Arab American Institute founder and President James Zogby tell Newsmax the Obama administration committed a “fatal error” in the run-up to the looming United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood.
As an Arab-American, Zogby is a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause and a critic of the Israeli government. He asserts that the administration got caught up in the “Israeli hysteria” over the vote, and says the U.S. should view the vote as a “door opener” to peace negotiations.
Zogby is also a senior analyst with his brother John’s polling firm, IBOPE Zogby International. His books include “Arab Voices: What They Are Saying to Us, and Why it Matters.”
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, Zogby explained why the Palestinians are now pressing for United Nations recognition as a state.
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“There are several reasons,” he says. “Number one, Israel was the result of a U.N. vote and the Palestinians feel that the appropriate venue is coming back to the U.N. to create the other half of the equation that the U.N. authorized back in 1948, and that is the state of Palestine that never came into being. It might be late, but there’s no time like the present.
“The second is because Palestinians have lost faith in the negotiating process. When [the Oslo Accords were] signed in 1993, there were 263,000 settlers in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Today the number is 505,000 and growing. So the negotiating process has not stopped this aggressive expansion into the West Bank at all.
“Finally, because the leadership has lost credibility with a negotiating process that has not succeeded. The option is either to step down and resign, and in effect terminate the [Palestinian] Authority, or to continue a violent resistance, both of which they reject. The third option: Let’s go back to the world body and see if we can alter the dynamic by creating some kind of world pressure that says to the Israelis, get serious.
“The leadership needs a morale boost at home because they’re losing ground with their people, who are saying 20 years of negotiations and what have you got us? The answer is nothing. That’s why it’s happening now.”
Asked what he believes President Obama should be saying to the Israelis and Palestinians, Zogby responds: “From the very beginning what he should have said to the Israelis is, this will be over. Don’t get excited. We’re going to stand with you. We support your security.
“But Palestinians need this and you need the Palestinian Authority to be strong so that they can maintain security, so they can be a partner for peace. Don’t kill your partner. Let them have this vote. He could have done that and talked them down.
“And to the Palestinians he should have said, I understand what you’re trying to do, and I understand what your needs are. But let’s work with us to come up with language that says that this resolution of your right to a state sets the framework for negotiations, and build it into the resolution. That could have been done weeks ago.
“Instead, we got caught up in the Israeli hysteria. We got caught up in the game of trying to block it and come up with something other than it so that there’d be negotiations.
“The Palestinians needed something. We could have given them something and we didn’t, and therein lies I think the fatal error we made.”
As to whether the U.N. vote will hurt the peace process, Zogby declares: “There isn’t a peace process.”
He adds: “What the Palestinians understand is that the U.N. resolution can give them the right to statehood, but at the end of the day they have to negotiate how to implement that right. So they’re not closing the door to negotiation. We should rather see a U.N. vote as a door opener to a more balanced negotiating process.”
Zogby predicts the resolution regarding Palestinian statehood could likely be “sat upon” when it reaches the Security Council, and never come to a vote.
The Palestinians could also send the resolution to the General Assembly for a symbolic vote. Does such a vote matter, Zogby was asked.
“Yes it does, because if the Palestinians even get a nonmember state status like the Vatican or Kosovo, that would be an important victory. It would give the Palestinian leadership something to go home with.
“It would be at least a symbolic victory that would give them some standing in the world community.”
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