Obama to UN: US Will Oppose Palestinian Bid For Statehood


Saying that there is “no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades” between Israelis and Palestinians, President Obama said today he would oppose a Palestinian bid for statehood. His speech this afternoon to the United Nations General Assembly was distinctly in contrast to last year’s when he called for an “independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel” that would be recognized by the UN, and to a May speech in which Obama called on Israelis and Palestinians to seek a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. Obama acknowledged this change of focus, saying:

One year ago, I stood at this podium and called for an independent Palestine. I believed then – and I believe now – that the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own. But what I also said is that genuine peace can only be realized between Israelis and Palestinians themselves. One year later, despite extensive efforts by America and others, the parties have not bridged their differences.

Seeking to strike a careful balance, Obama called on the international community to support a resumption of negotiations about the four “intractable ‘final status’ issues” that have troubled peace negotiations since 1979: what the borders of a Palestinian state would be; issues of security for Israel; what will be the status of Palestinian refugees who have left or have been forced to leave their homes in Israel; and what will be the fate of Jerusalem, claimed by both sides for their capital.

Palestinians have said that it is precisely due to the lack of progress made in years of peace talks that has led them to seek recognition from the UN. Support for a Palestinian state is indeed high in the General Assembly. After Obama spoke, French President Nicholas Sarkozy called for a resolution to upgrade the Palestinians to “observer status” as a step towards statehood; he also requested a one-year timetable for Israeli-Palestinian peace, with talks to resume in a month, an agreement about borders and territory to occur in six months and, in a year, a final deal to be made. Sarkozy also called for broader participation from Arab nations who had not been part of the process and warned the US that a veto of the Palestinian bid “risks engendering a cycle of violence in the Middle East.”

Obama is to meet with both Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, after the speech. The US president is expected to ask Abbas to give up his bid for formal UN recognition after he offers a formal letter of intent on Friday.

Palestinians have argued that full statehood, while largely symbolic, would enhance their status in peace talks. In Ramallah and Nablus in the occupied West Bank, Palestinians marched and schools and some businesses were closed in support of the call for statehood. Palestinians interviewed by Al Jazeera expressed surprise that Obama would actively seek to convince other countries not to support their bid for statehood:

Talking to Al Jazeera’s Gregg Carlstrom, senior Palestinian activist Mustafa Barghouti, also expressed his surprise over the US opposition.

“I think it is very strange that Obama will veto a bid for Palestinian statehood, when a year ago at the UN General Assembly he supported the idea,” he said.

“Palestinian statehood will create a new political situation where Israeli will be occupying another country.”

Should the Palestinian bid fail, Abbas can still ask the General Assembly for “enhanced observed status” such as the Vatican has and which cannot be vetoed.

While Obama’s statements on the Israeli/Palestinian issue were the most closely watched part of his speech, he also called for Security Council sanctions on Syria, which are said to be unlikely to happen; for a “peaceful transition of power from President Saleh” in Yemen; and for further reform in Bahrain, while noting that the US is its “close friend.”  US military efforts in Iraq and the planned “transition” in Afghanistan received only brief mentions and China and India none at all. The US’s commitments to HIV/AIDS, climate change, the global financial crisis and famine in the Horn of Africa were all affirmed but “no new initiatives were announced.”

The speech, says Foreign Policy, was  ”tailored toward avoiding controversy during an election season” and, indeed the “best demonstration possible for why the Palestinians decided to go to the U.N. in the first place.”


Previous Care2 Coverage

Palestinians Seek UN Bid For Statehood

Getting past blame on the Gaza flotilla disaster

Obama Says Democracy in Mideast is “Top Priority,” Calls for 1967 Borders for Israel

Photo taken September 17, 2011, by PSP Photos


Kenny West
Kenny W7 years ago

This could get the ball rolling, obviously the rest of the World doesn't agree with Israel and their attempts at making peace. Obviously Israel is looking for any excuse not to negotiate. I saw that with the way Israel balked at Obama's suggestion at returning to the 67 Borders (with mutually agreed land swaps), The latter part they leave out when suggesting that Obama has thrown Israel under the bus, Obama is a problem solver with intelligent solutions. I think he's had it with Israel. The only reason he is taking this course is because of Israel's influence in the US.

John J.
John J7 years ago

@ Ira H
Thankyou Ira - I looked up the Hamas Covenant and was completely stunned at what I found and more so when I found that the Fatah Constitution was very similar.
It seems to me that the Palestinians want to obliterate Israel and the existence of Israel is the problem

Lilithe Magdalene

@Morgan - I think it;s pretty clear that Israel is not going to take Palestine seriously until they are acknowledged by the UN. That's the whole point. Israel is being far from cooperative in talks. I am not pegging Palestine as guilt free, but the bully here is obviously Israel, and I am saddened and disappointed in Obama taking this stance in my name.

