Obama, Bibi and it may as well rain until September


The likelihood of a U.N. General Assembly vote recognizing "Palestine" underpinned the tensions last week between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

The Obama administration fears the consequences of first having to veto a Security Council resolution on Palestinian statehood, and then coming to a "uniting for peace" vote at September’s GA.

Such votes are rare, but they have the function of overriding, to an extent, the Security Council’s failure to take action. Uniting for peace votes were used to authorize the police action in the Koreas in the early 1950s and to isolate South Africa in the 1980s.

Here’s how it works: Unlike a Security Council resolution, which compels all nations to, say, sanction certain Iranian individuals and entities, uniting for peace votes provide legal cover to nations that wish to undertake such sanctions.

So, for intance, all the successes Israel has scored in recent years in pushing back against the Arab League boycott — making abandoning the boycott a condition of joining international trade bodies, for instance — could go up in smoke after such a vote. Nations wishing to boycott Israel could simply cite their General Assembly vote.

Israeli lawyers would also be busy in courts contesting, say, a Palestinian claim in a London court (should Britain have voted yea) that the Palestinian Authority deserves any profits accrued in Britain from the sale of goods manufactured in certain suburbs of Jerusalem, or in West Bank settlements. Ahava may have to start writing checks to Mahmoud Abbas.

I wrote about this in April. I just found out via Matt Duss that the Jerusalem Post’s David Horovitz had an excellent piece on this in March.

As David makes clear, the Israeli government isn’t too worried about this, seeing September as yet another anti-Israel vote at the U.N. — although no one has come forward to explain its sanguinity.

There’s a broader issue, as well. The Obama administration’s foreign policy is predicated on garnering as much international support as possible through multilateral bodies. White House officials credit Obama’s foreign policy successes — in Libya, in further isolating Iran — to this careful accruing of political capital among U.N. member nations.

A UNSC veto on Palestinian statehood — absent a viable alternative — would cost it much political capital.

That doesn’t mean Netanyahu has to cave into whatever plan Obama puts forward, or even that he has to come up with his own plan. He can argue (he is arguing) that peddling peace plans when the Palestinian Authority takes on board Hamas amounts to rewarding bad behavior, and that the perils for Israel of rewarding such bad behavior are not balanced by whatever successes Obama is accruing in international arenas.

But it does clarify where exactly this clash of interests lies: Between Obama’s strategy of building coalitions and Netanyahu’s of busting Hamas.

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