After days of intense talks aimed at halting the Palestinian bid for statehood, the U.S. is bringing in its closer for one final push.President Barack Obama will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas this evening to urge him to drop plans to submit an application for statehood with the United Nations. Obama will also meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to try and get him back to the negotiating table.
Obama laid out his position in his address to the UN General Assembly this morning:
“Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN – if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now,” he said. “Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians – not us – who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and security; on refugees and Jerusalem.”
But U.S. officials concede that it is unlikely Abbas — who faces immense domestic pressure to stand up to Israel and the U.S. — will renege on his decision to apply for statehood. Tens of thousands of people are rallying in the West Bank today in support of Palestinian statehood, according to Al Jazeera.
The Palestinian statehood bid, expected to be submitted Friday, will set the stage for a high-stakes diplomatic drama. Here’s what will go down:
- Palestinian officials say they believe at least nine of the 15 security council members will back a Palestinian bid, and are urging the U.S. to get out of the way of international opinion. But the U.S. — one of five Security Council members with veto power — has promised to block the vote.
- If the Palestinians can secure a nine-member majority — and it’s not clear that they can — it will likely put immense diplomatic pressure on the U.S., particularly in relation to the Arab world. It would be very easy for Palestinians and their Arab allies to call the U.S. out for using a double-standard, in light of the Obama administration’s professed support for the Arab Spring revolutions.
- The administration appears to be preparing for this possibility. Senior administration officials — including President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — met with their counterparts in Turkey and Saudi Arabia this week to give assurances that the U.S. is committed to finding a two-state solution and to urge the regional powerhouses to repair relations with Israel.
- International leaders are now coalescing behind a plan to accept the Palestinian application, but delay a Security Council vote in exchange for renewed peace talks. The Guardian reports that Abbas appears open to the deal, but that it is unclear where the Israelis stand. Diplomats say negotiations are likely to go down to the wire on Friday.
- If a deal can’t be reached, the Palestinians can ask the General Assembly to upgrade them from an “entity” to a “non-member state.” That vote is likely to pass, which would likely be a catastrophe for the Obama administration domestically.
If the Palestinian statehood issue devolves into a full-blown diplomatic crisis, it could also have significant political consequences for the Obama administration at home:
- After a year of foreign policy crises, the Obama administration has finally turned its attention to its domestic economic agenda. A UN showdown over Middle East peace could once again knock Obama off his message — at a time when he can least afford it.
- The issue highlights what many perceive to be the Obama administration’s major foreign policy failure. The administration’s relationship with Israel has been rocky, and critics alternately accuse the president for being too harsh on Israel, and for not taking a firm enough stance against Israeli hardliners. Both of these criticisms will make their way back into the national — and international — conversation if the Palestinian statehood issue isn’t resolved quickly and quietly.
- Criticism of Obama’s policies toward Israel gives his 2012 Republican opponents a line of attack that seems particularly relevant after last week’s Republican upset in New York’s heavily Jewish 9th Congressional District. GOP presidential frontrunner Rick Perry went after the President for not supporting the Jewish state, joining forces with influential pro-Israel hawks at a rally in New York yesterday. His main rival, Mitt Romney, also issued a statement that blamed Obama for the Palestinian decision to submit a bid for statehood.
- The Republicans will have a major forum to attack Obama at the Florida GOP debate tomorrow night. This is particularly bad news for the president, who needs support from Florida’s Jewish seniors to carry the key battleground state in 2012.
UPDATE 1:57 p.m.:
Reuters reports that the Palestinians will give the UN Security Council “some time” to study their statehood bid.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.