Palestinian Unilateralism

Sep 12, 2011

I just got this note in my Inbox from the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston:

In a little more than a month, the Palestinian delegation to the United Nations will seek a unilateral declaration of statehood in the General Assembly. Israel and its friends around the world, including the United States, are urging the Palestinians to reject unilateralism. Only face-to-face negotiations will bring true peace.

In the letter, CJP uses “unilateralism” eleven more times to describe the Palestinian actions.

This has been the major talking point from pro-Israel groups for well over a year. Nothing should be decided “unilaterally”, i.e., outside the context of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. As a rhetorical strategy, the term is clearly coded pejoratively.

But, even so, it is very awkward term for this campaign, especially since the Palestinians have extensive global support for this move coming from multilateral organizations such as the Arab League and almost certainly from a majority of the United Nations General Assembly which is likely to support a move for expanded observer status should the vote come to it.

Furthermore, the concept of “Palestinian unilateralism” is probably a hard sell when well over three-fourths of the security fence/wall built (unilaterally) by the Israelis is located on the Palestinian side of the Green line.

Still, all of this makes me wonder about a much deeper and more perplexing question: would John Bolton support Palestinian unilateralism if the UN objected to it?

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Jon Western has spent the last fifteen years teaching IR in liberal arts colleges at Mount Holyoke College and the Five Colleges in western Massachusetts. He has an eclectic range of intellectual interests but often writes on international security, U.S. foreign policy, military intervention, and human rights. He occasionally shares his thoughts about professional life in liberal arts colleges. In his spare time he coaches middle school soccer, mentors the local high school robotics team, skis, and sails.