WHAT THE PAPERS SAY: Palestine’s bid for statehood

President Martinelli is in New York not just to celebrate the creating of a a new baseball record by a Panamanian pitcher, but to attend a session of the UN National Assembly.

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The Assembly  is poised to vote on a move by Palestine to gain recognition as a State. The odds are that Martinelli’s vote on behalf of Panama will side with the US.

Alexander Cockburn of  The First Post  has his own take on what’s afoot in the Middle East.

Was there everever a more preposterous spectacle than President Obama at the United Nations on Wednesday, solemnly telling the Palestinians that "There is no shortcut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades… Peace is hard work. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations."

To which, of course, every Palestinian can gesture to the piled up wreckage of the "peace process" and the "bilateral" diplomacy with Israel urged by the United States across the past 20 years – and this is only to go back to the dawn of the Clinton administration.

Twenty years of Israeli intransigence, 20 years of the Israel lobby's arm-lock on US Mideast policy, and here are Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, telling the Palestinians to chain themselves once more to "bilateral diplomacy," the treadmill of doom for all Palestinian hopes.

Obama's UN speech in the fall of 2010 laid out a somewhat different agenda: a Palestinian declaration of statehood, along the pre-1967 Mideast War borders with no more Israeli settlements. But if we make the dubious assumption that there is ever any window for sanity in the insane architecture of "peace process" politics in the US, this window gets nailed shut with the onset of every presidential electoral cycle, such as the 2012 campaign now underway.

Obama and the Democratic National Committee are still reeling from the loss of the Brooklyn district of the porno-twitterer Rep. Wiener whose seat, held by the Democrats for 80 years until Wiener's resignation, was captured by Bob Turner, a Republican campaigning in the heavily Jewish district on the theme that Obama was selling out Israel.

Earlier this week Republican Rick Perry, not known hitherto for his interest in foreign affairs, disclosed a sound grasp of the essentials – at least so far as any Republican politician courting Jewish votes and money is concerned: the Texas governor announced at a New York press conference, newly elected Turner at his side, that "We would not be here today at the precipice of such a dangerous move if the Obama policy in the Middle East wasn't naive and arrogant, misguided and dangerous."

Perry flayed the White House for supposedly arm-twisting Israel: "Bolstered by the Obama administration's policies and apologists at the UN, the Palestinians are exploiting the instability in the Middle East, hoping to achieve their objective without concessions and direct negotiations with Israel."

The Texas governor pledged there will be no shilly-shallying if he's elected president. "We are going to be there to support you. And we are going to be unwavering in that. So I hope you will tell the people of Israel: Help is on the way."

It's not hard to understand why Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas may finally be blinking under tremendous pressure. There is now talk on his team of a possible "procedural" delay in submitting his formal request for Palestinian statehood and UN membership, originally scheduled for Friday, immediately after addressing the General Assembly.

Back in 1991, Israelis and Palestinians met for the first time in Madrid to negotiate a peace agreement. UN Resolutions 242 and 338, which call for Israel's withdrawal from the land it occupied during the 1967 War in exchange for peace, served as the basis for the Madrid conference.

At the end of 1991, there were 132,000 Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem and 89,800 settlers in the West Bank. Two decades later, the numbers of settlers in East Jerusalem has increased by about 40 per cent, while the settlers in the West Bank, according to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, have increased by over 300 per cent. Currently, there are about half a million Jewish settlers.

During periods in which the Israeli Labour Party formed the governing coalition, the numbers have been just as high, if not higher, than periods during which Likud or Kadima have been in power. As Neve Gordon, an Israeli activist and the author of Israel's Occupation points out, "This, in turn, underscores the fact that all Israeli governments have unilaterally populated the contested West Bank with more Jewish settlers while simultaneously carrying out negotiations based on land for peace."

The Palestinians can see perfectly well that the Jewish settlers, with the backing of every Israeli government and complaisance of every US government, are undermining any future two-state solution, so they have decided not to wait any longer and are asking the United Nations to recognise a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. As Gordon puts it, "If the idea behind a two-state solution is dividing land among the two peoples, how can Israel unilaterally continue to settle the contested land while carrying out negotiations?" Answer: because Israel knows it can get away with it.

At the start of this year, Al Jazeera published documents prepared by Abbas's negotiators with Israel. Abbas was prepared to cede to Israel nearly all of the illegal colonies that the Zionist state has built east of the 1967 armistice line in and around occupied East Jerusalem. Palestinian Authority officials also agreed to deprive the vast majority of Palestinian refugees of the right – backed by the UN – to return to their homes in what is now Israel. They agreed in principle to accept the repatriation of 100,000 refugees over 10 years, and no more. Israeli contemptuously rejected these astounding concessions.

Why the US government feels it retains any credibility throughout the Middle East on the Palestinian question is baffling, but Obama and Clinton have been desperate to avoid the bludgeon of a veto in the UN Security council (though even here there is a mechanism – the  Uniting for Peace process, installed 61 years ago during the Korean crisis – for an over-ride of any such veto by the General Assembly.)

If it ever comes to one, a UN resolution won't give the Palestinians a viable state, nor solve the problems of refugees, nor the separation between the West Bank and Gaza, nor discrimination within Israel which is now emphasizing its legal identity as a Jewish state.

Even so, the Palestinian initiative with the UN underscores the US's weakening status in the region, whose political geography has been changing before our eyes.

Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan has kicked out the Israeli ambassador for negotiating in bad faith over the lethal attack on the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara; he has stopped military cooperation with and military purchases from Israel. He promised to come in person to Gaza on board his navy's protective fleet. As the Egyptian crowd tore down the wall of the Israeli embassy in Cairo, they hailed Erdogan as "a new Saladin".

Not to be outdone, Saudi Arabia's Prince Turki al Faisal wrote in the New York Times on September 11 – of all days – that "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… Saudi leaders would be forced by domestic and regional pressures to adopt a far more independent and assertive foreign policy. Saudi Arabia will part with the US if it vetoes the Palestinian bid."

This is not a problem for candidate Perry. But it is a very serious one for the government of the United States

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