The Palestinian Authority is proceeding full steam ahead to create “facts on the ground” in the Middle East by working the Manhattan corridors of the United Nations. This is neither the first time, nor is it undoubtedly the last, that Palestinian leaders have succumbed to the delusion that Middle Eastern reality can be changed through irrelevant U.N. activity.
The tactical ploys and counter-ploys are now flying around the U.N. compound. In the midst of all of the conflicting news reports we will see and hear, keep in mind one thing: This is more Broadway theater than a serious effort to achieve Middle East peace.
The odds of “Palestine” becoming a U.N. member are essentially zero. Although U.S. President Barack Obama may once have toyed with not vetoing a Palestinian move for membership (thus, ironically, encouraging the chaos now unfolding at Turtle Bay), he has rejected this counterproductive idea. Washington will veto, period.
Get the Israel Hayom newsletter sent to your mailbox!
Possibly, the Palestinian bid may not even obtain the majority of nine (out of 15) Security Council votes it needs under the U.N. Charter, thus meaning that, technically, Washington’s “no” vote would not actually be a “veto.” Accordingly, I think it unlikely the Palestinians will go to the Council. Although in the U.N. Twilight Zone defeat is often spun as a moral victory, any more such “victories” for the Palestinian Authority could mean its complete collapse.
Most likely, therefore, the authority will seek a U.N. General Assembly vote, perhaps recognizing “statehood,” or perhaps changing its U.N. status from “observer organization” to “observer state.” Given the General Assembly’s political layout, any such resolution, no matter how it's worded, will pass overwhelmingly.
But what exactly will that mean? Many in Israel and the U.S. are panicked at the prospect of “Palestine” being declared a “state,” even if merely an “observer.” They say Israeli officials will be hauled before the International Criminal Court for prosecution and “Palestine” will suddenly assume control over its air space and waters adjacent to Gaza, impairing Israel’s self-defense. And on and on and on.
This is all nonsense. The only practical result of the General Assembly declaring “Palestine” a state will be to move its chair on the side of the Assembly hall a few feet from its present location to be next to the Vatican, the only other “observer state.” This is nothing to get excited about.
But what of the hysterical concerns so many express, typically to insist that Israel should offer concessions to the Palestinians to forestall any U.N. vote? In fact, General Assembly resolutions are not binding on anyone other than itself. It could declare Disneyland an observer state, and treat it accordingly, but no one else need do so. If the International Criminal Court were to interpret a General Assembly resolution as permitting “Palestine” to become a party to the court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, it would be making a political decision, not a legal decision, and one clearly beyond its authority.
Such an irresponsible action would transform the currently dim chances of the U.S. ever joining into an absolute certainty. U.S. opposition to the court is already strong, and targeting Israel would lock in our opposition as far into the future as predictive powers allow. Any other U.N. agency making the same decision would risk grave damage, including possibly losing U.S. funding. Bring it on.
The Palestinian Authority’s ill-advised U.N. stratagem will not improve the chances for Middle East peace, it will not truly enhance the authority’s status, and it will not improve living conditions for average Palestinians. This entire episode is fantasy, and should be so regarded, whatever happens on First Avenue.
John R. Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of “Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad" (Simon & Schuster, 2007).
This article first appeared on Foxnews.com and is reprinted here with permission.