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Palestinian 'Head of State' at the U.N. -- Get Ready for the Statehood Steamroller

The United Nations showed its hand this week and sent out a provisional list of speakers for the opening session of the General Assembly in September listing the speaker from “Palestine” as “H.S.” or Head of State. 

Everybody knows that U.N. goings-on concerning anything Israel-related are about as crooked as it gets. But the much talked-about Palestinian statehood bid threatened for September is being sold as a test of legitimacy. So much for that bill of goods.

In the past, the speaker from Palestine has been given the title in the speakers’ list “H.L.” or High Level – short for high level delegation – precisely because Palestine is not a state member of the United Nations. Though the Palestinians themselves have put a cover page on their speeches that labels Mahmoud Abbas “President of the State of Palestine,” the U.N. has, until now, resisted following suit.

Not this year, however. Negotiations are out. U.N.-imposed solutions on Israel are in.

The U.N. founding document – the U.N. Charter – promises the equality of states “large and small.” But in reality, Islamic states and their cronies form an automatic General Assembly majority. In 2010, for example, this meant 78% of all the Assembly resolutions condemning any of the 192 U.N. members for human rights violations were directed at Israel alone.

To date, the U.N. has pretended that the parties themselves must take responsibility for recognizing each other; dozens of U.N. resolutions and the U.N. Middle East Roadmap pay lip service to the necessity of negotiations. After all, negotiations require a willingness to live in peace and acceptance of the other party’s existential rights.

But that has never gone down very well in the Palestinian and larger Arab world and the U.N. has been their safety net for any and all excuses for a six decade rejection of a Jewish state. 

Some Palestinians put it more clearly than others. As co-founder of Hamas and member of the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip, Mahmoud al-Zahar, declared on July 29: “we are not going to accept Israel as the owner of one square centimeter because it is a fabricated state."

The Palestinian unilateral declaration of statehood without negotiations is most likely to play out in some combination of U.N. bodies. The guessing at this point is that the Palestinians will go first to the Security Council demanding full U.N. membership in order to embarrass the president and force an Obama veto and then will proceed to the General Assembly for a statement of support. This course will not result in official U.N. membership, since a Security Council blessing is required for that, but additional trappings of statehood will – they hope – have been endowed.

Though the Obama administration is pretending they have little control of the Palestinian Authority or Mahmoud Abbas and company, it is clear that the Palestinians are proceeding apace because they have not been presented with sufficiently negative consequences. Obama isn’t leading from behind. He is hiding in the bushes.

His shyness is partly a consequence of the fact that a U.N. end-run around a negotiated settlement challenges his administration’s foreign policy yardstick of multilateralism at virtually any cost. He joined the U.N. Human Rights Council and gave it American credibility knowing that half of its resolutions and decisions on specific states are dedicated to Israel-bashing. 

It waited for Security Council approval to do something about Colonel Qadaffi’s threatened genocide – a delay proving more costly by the minute. 

It has handled Syrian butchery by waiting for tepid noises from the Security Council. 

It put Iranian nuclear non-proliferation in the hands of U.N. entities that have no hope of preventing an Iranian nuclear bomb. So U.S. objection to U.N. action to undercut Israel – yet again – presents a problem for this president.

The U.N. understands that very well, as do the Palestinians. So why not jump the gun on “Head of State”? American taxpayers pay 25% of the U.N. bills and the costs in 2010 represented a whopping 21% increase over the fiscal year 2009. The Palestinians see nothing but a president unwilling to put an end to their gravy train. 

Without a major pushback, steamroller here we come.

Anne Bayefsky is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute and director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust.

Anne Bayefsky is director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust. Follow her on Twitter @AnneBayefsky.