Marco Werman: Of course, the outcome of the Palestinian bid at the UN isn't certain yet. As we mentioned earlier, the official request for membership will only be made tomorrow. David Rothkopf is a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. David, is there any chance that the Palestinians may step back in their bid for statehood?
David Rothkopf: Well, I think in the short term I suppose there is some chance, but right now the Palestinians have momentum on their side. What they may do is that they may raise the issue in the security council and leave it as an open question, which thus gives them the leverage to have it brought up at any time and may help them in negotiations. So, that may seem like it's stopping short of the brink of you know, full statehood recognition, but it actually gives the Palestinians a kind of edge.
Werman: You know, maybe you can remind us briefly why the US is opposed to the Palestinian declaration of statehood. I mean successive presidents including Mr. Obama had hoped publicly for statehood for the Palestinians.
Rothkopf: Well, the official line from the United States that the way to arrive at statehood is through direct negotiations with the Israelis, because the main impediment or fulfillment of the idea of statehood has to do with resolving border disputes, and more importantly I think, having the Palestinians acknowledge the Israelis right to exist. Having said that, perhaps in different circumstances President Obama would have embraced this Palestinian initiative and Palestinians even suggest that he encouraged them to it. But as US relations with the Israelis worsened and the Israelis then heightened their ties with the republicans, I think the president felt that he was politically exposed and has therefore sort of more vigorously than he otherwise might have embraced the status quo.
Werman: President Obama has often spoken about being on the right side of history in the context of the Arab Spring. Could the US opposition to Palestinian declaration of statehood become a problem for the US in terms of relations with the wider Arab world?
Rothkopf: I think it already is a problem in relations with the wider Arab world. President Obama raised expectations with that speech he gave in Cairo a couple of years ago, and since then he's been drifting back toward a traditional US position. He has not really moved forward the negotiations with the Israelis and the Palestinians; and in fact, recently you know, has moved closer to not just an Israeli position, but the Netanyahu government's position, which is quite intransigent and inflammatory. In fact, I think at this moment the US and the Israelis missed an opportunity which would have come to them had they embraced the Palestinian initiative, said yes, we recognize your right to statehood and now it's up to you to recognize us as you've resisted doing. That would've given them the edge and the upper hand. As it is, we're in a reactive position.
Werman: Right, I mean it is kind of unusual for Middle East politics that the Palestinians with this bid for statehood, they're taking the lead and the US and Israel seem to be following.
Rothkopf: I think the dynamic in Middle East politics has changed very, very dramatically and so, the Palestinians took the initiative on this. They've been driving the issue and the Israelis seeing them do that took the initiative with the US politics and used the lever of republican party criticism to move the president closer to them. Meanwhile, the Europeans like the French have been trying to move the Palestinian initiative forward. I think the US is at this particular moment in t he most reactive secondary role that it has ever been in modern Middle Eastern politics.
Werman: David Rothkopf, President and CEO of Garten Rothkopf, an international advisory firm in Washington, thanks very much for your time.
Rothkopf: My pleasure.
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