Sunday, November 4, 2018

Keeping the Palestinian Authority Down at the United Nations

In “defiance of retaliation threatened” by the United States and the state of Israel, the Palestinian Authority announced in November 2012 that it planned to hold a vote in the U.N. General Assembly on the Authority’s request to become an observer state. According to The Wall Street Journal, “(s)uch a designation would give the Palestinian Authority the right over its airspace and territorial waters.” The Authority could participate in General Assembly debates, sponsor resolutions, and nominate candidates for Assembly committees. The Authority would be able to accede to treaties and join specialized U.N. agencies, such as the International Civil Aviation Organization, the Law of the Sea Treaty, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the International Criminal Court. The Authority could thus press charges against Israelis before the Court.
Because 132 states had already recognized the Authority as a sovereign state and the U.S. does not have a veto in the General Assembly, the vote was expected to be in the Authority’s favor. Rather than wade into the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian standoff, I want to investigate the nature of the responses of the Israeli government and the United States to the likely passage.
In retaliation, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said in Israel, “If the Palestinians continue to advance their unilateral move they should not expect bilateral cooperation. We will not collect their taxes for them and we will not transfer their tax revenues.” Had the Palestinian Authority had held a similar position concerning unilateral moves, the Israeli government would doubtless not have held off in its unilateral moves, such as building a wall. Perhaps taxation should be added to the rights of observer states. The hypocrisy alone would justify that, not to mention the threat being made.
I suspect the control over airspace and the membership at the ICC were of particular concern to Israel. Security concerns were a given. Given Israeli influence over the American Congress, I suspect that the Israeli officials would also bristle at Palestinian demands being enforced by an over-arching authority to which Israel was at least in theory subject. That is to say, being held accountable.
Also in anticipatory retaliation, the American Congress “threatened to cut off $500 million in security and economic aid” to the Authority. Here, the American Government having been accustomed to the comfort of its veto on the Security Council no doubt left officials feeling a sudden and as though terrifying loss of control. Hence, as though impulsively, the Congress acted out in a manipulatory fashion to circumvent being in the minority on a vote.
Furthermore, the American threat suggests that the Israeli government might have disproportionate influence in the halls of Congress and in the White House, even given the state’s ally status. The duopoly of two major parties in American politics may be complicit here. The result may be that Israeli interests come before even American interests in American foreign policy.
Concerning both the state of Israel and the fifty United States, it is the tenor of such blatant threats and manipulation that is particularly striking in this story. Might it be that the reactions, particularly if knee-jerk, are in essence cultural—meaning that manipulation and threats have come to be a common feature of human interaction in those states. Rather than being to criticize Israeli or American policy, my point is that the reactions themselves can be indicative of a certain cultural decadence concerning the way certain people “deal with” not getting their way. Beyond the sheer childishness in “taking one’s marbles” if one does not get to make the rules of the game is the sordidness of the mentality that threatens and manipulates as a matter of course. I suppose the real question is how—or even whether—such a value system can be changed. At the very least, one is inclined by the fitting moral disapprobation to see to it that that particular psychology does not get its way, or is at least frustrated in the pursuit of its particular tactics. Making them transparent can be a first step to a better world, at least as among persons.


Joe Lauria, “Palestinians Set U.N. Vote, Defying Retaliatory Threats by U.S., Israel,” The Wall Street Journal, November 13, 2012.