Pres. Obama, Israeli PM Netanyahu, left, and Palestinian Pres. Mahmoud Abbas meet at the UN Sept. 22, 2009. (Charles Dharapak/AP)
As President Barack Obama prepares to address the United Nations later this month, a painful diplomatic failure of his administration looms: last year, speaking to the same UN General Assembly opening session, Obama voiced the hope that US-led diplomatic efforts would help achieve a negotiated agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians that would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state this fall.
"Each of us must choose the path of peace," Obama told world diplomats gathered in New York last September. "If we do, when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations — an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel."
As that deadline fast approaches, however -- Obama is set to address the UN General Assembly on September 20th, the White House said Thursday--the vision seems further away from reality than ever. Israelis and Palestinians have not even been at the negotiating table for eleven months. Meantime, the Arab spring uprisings have re-scrambled the political order of the Arab world, toppling early on a key Arab pillar of the peace process, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak.
Amid the ongoing tumult, Israelis have grown increasingly risk averse about their restive neighborhood. Meantime, the Palestinians, having lost confidence in Washington's peacemaking abilities, have vowed to go to the United Nations and seek unilateral statehood recognition this month, bypassing a negotiated agreement with Israel, against the strenuous objections of Washington and Israel.
Watching it all with growing unease are the Europeans, who have generally been relegated to a backseat role by Washington on Mideast peacemaking. But now, some diplomatic observers suggest that the Europeans may offer a way to avert a potential disaster on the issue: by introducing an alternative UN resolution that would recognize both Israel and a Palestinian state, living side by side, in peace, and calling for renewed negotiations.
Such diplomatic discussions are in their early stages and sensitive, given several factors. Among them: the Europeans have not yet arrived at a unified position on the issue among their 27-nation bloc; Palestinian plans are still in disarray; and because the Obama administration's public position--reflecting Jerusalem's--remains to adamantly reject that any sort of Palestinian statehood resolution should proceed at the United Nations at all.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy went public this week with his discomfort at European divisions on the matter, and voiced growing conviction that Washington is unable to lead Mideast peacemaking efforts on its own:Read More »from Plan B on Palestine at the UN? Europeans mull alternative resolution