This afternoon, the United Nations General Assembly passed a motion to grant the Palestinians recognition as a "non-member" observer state. Previously, the Palestinian Authority held "entity" status. They now hold non-member status, a standing similar to the Vatican.
U.S. and Israeli officials warn that this move will delay peace in the region. According to Reuters, today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the Palestinians that they would not win true statehood until they recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland, declare an end to their conflict with Israel and agree to security arrangements that protect Israeli citizens. Netanyahu stated, "The resolution in the U.N. today won't change anything on the ground. It won't advance the establishment of a Palestinian state, but rather, put it further off."
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns made a personal appeal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas yesterday, promising that the President would resume his role as a mediator next year if Abbas abandoned the effort to seek statehood. The Palestinian leader refused, calling the push for statehood an "investment in peace."
In July of this year, Congressman Fitzpatrick co-sponsored H.R. 1592, a bill which would limit U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority if they chose to unilaterally declare statehood. The bill would prohibit assistance to the Palestinian Authority from being expended if the President certifies to Congress that the Palestinians unilaterally declare a Palestinian state.
On the topic of Palestinian statehood, Fitzpatrick declared, "I want nothing more than to see an independent Israeli state and a Palestinian state living side by side in peace. However, this two state solution requires direct negotiations between the two parties involved. This move today does nothing to accomplish that goal."
The Palestinian push for statehood comes only days after rocket fire came to a halt along the Israel-Gaza border. This month, Hamas launched several hundred rockets into Israel from the Gaza strip. Israel responded by initiating Operation Pillar of Defense to take out key terrorist targets. An official ceasefire was reached on November 21.
Fitzpatrick concluded, saying "despite the ceasefire, there is still great turmoil and uncertainty in the Middle East. Israel is one of America's closest allies. We must do all we can to protect our friend, and prevent those who oppose peace from getting stronger and more destructive."