Last week, the Palestinians indicated they intend to seek U.N. Security Council recognition of a Palestinian state in next month’s meeting.
The Biden administration promptly implored Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas to abandon the idea, and threatened a veto should the matter come to a vote.
Why would President Biden—who just last month on his Middle East trip often repeated his commitment to a two-state solution—now quash the idea of U.N. recognition?
Four reasons explain why the U.S. does not—and should not—recognize a Palestinian state today.
First, the U.S. Congress has passed several laws over the years that would cut direct U.S. funding to the P.A. if it obtains status as a U.N. member absent a peace deal with Israel.
Second, while the United States supports two states, it firmly believes that a two-state solution must be arrived at through direct negotiations between the P.A. and Israel—and that there are no shortcuts to that route. Biden’s State Department has made that clear.
While Israel has generally shown willingness to participate in serious peace talks with the P.A., the Palestinians have outright rejected peace offers in 2000, 2001 and 2008 that would have given them a state in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and a capital in Jerusalem. Those offers were crafted jointly by Israel and the United States.
Since that time, the Palestinians have walked out on or refused peace negotiations proposed by Washington—most recently by presidents Obama (in 2010 and 2014) and Trump (in 2020).
In 2014, Abbas rejected Obama-sponsored peace negotiations unless Israel agreed to three standing P.A. demands: 1) No recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, 2) full “right of return” into Israel for Palestinian refugees and millions of their descendants, and 3) refusal to commit to an “end of the conflict”—terminating additional Palestinian demands of Israel after a peace deal.
Suffice it to say, these demands are deal-killers for Israel—since each undermines the very sovereignty and foundation of the Jewish state. The P.A. knows this and uses these demands as excuses to block any peace negotiations with Israel.
The third factor that makes a Palestinian state currently impossible is the bitter, often-violent conflict between the P.A. in Judea and Samaria and Hamas in Gaza.
Today’s P.A. is a corrupt, teetering autocracy with no heir apparent to the 87-year-old Abbas. It’s widely believed that the P.A. would collapse into the hands of Hamas without Israel’s security support, let alone the hundreds of millions of dollars poured into it annually by Western nations.
Gaza is effectively already a self-governing statelet. Hamas—designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and European nations—is financially supported largely by Qatar and Iran.
In fact, both governing factions are dictatorships, ruling their territories with no elections and repressive iron hands. A Palestinian state today would have no defined borders, no unified government, and no sustaining economy. To declare a Palestinian state would sanctify a civil war between outlaw rivals and embroil Israel in the bloody crossfire.
The fourth reason the United States should refuse overtures by the P.A. to perfunctorily form a state is the lack of respect the Palestinians have shown to their benefactor, America.
Consider that since 1994, the United States has contributed 7.8 billion taxpayer dollars to Palestinians in Judea and Samaria and Gaza, making us the most magnanimous and consistent funder of the Palestinian national movement. (Overall contributions by the United Nations, the European Union and European Union member states amount to an additional $27 billion.)
You might fairly ask what America has received in return for this massive “investment”? The fairest answer would be, “Nothing.”
Indeed, politicians have justified these billions in aid by arguing that we are supporting development of a stable Palestinian society. The hope has been that that the Palestinians will become functional enough to actually launch and manage a state … and flexible enough to negotiate peace with Israel.
Both hopes have failed utterly.
Not only has Palestinian society become more fragmented and financially bankrupt, but its governments have become increasingly more corrupt and oppressive.
This has not stopped the Biden administration, which in the last five months has restored funding cut by President Trump, resuming $235 million in assistance to the Palestinians in April and then an additional $316 million in July.
Perhaps even more curious—and insulting—in the face of such American generosity, the Palestinians have consistently scorned U.S. interests in the Middle East and globally.
Palestinian leaders, for example, have a tradition of supporting anti-American, authoritarian tyrannies.
Just last month, when U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, risking Chinese disapproval, Mahmoud Abbas’s office issued a statement supporting the Chinese position.
When the United States invaded Iraq to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat opposed us and supported Saddam Hussein. In response, Kuwait expelled some 400,000 Palestinians who lived there.
During the Cold War, the Palestinians supported Russia, not the United States. Today they support Russia against Ukraine.
The Palestinians have consistently backed North Korea and its leader Kim Jong-un, while the North Koreans have returned the favor, lauding the Palestinians for opposing U.S. policies.
During the rise of Adolf Hitler and during World War II, Palestinian mufti Hajj Amin al-Husseini aligned and met with the German dictator to discuss plans for expanding the genocide of Jews to the Middle East.
When Donald Trump presented his peace plan—including an $80 billion development package—to the Palestinians in 2020, Abbas angrily responded with “a thousand nos.”
In short, the Palestinians are no friends of the United States—no matter which party is in power. They don’t share America’s political values, particularly civil liberties and democracy. They frequently oppose our strategic interests and support our enemies. They have consistently rebuked attempts by the United States to help them achieve peace with Israel.
In addition, the Palestinians seem to take billions of dollars of American financial aid for granted—as an entitlement—and refuse to express gratitude or reciprocate. No wonder the U.S. Congress has enacted so many restrictions against aid to them. And no wonder President Biden refused to back their desperate attempt in the United Nations to avoid peace talks with Israel.
James Sinkinson is president of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.