It may just be because with Obama in the White House the Palestinians recognize they have the best chance they’ll ever have to force their way into statehood, but the formal request for recognition of statehood today by Mahmoud Abbas at the U.N. was a really odd way of going about it.
Especially since Hamas, which was elected to rule the Gaza Strip, wasted no time decrying Abbas’ action since he didn’t call for the destruction of Israel.
Now, Hamas didn’t put it that bluntly—that would be completely impolitic (as opposed to mostly), and the Palestinians, especially their late leader Yasser Arafat, have a history of saying one thing in English so as to assuage Western fears, while saying something very different to their own people. No, they rejected his action because he accepted the 1967 borders (or the pre-1967 borders, depending which paragraph you read from the news articles, but they’re so close it doesn’t seem to matter for the point). The decried that the 1967 borders would leave 80% of Palestinian lands within Israel.
Now the West Bank and Gaza Strip, i.e., the lands that would make up the Palestinian state, have a combined land area of roughly 6,000 square kilometers, while the state of Israel has 22,072 square kilometers. 6,000 is about 20% of 30,000, which, if you’re just being polemical, roughly means that Hamas sees all Israeli territory as legitimately Palestinian. (6,000 is 20% of 30,000; while 22,072 + 6,000 = 28,072, which make 80% a rough estimate for Hamas purposes.)
This isn’t a surprise, of course, Hamas has been dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state since its founding, but to be so blunt just as Abbas is making the most impressive, direct, bold request for formal international recognition really shows that they’re less interested in compromise on Israel’s right to exist than Obama is on economic liberty.
But even Abbas’ request was really ill-timed. Sure, Obama is the POTUS, but his party just lost a special Congressional election (NY-09) that revealed significant fissures in his support among Jews, and even Obama wouldn’t be so bold as to leave Israel hang out to dry in so provocative a manner… It’s too… blunt and decisive, I think are the terms. Sure, Obama called for Israel to return to the 1967 borders back a few months ago, but he didn’t really *mean* it as a matter of policy, just as a matter of pandering (if only to himself). And I’m sure he didn’t appreciate being put on the spot so definitively, having to make it clear that the U.S. will use our veto on the Security Council to block the formal request for recognition. That was very gauche of them, really.
No, the only way forward for Palestinian statehood is through peaceful negotiations with Israel, the actual sovereign government of the lands in question. And perhaps a first step could be halting the random rocket launches over the wall. Just a thought.