Our view: Better to bolster the Palestinian Authority than terrorist Hamas

5:08 p.m. EST, November 29, 2012

Over the strenuous objections of the U.S. and Israel, the United Nations General Assembly voted today to grant nonmember observer status to a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. The U.N. action, which was widely anticipated, was largely a symbolic move that does nothing to change the situation on the ground or lead to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. But it does raise international pressure on Israel to show it is serious about reaching a negotiated settlement, while allowing Palestinian Authority PresidentMahmoud Abbas to claim a historic advance in his people’s quest for global recognition.

Both the U.S. and Israel would have preferred for the issue of Palestinian statehood to have been resolved through direct negotiations between the two parties involved, and they continue to view Mr. Abbas’ U.N. effort as an end run around the peace process laid out in the 1991 and 1995 Oslo accords. But Israel now needs to rethink how it will deal with Mr. Abbas’ West Bank-based Palestinian Authority in a way that strengthens his position against the rival Hamas-led government in Gaza and avoids a new upsurge in violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

Mr. Abbas has argued that his government needed U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem before he could resume negotiations with Israel, and that the world’s recognition of the 1967 lines as the basis for borders of a Palestinian state will rescue a peace process that has been stalled for years. Israel claims that any attempt to define the borders of the new state that doesn’t come out of direct talks between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators will be null and void and will doom the peace process.

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