P.J. Crowley: U.S. is in no position to stop UN General Assembly recognition of Palestinian State

P.J. Crowley, former State Department spokesperson who recently resigned after criticizing detention conditions for Private Bradley Manning, accused of leaking classified U.S. military and cables to Wikileaks, has just spoken to Salon.com about his Twitter activity. The interview is posted here.

Here is what he said concerning expected Palestinian moves to seek UN recognition of their state:

Question: Jumping over to Israeli-Palestine, the Palestinian Authority is now talking about going to the U.N. in September, either through the Security Council or the General Assembly, and seeking recognition as an independent state. News reports suggest that the Obama administration has tried to dissuade them, but it seems like they’re going forward. How do you think the [U.S.] administration would handle that move if the Palestinians do try to do this?

P.J. Crowley: Well if the Palestinians go to the United Nations General Assembly in September to seek some kind of recognition, the United States is in no position to stop it. We don’t have a veto in the General Assembly. The real question is, will it make any difference? And the answer is no. The administration has long held that this move would be not productive and probably counterproductive for the Palestinian cause. That has been our advice to the Palestinians publicly and privately, and I don’t see that changing. There’s still time to try to get a direct negotiation restarted, but there’s little evidence that there’s the kind of productive dynamic between President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu that would give a lot of hope. There are speeches coming up — the prime minister is coming to the United States to talk to Congress. Secretary Clinton has indicated the president may give an address on the situation sometime soon, but the real problem is not a [lack of] desire by the United States to push this forward, the problem really is the lack of any rapport between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority that would give you any hope of progress.

Question: Even if President Obama gives a speech, are you expecting to see any sort of major initiative from the administration on this, or do you think they’re in a holding pattern?

P.J. Crowley: My personal view is that Prime Minister Netanyahu, recognizing that a Palestinian move at the U.N. in September would put Israel in a difficult political situation, has to be the first to try to change perceptions of where things are now. He may try to do that in his upcoming address in the United States. A lot of people are pointing to his speech here, but if he’s actually going to put on the table a dramatic move, he would do that before his own people, not before the American people. I personally don’t see any immediate prospect for a breakthrough.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates visits Ramallah, hears about Palestinian statehood plans

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited Ramallah today, during a trip in an exceptionally tense period to the region.

According to a report in Haaretz, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told Gates that Israel should end the occupation of the West Bank by September.

Almost two years ago, Fayyad announced plans to have the institutions of Palestinian statehood ready by September 2011.

In recent months, with the negotiations towards a two-state solution at a stalemate, Palestinian officials in Ramallah have spoken about going to the United Nations to begin preparations to request admission to UN membership of a new state of Palestine.

The Haaretz report, published here, “Fayyad stressed to Gates the importance of meeting the September deadline set in what he called the ‘Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State’ program, a statement issued by the premier’s office said. According to this two year program, by the end of August the Palestinians would have completed building their state institutions and enforced security on the ground, to allow them to establish their independent state. Fayyad told Gates that Israeli restrictions are obstructing Palestinian efforts to build their state institutions. He also said that Israel’s settlement expansion and military incursions into Palestinian Authority-run cities in the West Bank caused problems”.

Israeli officials are saying that a unilateral Palestinian move would be catastrophic, because it would bring a strong Israeli reaction — but, since they are now convinced of the urgent necessity for any solution to be a two-state model, it’s hard to understand their aversion to the Palestinian leadership’s planned moves — except as a compulsive need to maintain control.

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