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A COLUMN DIVIDED: UN vote draws mixed reaction in US

Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 11:12

From the left: Mike McPhie

The recent vote of the United Nations general assembly to recognize an upgraded status for Palestine presents the United States with a complex challenge. On one hand, the U.S. has a vested interest in defending Israel’s safety and stability in a volatile region. As we move beyond the era of intervention in the Middle East, it is important to maintain our alliances in the region. On the other hand, it is in the best interest of the U.S. to support the action of the global community, especially with our influential role on the U.N. Security Council.


Historically, our strong alliance with Israel has been a key to our foreign policy in the Middle East. However, recent events have also expanded the possibilities for diplomacy. The United States was quick to join with Egypt in brokering the ceasefire following the recent violence and Secretary of State Clinton played a visible and important part in the negotiations. This provided a beneficial position for us to act as an objective mediator while reinforcing our relationship with Israel, who publicly expressed their appreciation for our ongoing support.


Beyond the interests of the United States, the fact that 138 nations voted for Palestine’s upgraded status while only nine opposed it signified a global attitude toward the situation. With much of the world behind it, the promotion is likely to help Palestine to be more effective in their negotiations with Israel. Although the U.S. and Israel oppose the change, it is possible this could actually help both sides to achieve their goal of a two-state solution.


More than likely the vote is more of a symbolic gesture, the effects of which won’t immediately change the tense relations in the area. The significance is that the debate has turned toward a global stage. While the United States has long played a large and often heavy-handed role in Middle-Eastern affairs, it is interesting to see Egypt, which itself was at war with Israel several decades ago, as the chief broker of a ceasefire. It is also interesting that the overwhelming 138-nation majority favored an upgraded status for Palestine. It is highly unlikely that Israelis and Palestinians will overcome their hostilities in the near future, but the larger attention of the world and United Nations will certainly change the nature of the relationship.


Ultimately, the United States should focus on maintaining its friendship with Israel while trying to step into a role of mediator and broker of peace. The ceasefire agreement shows our ability to wear both hats and the overwhelming backing of Palestine from the U.N. demonstrates the world’s interest in furthering this issue through diplomacy. The U.S. should use its position in the Security Council to pursue peace and an ultimate solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict derived from the mutual interests of the two parties.

– Mike McPhie is a senior from Toole, Utah, majoring in law and constitutional studies. During the spring semester, he interned in Washington, D.C. Send him comments at

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