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Obama's Historic Error: The Irony Of A Nobel Laureate Opposing Palestinian UN Bid


PARIS - Israel and Palestine, two states living side by side in fair and sustainable peace. This is, for any genuinely pro-democracy advocate – be they Jewish or Arab – the deeper meaning and the real political impact of the vote that took place Thursday at the United Nations General Assembly.

Yet this upgrade of Palestine's status to non-member observer state of the UN General Assembly is legitimate. Palestinians had been waiting for this now historical day for exactly 65 years– since the partition of Palestine that occurred on Nov. 29, 1947.

Done! But, beware. This admission of Palestine at the UN, no matter how relevant it is, should only be seen as a step toward something more necessary and more essential: the resumption of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority, of which Mahmoud Abbas, through his moderation and the wisdom of his political views, has thus far been the most reliable and legitimate representative. Only this can truly bring about peace. Palestine owes more to Abbas than to the belligerent Hamas for this great and well-deserved diplomatic success at the UN.

Again, we need to tread carefully here. This very official and fair international recognition of Palestine should not become a new obstacle, a new source for latent or declared conflicts between Jews and Arabs.

First, regarding Palestine. If they don’t want these hard-fought efforts toward peace to go to waste, they should not try to exploit this recognition from a judicial point of view. Using this to bring Israel, or any of its leaders, to the International Criminal Court would put an end to any further attempt at a dialogue.

Next, regarding Israel. This recognition should not be used as a an excuse to implement financial sanctions on the Palestinian National Authority, which acts both as a peaceful element in this turbulent region and as a guarantee of security, thanks to the moderation of its political leaders. The Israeli government should end the extension of its settlements – occupation – in the West Bank, in compliance with the UN Security Council Resolution adopted in 1967 calling for Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories.

Obama, not worthy of his Prize

It is through the use of political and diplomatic wisdom as well as fairly negotiated solutions, and the essential return of Palestinian refugees to their territories, that Palestinian and Israeli leaders will be able to implement this peace. Men and women across the entire civilized world have been waiting and hoping for this peace.

To our deepest regret, current U.S. President Barack Obama, supposedly democratic and humanist, did not support the admission of Palestine at the UN. This constitutes a dramatic political mistake. It will harm Israel, which grows more and more isolated on the international scene and constitutes, once again, an equally unforgivable personal moral failing from this Nobel Peace Prize winner – an honor that he received too soon and which has indeed turned out not to be merited. 

Unlike the political and diplomatic courage showed by two of his predecessors, President Jimmy Carter with the Camp David accords and President Bill Clinton with the Oslo accords, Barack Obama only serves– in this particular case– the short-term vision of an absurd and inconsistent Realpolitik. We could say– without wanting to offend anyone – that he is blindly serving Israel, a country that refuses to listen to legitimate Palestinian demands.

The U.S. president is making a colossal strategic mistake. While he persists in depriving Palestinians from their legitimate state, he takes the risk of encouraging war – a bloody and endless war – rather than peace. The irony, for Nobel Peace Prize winner, is huge.

Conclusion? Obama's United States just missed their rendez-vous with history by refusing to support the existence of Palestine at the United Nations.

*Daniel Salavatore Schiffer is a Belgian philosopher.

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