The Palestinians Are Bluffing

The Palestinian Authority has been agitating to become a U.N. member-state for two years.  It appears they have secured the support of a majority of other member-states in the General Assembly to achieve U.N. recognition as a state.  But they will not become members of the organization because the U.S. intends to veto their request in the UNSC.

So what exactly does recognition by a majority of member states in the General Assembly secure for the Palestinians?

For their part, the Palestinians seem to think they will be obtaining everything they ever dreamed of.  In the first place, they seem to think that U.N. General Assembly recognition of an independent sovereign Palestinian state in the 1967 borders with its capital in East Jerusalem will translate de facto and de jure into an actual Palestinian state with those attributes on the ground.  But this is a big bluff.

First of all, Abbas has made it perfectly clear that it isn't an independent sovereign state per se that interests the Palestinians.  Instead, they intend to use their U.N. statehood status as an instrument to gore Israel internationally:

Palestine's admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice.

Meanwhile, here's Pinhas Inbari's thesis:

What the Palestinians really envisage after September is to exploit a UN endorsement of statehood to legitimize an escalation of the conflict... After the Palestinians have the 1967 borders recognized so as to negate the results of the Six Day War, they intend to seek recognition of the 1947 partition lines.

And while on the subject of Palestinian statehood, the fact is that the Palestinians were offered statehood in a two-state compromise settlement in 2000.  They rejected it.  Abbas was again offered a state, a two-state settlement, by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008, and Abbas (again) rejected it.  The compromises offered by Barak-Clinton and Olmert were based on a Palestinian state consisting of some 94% of the West Bank, 100% of the Gaza Strip, and the (Arab) eastern half of Jerusalem, including half or three-quarters of the Old City.  In return, the Palestinians were expected to recognize Israel, give up their demand for a mass refugee return, and agree definitively to an "end of claims" and an "end of conflict."

Benny Morris sums up all of the above, and then he continues:

Arafat and Abbas rejected the offered compromises because they do not want a two-state solution, they want all of Palestine.

Once the Palestinians get their West Bank-Gaza state, they will use it as a springboard for their second-stage assault, political and military, on Israel-and they will no doubt lodge claims "at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies, and the International Court of Justice" as part of that assault.

But the major basis of political and moral assault on Israel will be the Palestinian demand for a "Right of Return"-and its international acceptance and implementation-of the 1948 refugees, who now number, them and their descendants, 5-6 million souls.

It's possible that the unfortunate scenarios described above will all come about in reality.  It's also possible that the result of Palestinian statehood recognition in the U.N. will lead to other equally unfortunate scenarios, and even violent ones.  It just isn't possible to verify the precise details of the situation in advance.

On the other hand, a clear, logical assessment of the situation in Israel after September's anticipated U.N. vote is that all of the black prognoses are jumping to conclusions.

When the U.S. veto in the UNSC denies the Palestinians membership as a state in the U.N., the Palestinians will turn to the General Assembly, and it is likely that a majority of the GA member-countries will vote in favor of recognizing the state of Palestine within 1967 borders and with its capital in East Jerusalem.

So what?  On the basis of what chapter in the U.N. charter does such state recognition in the GA signify anything on any plane or translate to facts on the ground?  By what rationale do the Palestinians come off claiming that their recognition as a state in the GA makes any difference whatsoever on the ground where it matters?  Or elevates their observer status at present to anything even resembling a state with the powers and privileges of a state like any other?

In fact, the Palestinians are basing their maneuvering in the U.N. on a big bluff.  They are pretending they have a winning hand, and the United Nations will make all their dreams come true.  But this is just liar's poker.  They are bluffing to save their life.

Technically, without U.N. membership, the Palestinians are holding nothing, and at the end of the day, they will gain nothing.  They will win a U.N. statehood vote in the General Assembly in September, but it will not mean anything on the ground.  For example, across the board in the Israeli security community, the 1967 borders are recognized as "Auschwitz borders" because they are essentially indefensible.  Israel will not retreat to the 1967 borders.  Period.  In addition, if the Palestinians are granted a capital carte blanche in East Jerusalem, this area includes the Western Wall, and highly developed and Jewish-populated neighborhoods, too.  Is Israel just supposed to cave in to these unilateral demands and summarily evacuate Jewish East Jerusalem?

Pinhas Inbari speculates on what the true outcome of the U.N. statehood vote will actually be.  According to Inbari, the Palestinians are plotting to launch a Third Intifada:

This intifada is not planned to be a terrorist one as the Palestinians have well learned the lessons from the terror they practiced in the Second Intifada. Instead it is planned to be an 'intifada by peaceful means' of the kind that became very popular in the Arab Spring. Although the methods will not be terroristic, the aims of this Third Intifada are by all means terroristic and posit the destruction of Israel as the final goal.

Will the Palestinians launch a Third Intifada, as Inbari predicts?  In my view, the U.N. statehood initiative itself is their Third Intifada.  It is the most hostile thing they can do.  The Palestinian unilateral declaration of statehood in the U.N. is essentially a declaration of war.  When they realize that their big bluff has not achieved anything, they will definitely turn to violence.  But Israel has anticipated this.  The security forces have prepared for the worst-case scenario come September.

The wildcard in the game is U.N. General Assembly resolution 377, "Uniting For Peace."  Its provisions arm the General Assembly with enforcement powers, including sanctions and the use of military force, in cases where the UNSC is unable to decide an issue relevant to world peace.  But considering the general character of the Palestine U.N. statehood gamble, it is more than likely the Palestinian threat to invoke UNGA 377 is also a bluff.  Indeed, the more one examines the Palestinian U.N. statehood initiative, the more it reveals itself to be a house of cards.

If you experience technical problems, please write to