Money time in the Israeli-Arab game

As the playing field for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict looks set to move from Washington to the UN, Obama and Netanyahu must realize that in order to continue playing, they need to present a clear game-plane fast.

United Nations 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
United Nations 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Israeli-Palestinian game has reached the “money time.” The players are exhausted. Some of them, like US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, have even stopped playing in order to join his family. Everyone knows the Washington playing field well, and each player has tried every possible trick, but it looks as if no one can score anymore.
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But as they say in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, “it is not over until it is over.” Perhaps the game is simply being moved elsewhere, over to a new battleground with new rules. To the UN in New York, say. Such a move would mean new players with fresh ambition and energy. Suddenly, scoring looks more likely once again.
The new game to be played in the UN is called September 2011.  While the Israeli government is not a fan of the game, the international community knows that it is, in fact, the only one in town. From now until September everyone will have to play by UN rules.
US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu are struggling to find what to say in their upcoming speeches. Obama cannot realistically impose anything on the Israeli government while Netanyahu refuses to either recognize Hamas or freeze settlement building. But if they do not play by the new UN Assembly rules, they are doomed to fail. So both leaders will need to present a new strategy for progress in the months leading up to the UN General Assembly
There are several possible scenarios as to how September 2011 will play out, but all of them end in the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The most likely scenario is that 130 countries will vote in favor and 35 will vote against declaring a Palestinian state along 1967 lines.
The other possibility is that at least 170 countries will vote in favor of declaring a Palestinian state that will use the 1967 borders only as a basis. This will mean that Israel and Palestine will enter negotiations regarding land swaps.
Obama and Netanyahu decide on one of the above options. Failing that, a third, more threatening, option could potentially emerge: 170 countries will support the establishment of a Palestinian state delineated by 1967 borders with no negotiations whatsoever. The only countries that would object it would be the United States and Israel. Oh, and let’s not forget the Solomon Islands and Micronesia.
So Obama and Netanyahu, if you decide you want to stay in the game, now is the time to face Congress armed  with a clear and viable game-plan.
The writer, a former chargé d’affaires in Turkey and ambassador to South Africa, was director-general of the Foreign Ministry between 2000 and 2001. Today he lectures at Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University and the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya.