When Mahmoud Abbas said last year he was going to ask the Security Council for recognition, I was at first opposed to the idea, thinking the price would be too high. I changed my mind, believing it might help light a fire under Israel. That didn’t happen, mostly because the bid itself failed.
And so I still support the Palestinian request for non-member state status. Mostly it’s because the Palestinian Authority under Fatah and Abbas is never going to get a shot at genuine negotiations so long as domestic conditions in Israel don’t change.
But looking at Israel specifically, all I see are obstacles. The Israeli public is less interested in the Palestinians than it’s ever been. The electoral list that emerged from Likud’s primaries this week is composed of members who take a hard line on negotiations over land, settlements, and a Palestinian state. Given that the party is most likely to still be the core of a new coalition government, I’d guess we can expect even less government interest than there is now.
Israel, of course, argues that it’s always ready for negotiations. Yet the hard truth is that it’s not. It’s insistence that the PA recognize Israel as a Jewish state first is a red herring; worse, it’s an excuse to avoid talks. As has been argued by many countless times before, there is no necessary or good reason for the Palestinians to do this, and every reason not to. And it’s a precondition that Israel insists on even as it calls for Abbas to sit down without preconditions.
Israel’s insistence that settlements are not an obstacle to negotiations is also misleading. The reality is that, as facts on the ground, they shrink the potential land area open to negotiations. The Israeli government insists that any final agreement accounts for settlements blocs as part of Israel. Yet the manner by which “neighborhoods” are spun off from existing settlements and then included as part of the settlement’s territory, plus the physical, legal, and security infrastructure that is built up around them, absorbs more and more land considered off-limits.
Progress on peace talks is essential for Israel’s well-being, too. World trends are moving against the occupation and the settlements. Hamas is growing stronger all the time. If it doesn’t get ahead of the curve, Israel’s ability to contribute to management of the conflict and shaping of outcomes will diminish.
There’s just no evidence that a successful Palestinian bid will change things for Israel for the worse. Rather, all the evidence points to the conclusion that not changing the status quo is the most dangerous for Israel.