to Israel over the years, has also be given to Egypt and Pakistan, two countries that have serious human rights problems, neither of which up until now are democratic in terms we understand them, both of which define themselves in ethnocentric and at least partially theocratic terms
    (things abhorrent to Progressives) and in which there is official repression of minority groups…in Egypt the Christians are the victims and in Pakistan it is the Baluchis and Shi’ite Muslims among others.
    I have been monitoring Progressives Jewish writers and blogs for some time and I don’t recall American Jewish Progressives saying much at all about them. It is Israel that gets their moral juices flowing. My feeling is that if the US ended aid to Israel (something that would be in Israel’s best interests) this wouldn’t lessen American Jewish Progressive (AJP) interest in Israel at all. I rather feel is that for the AJP Israel is sort of a moral theme park. It seems their views are “In criticizing Israel’s policies OR EVENT IT’S VERY EXISTENCE we can show how Jews are supposed to be BETTER than everyone else. Jews should not be ethnocentric, Jews should not be nationalists, Jews should show the world that the ‘nation-state’ is obsolete, etc, etc”. All I can say is “who says that these values are correct? Who says Jews should be better than everyone else?. If Egyptians, Pakistanis, Turks and Palestinians can be nationalists, why not Jews? If the “nation-state” is regressives, it is regressve for the Palesitnians and maybe it would be best for them NOT to get an independent state so that they won’t fall into the trap of being “nationalists”. If it is wrong for the US to give aid to Israel because of its supposed human rights violations, then it is
    wrong for the US to give aid to Egypt and Pakistan and the Palestinians.

    Regarding the comment that “Israel as a Jewish state implicates me
    in its actions, well, this is an expression of “collective guilt” (assuming that Israel is “guilty” of something). If all Jews are supposedly responsible for what Israel does, then all Muslims are responsible for the crimes committed by Muslim countries or those acting in the name of Islam (Bin Laden, the
    Taliban, etc). Therefore you should be demanding that American Muslims continually denounce all those radical Muslims groups and Muslim countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia who claim to be Muslim states.

    Since I don’t see consistent behavior on the part of AJP’s and their endless denuciations of Israel are not really coming of their Progressives ideology, since their ideology is never applied to anyone else, we have to look elsewhere for the real motivations that are driving this.

  6. 2skipper

    to keep allowing settlements to go on is a quick fire way to stop negotiations from continuing.of course the best way is through the peace process to continue but it appears that this is a game of who will do what to the other.the true possibility of taehood may be the answer of forcing the two sides to realize that there are no choices left but to go back to the table and stop all this hate and killing.

  7. i_like_ike52

    The UN did NOT declare Israel a state. It was up to individual countries to recognize Israel. The US and USSR were the first. The Arab countries invaded Israel with the intention of wiping out the yishuv in order to prevent the Jews from setting up a state. NO SANCTIONS were taken against the Arab states for violating the UN General Assembly resolution 181 in their action invading Israel. Neither did the UN do ANYTHING to set up the Palestinian state that was called for. The UN has no power to anything about declaring or setting up states. The Secretary General of the UN repeated that a few days ago. It merely enables the local population to declare at state if conditions warrant. Since a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state means an abrogation of the Oslo Agreements and is made without reference to peace with Israel, as called for in Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 which declared the Israeli presence the territories captured in 1967 legal, pending the signing of a peace agreement, any unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state is null and void.

  8. Dan Solomon

    Hi I_like_ike52.

    The thing that bothers me about the US policy toward Israel is that the American government feels the need to uncritically support Israel no matter what. At least that is my impression. I would like the US to have an independent foreign policy that reflects the “enlightened” self interests of the United States. In some cases this may be consistent with supporting Israel and in other cases it may not. In the current situation regarding the Palestinian request for statehood at the UN a reasonable question to ask, as a US citizen, is this – will America benefit more from supporting this request or opposing it? This should factor into our decision.

    A big concern I have with Israel is that, in my opinion, they undercut US diplomacy. The US has consistently supported a two state solution and opposed settlement expansion. Israel has undercut this position by allowing for settlements all over West bank.

    You argue that Israel would be better off without US aid. I don’t know if that is true or not but I am not sure why they need U.S. aid money. If they need to spend more on their military why can’t they raise taxes on their citizens. That’s what we do – why can’t they? As far as the aid we give to Pakistan and Egypt these countries may also be better off without it also. In the case of Egypt a lot of the aid money likely went to propping up the recently deposed dictator.

  9. Lynne

    When I was growing up I was taught that Judaism was unique in the way it encouraged, no, required the questioning of everything and that a Rabbi was a teacher/leader whose role often requires pushing us out of our comfort zone to make our questioning and learning a deeper experience. Mazel tov Rabbi, you live your job!


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