Late this month, leaders of the Palestinian Authority are expected to issue a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) and ask, in the words of PA foreign minister Nabil Shaath, that it receive "the blessing of the U.N."
That blessing will not come from the U.N. Security Council: If the Palestinians ask for approval from that body, President Obama is expected to exercise the American veto, though he has not unequivocally pledged to do so. He should — for reasons I will attempt to explain in a moment.
In the General Assembly (GA), however, blessings almost certainly will be bestowed through the passage of a non-binding resolution. The GA has a permanent anti-Israeli (and anti-American) majority. More than 50 U.N. members also belong to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Many other nations are eager to please the OIC's oil exporters — and not displease its terrorism exporters.
The GA does not have the power to grant statehood in any legal sense. Nor can it admit new U.N. members. The idea, as Shaath phrased it, is simply "to exert pressure on Israel."
For what purpose? Shaath's goal, and that of his boss, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, is not what Obama and other Western leaders favor: a Palestinian state and a Jewish state living side by side in peace. On the contrary, as Shaath said clearly: "The story of 'two states for two peoples' means that there will be a Jewish people over there and a Palestinian people here. We will never accept this." Last weekend, Abbas added: "Don't order us to recognize a Jewish state. We won't accept it."
What they would accept instead is international recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1949 armistice lines — the point at which armies from the Arab states surrounding Israel were stopped after they refused, for the first time, to accept a "two-state solution" and launched a war, the first of several, intended to wipe Israel off the map. Note well: The UDI does not acknowledge Israel's right to exist even on its side of the 1949 lines — not in Tel Aviv or Haifa or Eilat (where terrorists attacked last month, taking advantage of the deteriorating security situation across the border in Egypt).
In other words, Shaath and Abbas see the establishment of a Palestinian state as a means, not an end. They believe that a widely recognized Palestinian state can better demonize and de-legitimize Israel, harnessing such institutions as the International Criminal Court and energizing the ongoing BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanctions) campaign.
The truth is that despite years of peace processing, handshakes, and agreements, Palestinian leaders — those we call moderates quite as much as those we call extremists — remain intent not on a two-state solution but on a two-stage execution: Israel is to be weakened and then annihilated. From 1949 to now, the strategies have changed but not the goal.
The Palestinian state Abbas and Shaath envision would be, to use the apt German word, judenrein, ethnically cleansed of Jews. Meanwhile, they hope, the international community will exert pressure on Israel to accept a "right of return." The opening of Israel's doors to Palestinian refugees, their descendants, and their relatives would leave Jews as a minority in Israel. They would then enjoy the same minority rights that the Bahai enjoy in Iran, Christians enjoy in Pakistan, and other religious minorities enjoy in other OIC states. That is to say, they would enjoy no rights. Those who could emigrate, would do so. Some, perhaps a very large number, would be killed. A remnant might remain as dhimmis — most accurately defined as a permanently submissive, oppressed, and humiliated minority.
Many Western leaders choose to disregard these facts. That may become more difficult to do following GA approval of the UDI. At that point, terrorist attacks on Israel are likely to accelerate. Abbas has said he wants peaceful protests, not an armed intifada (the third if you're keeping count). But if Hamas and Hezbollah add fuel to the fires, Israel will have no choice but to respond. Another war will be the result.
Those Europeans who are reflexively supporting Palestinian unilateralism and rejectionism will bear some responsibility for the carnage — though don't expect them to shed salty tears. Instead, assuming Israelis successfully defend themselves, the Europeans will once again charge them with carrying out a "disproportionate response."
There is still time to prevent this — if there is the will to do so. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, announced last weekend that she will introduce legislation cutting off U.S. taxpayer funding to "any UN entity that grants membership or any other upgraded status" to the Palestinians following GA approval of a UDI.
President Obama could do much more. To start, he could make a strong statement explaining why unilateralism must be opposed and why negotiations must be resumed. He could order a diplomatic surge — instructing American ambassadors to advise our allies in Europe and our aid recipients elsewhere that he will view a vote for the UDI with extreme disfavor.
At the very least, he could, as my colleague Jonathan Schanzer recently argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, push for a revised UDI, one that would make international recognition of a Palestinian state contingent on Palestinian recognition of the Jewish state — with borders to be established through negotiations rather than terrorism or the rulings of international entities controlled by the OIC and openly hostile toward Israel.
Is that not the outcome that American presidents, Democratic and Republican alike, have for decades worked to achieve? Does President Obama really want history to record that, on his watch, it all crashed and burned?