Lilithe Magdalene

@Morgan - I think it;s pretty clear that Israel is not going to take Palestine seriously until they are acknowledged by the UN. That's the whole point. Israel is being far from cooperative in talks. I am not pegging Palestine as guilt free, but the bully here is obviously Israel, and I am saddened and disappointed in Obama taking this stance in my name.

Frank Mugford
Frank Mugford7 years ago

Israel (better referred to as 'Nazirael, because that's what their government is, Fascist) is like an unruly extremely badly brought up teenager of the Eastern United States of Amnesia. Many of the past ruling hegemony were TERRORISTS and the present incumbent, netanyahu, doesn't give a damn what his parents think.
The Palestinians were told to behave, do the right thing and follow the code. So they did; they went to the ICC who ruled that the Wall is illegal. Israel couldn't give a toss.
We know that, a priori, the Palestinians have been severely abused for the last 60 years. Now, they present a case to the UN which, surprise! surprise! the US vetoes.
I always wonder why the discussion does not center around the UN Resolution 242 which is clear, unequivocal and passed by the UN.
Israel/Israelis in general are thieves and bullies; the settlers specifically are thieving, bullying and cowardly scum. Their day will come, in fact is coming.
Amazes me how so many people, who evidently espouse some sort of religious beliefs, can stand by and let this happen: if they believe in an after life, surely they must expect to be severely treated there.
I hope there is an after life (although don't believe in such things) because then, and there, I will accept punishments for my Worldly misdemeanours as long as I see bush, b.Liar, sharon, hitler, saddam etc., etc. getting their just desserts.

Huda G.
Huda G7 years ago

And Morgan G. you didn't answer my question. Why should the Palestinins settle for less than they want? Their land, houses, farms have been stolen from them.
They are denied the right to travel freely for education and work, being subjected to "Checkpoints" were they are treated really inhumanly. Many pregnant women in labour trying to get to the hospital to deliver have been stopped at these checkpoints, they are kept waiting resulting in stillborn delivery and death of the mother.
Israel is full of words, but things on the ground don't change.
The Palestinians have the same rights as any other Human they are just denied them

Morgan Getham
Morgan Getham7 years ago

And Huda G: How old are the maps you want us to look at? How about 50 A.D.? That would show one picture. That region has been in a constant state of flux, with land being occupied, for probably at least 3,500 years (or more). Going back to a single arbitrary date is difficult unless the parties involved are willing to agree on what the basis for beginning will be. THAT is what negotiation is all about. President Obama has suggested a very generous starting point for these negotiations. I suggest that both sides take him seriously and start TALKING right now.

Morgan Getham
Morgan Getham7 years ago

No way around it. These two have to sit down and work it all out. THEN once they have made mutually satisfactory guarantees, they can both come together at the United Nations and pledge to support the goals of peace that that organization espouses.

As long as the groupo seeking UN recognition does not even have effective civil control of all its territory (i.e., Gaza), and attacks from its territory on Israel are still taking place on a routine basis (and vice verse, it is too early to talk about an enforced two-state solution. It must be a NEGOTIATED solution that gives everybody a little less than they wanted but something they can live with. Once they can live together, it's time to try again on this.

Huda G.
Huda G7 years ago

Jews have a right to live where they want. WHAT THEY DO NOT HAVE is the RIGHT to STEAL peoples land and houses. In any country before land is exchanged the person who owns the land agrees with the person who wants to buy the land the conditions of SALE. The agreed money is then exchanged, papers are singed and the land is transferred. This is accepted aroung the world. It is not accepted that a person just "moves IN, kicking the owner out"
Look at old maps see how the land has been taken, how the security wall has divided communities, peoples farms!!
I would not be able to live in peace with my neighbour if he has STOLEN my house, my land etc
People ONLY live in PEACE when they are respected, when they are allowed to live.

Thomas A.
Thomas A7 years ago

Well, killing each other, avenging this and avenging that, solves no problems and only puts their peoples in danger. None of it matters anymore. Deeds are done; people have died on all sides in vain. Continuing the pattern of behavior solves no problems.

There are two facts that the Middle East needs to get a grip with:

1) Nothing any Arab nation can do will make Israel go away.

2) Nothing Israel can do will make Palestinians go away.

It no longer matters who is where and where they came from. The fact remains that there are homes, villages, communities and businesses established. There is no appropriate solution except to draw a line and live peacefully within it: Palestinian statehood.