Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his far rightwing government have slapped President Obama in the face with mail gloves by refusing to extend the freeze on new colonies in the Palestinian West Bank. Palestine Authority president Mahmoud Abbas reaffirmed his refusal to go forward with direct negotiations if Israelis were going to be seizing land that was being negotiated for while the talks were ongoing!
President Obama has few options in forcing Netanyahu back to the negotiating table. The US Congress controls the purse strings, and Obama cannot punish the obstreperous Likud government by cutting aid or military weaponry, without the cooperation of Congress. Republican Eric Cantor has already pledged to run interference for Netanyahu in Congress, against Obama.
But there is one thing Obama has in his control. He can instruct the US ambassador to the UN to abstain from United Nations Security Council resolutions on Israel. Obama could simply let the UNSC be the body that forces Israel into accepting a two-state solution.
Israel is already in profound contravention of numerous UNSC resolutions, with regard to their refashioning of Jerusalem, treatment of Occupied Palestinians, the Gaza blockade, etc.
The UN Security Council should start giving Israel the Iran treatment, putting economic sanctions on it until it complies with international law and with UNSC resolutions.
Everyone is contrasting a Palestinian unilateral action such as declaring statehood with a bilateral negotiation with Israel.
But there is a third possibility,which is a multilateral process. By letting the UNSC assert itself on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Obama could achieve the main goals of his sponsored bilateral talks, even in the face of Israeli intransigence.
If push comes to shove, Obama should let the UNSC give Palestine a formal seat as a nation-state at the UN. Once Palestine is a recognized nation, it would have standing to sue Israel in international courts over the theft of Palestinian property.
Obama has nothing to lose in unleashing the Security Council on Israel. He is already being defied by the Israel lobbies,which will surely oppose his reelection bid in 2012.
The beauty of it is that Obama does not have to instruct the US ambassador to the UN to vote against Israel. A series of abstentions would do the trick.
The UN Security Council is now the last best hope for an equitable resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict. If Obama continues to curb it with regard to sanctions on Israel, then he will in essence be complicit in ensconcing an Aparteheid regime. (Anyone in doubt of the Apartheid analogy should read this.
Update: 26 former EU leaders have just called for European Union economic sanctions on Israel for its continued building of settlements on occupied Palestinian land.