President Obama has one job area where he gets good marks, relatively speaking. Not particularly high marks but the positive side is higher than the negative. For the life of me, I’m not sure why, but that’s the way it is. That area is foreign policy.
But that could take a but of a hit soon if what is afoot in the UN comes to pass:
The Obama administration has initiated a last-ditch diplomatic campaign to avert a confrontation this month over a plan by Palestinians to seek recognition as a state at the United Nations, but it may already be too late, according to senior American officials and foreign diplomats.
The Palestinians apparently see the Third World Debating Club, also known as the UN, as a venue to increase their power within the UN and use it to leverage their fight against Israel.
A General Assembly vote (the US has said it would veto a Security Council vote) would change the dynamic of the relationship the Palestinians now have with the UN. The US does not have the votes to block a General Assembly okay, which means:
…a vote by the General Assembly to elevate the status of the Palestinians’ nonvoting observer “entity” to that of a nonvoting observer state. The change would pave the way for the Palestinians to join dozens of United Nations bodies and conventions, and it could strengthen their ability to pursue cases against Israel at the International Criminal Court.
Oh happy days. That would certainly make the region more stable, no?
Of course, the Obama administration’s efforts at peace talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis is, as the New York Times charitably describes them, are “moribund”. In fact, they’ve been an abject failure, partially because of the treatment Obama has meted out to Israel during his tenure. Relations have been strained at times to say the least. And this latest move by the Palestinians makes the situation even more difficult:
Senior officials said the administration wanted to avoid not only a veto but also the more symbolic and potent General Assembly vote that would leave the United States and only a handful of other nations in the opposition. The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss diplomatic maneuverings, said they feared that in either case a wave of anger could sweep the Palestinian territories and the wider Arab world at a time when the region is already in tumult. President Obama would be put in the position of threatening to veto recognition of the aspirations of most Palestinians or risk alienating Israel and its political supporters in the United States.
The solution? Well, apparently the administration is trying to revive talks between the two because they seem to believe that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has said he’d forego the vote for substantive talks.
But the key here is to be found in the last sentence of the cited paragraph above. And it all has to do with politics. Either way, it seems Obama is screwed. Unless he can find an alternative both sides accept (talks) he is going to definitely alienate one side or the other and their supporters as well. In the US that means the Jewish voting bloc that provides him much funding or the left who’ve been Palestinian state supporters for years. In the Middle East, the veto would be seen as the US again interfering and Obama would become just as “loved” as George Bush was.
The chances of getting talks moving again? Probably not so good:
“If you put the alternative out there, then you’ve suddenly just changed the circumstances and changed the dynamic,” a senior administration official involved in the flurry of diplomacy said Thursday. “And that’s what we’re trying very much to do.”
Efforts to head off the Palestinian diplomatic drive have percolated all summer but have taken on urgency as the vote looms in the coming weeks. “It’s not clear to me how it can be avoided at the moment,” said Ghaith al-Omari, a former Palestinian negotiator who is now executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine in Washington. “An American veto could inflame emotions and bring anti-American sentiment to the forefront across the region.”
While some officials remain optimistic that a compromise can be found, the administration has simultaneously begun planning to limit the fallout of a statehood vote.
And fallout there will be regardless of what the US does.
It could also come to haunt Obama domestically as his action (or inaction) will indeed rebound on him negatively in one or the other parts of his base. The one area in which he gets decent marks may soon be in the cellar with all the rest.