With the approaching Palestinian Authority bid to seek statehood at the UN this month, many commentators are discussing the event and erroneously describing the Palestinian move as ‘unilateral’.
See for instance here where Matthew Yeglesias, a man whose work I look forward to reading , writes – ‘Ever since the unilateral declaration issue was floated…’ I believe this to be a simple error on Yeglesias’ part, I don’t believe he has an agenda to serve, in the same sense as I believe Jeffrey Goldberg does, when he too claims this undoubtedly multi-lateral move, to be ‘unilateral‘ – ‘But American opposition to this unilateral declaration…’
To clarify the issue, the Palestinian Authority are going to the United Nations next week, seeking statehood, through the process of a vote among the nations of the world. This is text-book multilateralism as it involves ‘more than two nations or parties
In fact how much more ‘multi-lateral’ can you get than going to an arena involving all the worlds nations and seeking to win a vote? By contrast a perfect definition of unilateral can be found in the history books of the Israeli state. On 14th May 1948, Zionists led by David Ben-Gurion unilaterally declared statehood (often incorrectly referred to as a declaration of independence – which is a misnomer because there existed no Israel to liberate).
Indeed prior to their unilateral declaration, Zionists had contacted the American administration of Harry Truman to seek recognition post declaration, as Chaim Weizmann admitted
“I strengthened our contacts with our friends in Washington, and affirmed my intention of going ahead with a bid for recognition of the Jewish State as soon as it was proclaimed.”
Heres the difference. Zionists unilaterally declared statehood in 1948, then sought recognition from the US, which Truman hurriedly gave. By contrast the Palestinian Authority, before declaring statehood, are taking their case to the nations of the world at the UN and seeking to win statehood through the process of a vote – Multilateralism. The rather self-evident hypocrisy on view by some folks who oppose this move by the Palestinian Authority would require a seperate thread in itself. I hope this clears the issue up.