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US support for Mahmoud Abbas's UN bid for Palestine could save two-state solution (+video)

Mahmoud Abbas hopes to save his legacy with a bid to have the UN effectively recognize a state of Palestine. Opposition from the US and Israel is self-defeating, as the collapse of Abbas's leadership would also spell the end of a two-state solution, as well as its greatest champion.

COMMENTARY: Stephen Walt analyzes the many complex and vitally important issues underlying US-Middle East policy as part of the American Conversation Essentials series.
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As Gazans sift through the wreckage caused by Israel’s eight-day bombardment that ended in last week’s ceasefire, Palestinians are shifting their attention to two new controversies this week. As Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas was preparing for his historic statehood bid today at the United Nations, workers began exhuming the body of his late predecessor, Yasir Arafat, to allow doctors to perform an autopsy. While there may seem to be little connection between Mr. Abbas’s UN bid and Arafat’s exhumation, both events reveal a great deal about the current Palestinian leadership.

More than a year after Abbas’s initial request to the Security Council for full membership in UN, where it has languished in bureaucratic purgatory ever since, Abbas is returning to the UN to ask the General Assembly to upgrade the status of Palestine to that of a non-member state. Yet Abbas’s decision to go to the UN is not the product of a broader strategic vision but rather the lack of one.

Having tethered his political fate to the sinking ship of a US-sponsored peace process, Abbas has no place left to turn. Two decades of “peace processing” not only failed to bring Palestinians a state but have left Israel’s occupation more deeply entrenched and Palestinian institutions weaker and more divided than ever. The recent violence in Gaza has only highlighted Abbas’s impotence and growing irrelevance in Gaza, even as his West Bank authority teeters on the verge of financial collapse.

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