Initial responses to speeches by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu at the United Nations, September 23, 2011.

ABBAS SPEECH

Abbas posed the perennial Palestinian question to the delegations assembled in New York: Is there one people too many or one state too few?

Several days ago President Obama gave as clear a response as any American president has ever provided to this question: The Palestinians will remain an occupied, dispossessed and stateless people unless and until Israel chooses otherwise, and the United States will use all of its resources, and any means necessary, at any cost, to ensure that Israel remains in control of the Palestinian people.

Today, the General Assembly, with its repeated applause and standing ovations during Abbas's address, gave a very different answer to this question. More importantly, it exposed the underlying fallacy that Washington's views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are in any way representative of the international community. Today, the international community expressed its views in the most visible manner possible. They presented a vision of Israeli-Palestinian peace on the basis of Palestinian statehood and self-determination that is, for all intents and purposes, diametrically opposite to the agenda emanating from Washington. Indeed, the international community demonstrated that it claps and cheers to a rather different tune than does the US Congress.

The Palestinian priority must now be to work systematically and ceaselessly towards the internationalization of the Palestine Question, in all of its dimensions, and end the American monopoly on Middle East diplomacy once and for all. The American role is hopelessly compromised to the point of being politically as well as morally bankrupt, and its record is one of systematic failure.

For Palestinians, this is the only meaningful path towards self-determination.

NETANYAHU SPEECH

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's speech demonstrated precisely why Palestinians need to internationalize their cause and definitively break away from bilateral negotiations under American custodianship.
 
Consider Netanyahu's call for negotiations without pre-conditions. In practice this means not a single right accorded to the Palestinian people by the United Nations and international law forms a relevant basis for the resolution of the conflict. At the same time Israel - several decades after negotiations have commenced - is free to raise entirely new and outrageous demands, the latest being the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, as pre-requisites for agreement. If the only thing he has to offer in 2011 is negotiations without preconditions, we can reasonably assume his successor will be making a similar plea in 3050.
 
Rather than endorse or even acknowledge the will of the international community as repeatedly proclaimed in United Nations resolutions, Netanyahu attacked the international consensus in a pitiful display of demagoguery: The Gaza Strip enjoys total freedom, settlements are not relevant enough to be a nuisance, and Palestine is and has always been the exclusive preserve of its people. And to prove it all, he found a ring with his name on it. As might be expected, those who even slightly demur from this patently nonsensical narrative were denounced as Nazis determined to exterminate the Jews.
 
Netanyahu lost no opportunity to delegitimize the Palestinians, their rights and aspirations, and did so with a characteristic display of vulgarity. Netanyahu lecturing and hectoring about Israel's right to forever control the destiny of the Palestinian people admittedly elicits ecstatic responses in the US Congress.  As we saw today, however, the international community is much less impressed by such rhetoric.