Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says he will push for formal recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations Security Council on Friday — and acknowledged that "all hell has broken out against us" since he settled on that course. Indeed, this vote promises to be "one of the most momentous taken at the world body for decades," says Alex Spillius at Britain's Telegraph, "and arguably the most dramatic since it approved the creation of Israel in 1947." Here's a guide to the Palestinian statehood showdown:
What are the Palestinian Authority's options?
Abbas says he will seek full membership in the United Nations on Sept. 23, the same day both he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are scheduled to give speeches before the General Assembly. Only the Security Council can admit Palestine — composed of the Gaza Strip and West Bank — into the body as a full member, and the U.S. has vowed to use its Security Council veto to block that route. In that event, the Palestinians are likely to push the "Vatican option" — a vote before the veto-less General Assembly, probably by Sept. 30 — that would make Palestine a permanent non-member state, like the Holy See. Or the Palestinians could bypass the U.N. altogether and try to restart stalled negotiations with Israel.
Could Palestinian statehood pass the General Assembly?
The majority of Latin American countries have said they would vote yes, along with Islamic nations, says Andres Oppenheimer in The Miami Herald, so "the proposed motion is almost certain to pass by a comfortable majority of at least 120 votes." The PA says it has the backing of at least 126 nations — out of 193 total. Not so fast, says Erik Voeten at The Monkey Cage. We don't know the wording of the resolution, or how much the U.S. will strong-arm swing states, so "we can't at this point predict the outcome of the vote."
What's the advantage of gaining non-member state status?
First of all, it includes the important symbolic word "state" — the Palestinian territories would officially be an "entity." The designation would also give Palestine access to world bodies like the International Criminal Court. And "if a vast majority of states, including most of the powerful ones, vote in favor of a resolution that recognizes Palestine as a state," says The Monkey Cage's Voeten, "other entities are more likely to be persuaded by the claim of statehood."
What are the cons for Abbas?
If Abbas seeks full membership in the Security Council, the U.S. and Europe told him "matters will be bad," Abbas said Sunday. "To what extent, we will know later on." U.S. lawmakers have threatened to withhold all funds to the Palestinian Authority, and Israel has vowed retaliatory action, too. And after all this talk, if Abbas fails at the U.N., Israelis worry that disappointed Palestinians could lash out violently.
Is a more benign outcome possible?
None of those things need happen, nor should they, says Bloomberg View in an editorial. The U.S., E.U., Russia, and U.N. should convince Abbas to "issue an unequivocal statement — immediately after the General Assembly approves the resolution — supporting negotiations with Israel as the only way to create a Palestinian state." Indeed, everybody needs to calm down, says Wendy Chamberlain at Politico. The only consequence of the "largely symbolic" vote would be to make the Palestinians "feel more empowered in negotiations" with the much-more powerful Israel. Would that be such a bad thing?