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Palestinian statehood: What does the PA expect to achieve at the UN? | ISR


By Moshe Machover

ON SEPTEMBER 23, Mahmoud (Abu Mazen) Abbas, “president” of the Palestinian “Authority,” appeared before the United Nations general assembly and, to the great acclaim of the majority of delegates, made a bid for the admission of the “state” of Palestine as a member of that organization.

I have put three words above in quote marks, for good reason. First, although Abu Mazen is often addressed politely as “president Abbas,” his official title is “chairman of the Palestinian National Authority” (in Arabic there is some ambiguity, as the word ra’is can mean both “chairman” and “president”). In any case, even his entitlement to this title is dubious: he was elected as chairman in January 2005 for a term of four years, which expired in January 2009; but he has remained super-glued to his seat.

Second, the so-called Palestinian Authority (PA), of which he is (or was) chairman, is devoid of any real authority. Its main role is to keep the Palestinian people under control on behalf of Israel, and to engage with the latter in desultory negotiations in an endless “peace process” (of which more anon).

Third, the so-called state for which he was demanding UN membership is non-existent: much less than a state, it is not even a Bantustan, but more like a series of disconnected Indian reservations, and likely to remain so for the foreseeable ­future.

In response to Abbas, Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, made a speech in his prime poisonous style, vehemently opposing Palestinian UN membership and inviting the PA instead to negotiate. This was seconded by US president Barack Obama, who, in an utterly one-sided speech, denounced the Palestinian bid as “one-sided” and, as expected, promised to veto it in the Security Council. The invitation to negotiate was echoed by Catherine Ashton on behalf of the European Union.

In this article I propose to explain the background to this international charade and the motives of the various actors in it.


Moshé Machover is a mathematician, philosopher, and radical socialist activist, noted for his writings against Zionism. Born to a Jewish family in Tel Aviv, then part of the British Mandate of Palestine, Machover moved to Britain in 1968. He was a founder of Matzpen, the Israeli Socialist Organization, in 1962. He is author of numerous articles, including, with Akiva Orr, the groundbreaking 1969 analysis, “The Class Character of Israeli Society,” which was republished in ISR 23. This article first appeared on the UK paper, the Weekly Worker, on September 29.