Netanyahu's no

The Middle East peace process — whatever little existed — lies in tatters thanks to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hawkish obduracy and unreasonableness. He has flatly rejected US president Barack Obama’s call to base talks between Israel and the Palestinians on borders that existed prior to the 1967 war ie before it captured the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. In doing so, he has put himself in opposition to not only the US — his closest ally — but also others of the United Nations, the European Union and Russia. Indeed, he has annoyed almost all of the international community. Rarely has Israel been as isolated globally as it is today and Netanyahu and his hardline allies at home can take full credit for bringing the country to this sorry state.

Understandably, the Palestinians are upset. Recognition of the 1967 line as the starting point, while allowing for mutually agreed land swaps, has been their long-standing demand. And Netanyahu’s rejection of that has stamped out all hopes of even starting a dialogue. The Palestinians are now threatening to seek UN recognition of Palestine as an independent state. They cannot be faulted for pursuing this path as they have tried every means to make that happen. Netanyahu’s no to what is a fair starting point for dialogue — in fact, it is more than fair to Israel as it allows for mutually agreed land swaps — is the last straw on the camel’s back. His reluctance to be a reasonable dialogue partner has pushed the Palestinians to lose all faith in the dialogue process.
The Palestinians must move cautiously. Going to the UN to push their case for statehood, while an attractive option, might not result in success. A bid to become a UN member requires not just General Assembly approval, where the Palestinians could win the majority needed, but the support of the UN Security Council, where the US can be expected to veto such a move. The fact that Israel is today rather friendless and its credibility as a dialogue partner is at an all-time low will tempt the Palestinians to go to the UN to press for statehood. However, they must work on the recent reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. Their cause will be best served by building unity among themselves before they go to the world body.

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