J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami claims that I “dramatically misstate” the group’s position on the upcoming Palestinian issue before the United Nations. Not so.
As the headline of my recent Nation essay stated, “J Street Opposes Palestine’s UN Bid.” Ben-Ami says, “Let’s be clear. J Street supports statehood for the Palestinians.” So do George Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Even Bibi Netanyahu has endorsed some sort of a Palestinian state.
Supporting statehood is not the point. J Street clearly states that it is opposed to UN Security Council recognition of a Palestinian state as proposed by the Palestinian delegation and supported by most member states of the UN.
J Street wants the American government to veto the resolution if and when it comes before the Security Council. According to Ben-Ami, the Israelis and the US should have veto power over Palestinian statehood unless “agreed by both sides” and is based on “a deal on borders and security arrangements first.” The chances of that happening are zero in the near future.
J Street also avoids taking any position on a more modest proposal to seek Palestinian recognition by the General Assembly: “J Street’s position on that resolution will be based on whether the text accords with our basic principles,” he writes. I agree with Ben-Ami’s criticism of my statement that with passage of a UN resolution “a two-state solution would be achieved.” I was citing the paradigm shift offered by Yossi Alpher in the New York Times, who sees the beginning of a Palestinian state, even if partial, as quite different from the PLO’s previous identity as an organization representing refugees. Unfortunately, J Street’s position leaves an Israeli analyst like Alpher stranded.
With General Assembly recognition, the Palestinians would have observer-state status as opposed to their present observer-entity status. The Palestinians would still be negotiating with the Israelis, Americans and others, but with an enhanced status entitling them to participation in UN bodies.
The Case of Northern Ireland
Though the cases are different, the Israel-Palestinian crisis reminds me of the long struggle preceding the 1998 Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, after a three-decade war in which thousands were killed. Through that conflict, the US supported the British position that the status of Northern Ireland was an “internal matter” for the UK. The British supported the loyalists of the Orange Order in that conflict, which meant an “Orange veto” blocked any peaceful, democratic transition to self-determination for Irish Catholics, nationalists and Republicans.