1. A yes vote does not protect the two-state solution. Ahtisaari and Solana assert that the two-state solution is "under attack" by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Although Netanyahu may have made errors in his diplomacy, their account is an inversion of the facts of the past two-and-a-half years, during which Netanyahu has repeatedly endorsed the two-state solution and invited the Palestinians to join in negotiations -- from his Bar-Ilan speech in June 2009 to his speech before U.S. Congress this May.
The authors' accusation that Israel has undermined the potential for negotiations because of the "steady expansion of Israeli settlements" is also wrong. The Netanyahu government has not approved the construction of a single new West Bank settlement; moreover, according to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, the actual number of West Bank housing units approved under Netanyahu (2,830) is half the number approved under the previous government of Kadima Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (5,126).
2. The statehood bid
will not protect Europe's investment in a Palestinian state. Yes, the Europeans
invested more than $6.6 billion in the Palestinian Authority in the Oslo
era. But a Palestinian "victory" at the United Nations would imperil,
rather than validate, the European investment. If, as a result of the U.N.
resolution, the Palestinian Authority chooses to go it alone, without economic
and security cooperation with Israel, the chances it'll collapse are far more
likely than the chances it'll survive, let alone thrive. Should that happen,
Europe's considerable investment in Palestinian institutions will disappear.
3. President Abbas's state-building achievements will not be helped by his U.N. bid. As April's International Monetary Fund report on Palestinian state-building makes clear, not only was virtually every aspect of the impressive progress achieved by the Palestinian Authority made possible by Israel, but future progress will require even more Israeli cooperation. "To maintain the growth momentum, rebalance the composition of output, reduce regional disparities [i.e., Gaza compared with the West Bank], and accelerate the state-building process, it is essential for [Israel] to phase out all restrictions as soon as possible," the report noted. Prospects for such cooperation are likely to vanish if the Palestinians opt instead to go it alone.
The Palestinians deserve support and encouragement for their efforts, but it is self-defeating to support a poison-pill plan for U.N. recognition that could destroy their practical partnership with Israel. The entire state-building enterprise may collapse with the hardening of positions -- and the potential violence -- the U.N. initiative will produce. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who is chiefly responsible for the practical achievements of recent years, has restrained his enthusiasm for Abbas's U.N. effort. As Fayyad himself told an Israeli interviewer, "We want a state of Palestine, not a unilateral declaration of statehood."
4. Voting yes at the U.N. won't protect European countries from charges of hypocrisy. Ahtisaari and Solana say they are afraid that rejecting the Palestinian statehood bid "would expose Europeans to charges of double standards" from Arab governments keen to respond to public opinion in the frenzied, post-Tahrir Square political environment. But the notion that Europe should undermine chances for a negotiated solution in order to avoid accusations of double standards from Arab regimes that either have opposed peacemaking at every turn (Algeria, Iraq, Syria) or excel at making promises that they never deliver (Saudi Arabia) is a sad but revealing sign of the direction of European foreign policy.
In fact, endorsing the Palestinian U.N. resolution will only feed a virus in Arab politics that this year's revolutions sought to remedy -- the virus of distracting domestic populations from the real problems facing their countries by demagoguery over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Already, as the recent mob attack on the Israeli Embassy in Cairo attests, Egypt's would-be inheritors of the revolution -- Islamist, nationalist, and liberal alike -- have settled on crude anti-Zionism as an easy alternative to debating the deep and systemic problems that country faces. If this virus is allowed to survive, another casualty will be the brave but imperiled freedom fighters in Syria, who are increasingly calling for international intervention to protect them from Bashar al-Assad's crackdown. They must be beating their chests in frustration, wondering what they need to do to attract just a fraction of the international attention that the Palestinians have received.
5. Supporting the Palestinian U.N. bid is not the price for maintaining close relations with Saudi Arabia. Europe's foreign-policy luminaries suggest that supporting the Palestinians' statehood initiative will advance European interests, such as "preventing jihadist terrorism, containing Iran, security [of] energy supplies and retaining markets for our exports." In other words, Ahtisaari and Solana are fretting that Saudi Arabia will take its business elsewhere if Europe rebuffs the Palestinians.
This fear was stoked by another New York Times op-ed by former Saudi ambassador to Washington Prince Turki al-Faisal, who warned the United States of "profound negative consequences" should the Obama administration oppose the Palestinian statehood bid. But neither America nor Europe should fall for the Saudis' bluff. Riyadh's greatest fear is the Iranian nuclear bomb, against which transatlantic cooperation on sanctions is a vital tool. The idea that the House of Saud would respond to sensible European efforts to promote a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian peace by punishing Europe, and even risking global efforts to stop Iran's nuclear progress, runs against both history and logic. From oil policy to counterproliferation, Riyadh usually acts on a cold calculation of national interest, not emotion or pique, and a disputed U.N. vote on the Palestinians is unlikely to change that pattern of behavior.