analysisU.S.-Israel Relations

Biden mulls ‘Palestine’ at the United Nations

While the United States is expected to veto the Palestinian Authority's U.N. membership bid, the administration has signaled this may not be the case.

U.S. President Joe Biden signs the guestbook at the Israeli president's residence in Jerusalem on July 14, 2022. Credit: Adam Schultz/White House.
U.S. President Joe Biden signs the guestbook at the Israeli president's residence in Jerusalem on July 14, 2022. Credit: Adam Schultz/White House.
Israel Kasnett

The U.N. Security Council asked its membership committee on Monday to review the Palestinian Authority’s application to be made a full member state of the United Nations.

The statehood application revives a longstanding bid, first made in 2011. Malta’s U.N. ambassador Vanessa Frazier, the council’s current president, said the body would make a formal decision in April. The P.A. is currently a non-member observer state, like the Vatican.

While the United States is expected to veto the P.A.’s bid, the Biden administration has signaled that it may be willing to support it.

According to Michael Doran, senior fellow and director of the Center for Peace and Security in the Middle East at the Hudson Institute, this would depend on what the word “support” means.

“If ‘support’ means a vote in favor of a UNSC resolution welcoming a Palestinian state into the United Nations, then the chances are slim but not negligible,” he told JNS. “If it means abstaining while the other UNSC members vote it in, the chances are much greater.”

Doran noted that when the United Nations recently passed Security Council Resolution 2728, the United States abstained.

“Was that ‘support’ for the resolution?” he said. “Formally, it did not support the resolution, but the U.S. abstention allowed the resolution to pass.”

Doran also pointed to the Obama administration’s behavior in December 2016, with UNSC Resolution 2334, which designated Israel’s settlements beyond the Green Line a “flagrant violation” of international law.

“Many credible reports indicated that the U.S. marshaled 2334 to a successful vote, but then formally abstained precisely to position itself, in domestic American politics, to claim that it did not ‘support’ the measure,” Doran said.

He noted that the Biden administration “has already given the bid support through the leaks to the press by senior Biden officials saying that the administration is actively studying the matter as well as statements for the record encouraging Israel to open a ‘pathway’ to a Palestinian state.”

U.S. President Joe Biden himself articulated this directly in an interview just a few days after the Oct. 7 massacre, saying, “There needs to be a path to a Palestinian state.”

“The mere possibility that the United States might entertain a UNSC resolution recognizing a Palestinian state gives oxygen to those governments, such as Spain, Ireland, United Kingdom, Malta and Slovenia, the last three of which are currently sitting on the Security Council,” that support the measure, said Doran.

At the same time, Biden’s strong support for Israel immediately after Oct. 7 appears to be quickly disappearing as he folds to pressure from the progressive anti-Israel wing of his Democratic Party ahead of the Nov. 5 presidential elections.

The president appeared to suggest in a recent interview that Israel should “just call for a cease-fire” in Gaza that would last well over a month and not be contingent on hostages being released by Hamas.

During an hour-long pre-recorded interview with the Spanish-language television network Univision that aired on Tuesday, Biden said, “What I’m calling for is for the Israelis to just call for a cease-fire, allow for the next six, eight weeks total access to all food and medicine going into the country,” the president said.

In calling for an immediate ceasefire, the president made no mention of demands for concessions from Hamas and did not call for the immediate release of Israeli hostages which would allow for a ceasefire.

During the interview, Biden also criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I think what he’s doing is a mistake,” Biden said. “I don’t agree with his approach.”

‘Expecting a different outcome is textbook idiocy’

Danielle Pletka, a distinguished senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told JNS the idea that the Biden administration may support the recognition of “Palestine” as a state at the United Nations is “insanity—not because there should never be a ‘Palestine’ recognized by the world, but because such a step cannot but be perceived as a reward for the terror of Oct. 7.”

“Practically speaking, such a gesture would itself spawn a series of problems, including who takes the seat for Palestine? The P.A. or Hamas? What are the borders of this ‘state?’” she asked.

Moreover, “domestically, the U.S. has numerous statutes that prohibit funding to international agencies that admit a faux ‘State of Palestine’ that is not a product of a negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians,” she noted.

Pletka said the idea of a “pathway” to statehood for the Palestinians “makes sense, though its elements are the real question.”

“Doing the same useless ‘peace processing’ we have been doing for the last 50 years and expecting a different outcome is textbook idiocy,” she said. “Thus far, however, we haven’t seen new elements of this approach. I’m not holding my breath.”

In Pletka’s view, recognizing a Palestinian state at the United Nations “is a dumb idea that will cause violence, confusion, and in the end, deliver little to the Palestinian people themselves.”

“Shouldn’t that be the goal, rather than the symbolism defined by Palestinian grifters and terrorists?”

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