President Obama's policy towards the Israel/Palestine conflict has been one of avoidance and acquiescence to Israel. Over and over again Obama has rolled over to Netanyahu's demands, and the Israeli state continues to colonize Palestinian territory and brutalize its people.
In a desperate attempt to keep the dreams of a two state solution alive, the Palestinians are taking a request for statehood to the General Assembly at the United Nations. The international community is overwhelmingly in favor of a two state solution, and most of the major powers will vote for it - except for Israel and the United States. From the NY Times:
The United States faced increasing pressure on Tuesday as the Palestinian quest for statehood gained support from Turkey and other countries, even as the Obama administration sought an 11th-hour compromise that would avoid a confrontation at the United Nations next week.
With only days to go before world leaders gather in New York, the maneuvering became an exercise in brinkmanship as the administration wrestles with roiling tensions in the region, including a sharp deterioration of relations between three of its closest allies in the region: Egypt, Israel and Turkey....
“We all know that no matter what happens or doesn’t happen at the U.N., the next day is not going to result in the kind of changes that the United States wishes to see that will move us toward the two-state solution that we strongly support,” Mrs. Clinton said Tuesday. “The only way of getting a lasting solution is through direct negotiations between the parties, and the route to that lies in Jerusalem and Ramallah, not in New York.”
This would be all well and good if the US was actually committed to serious peace talks between the two warring factions. Sadly, it hasn't and the Palestinians have been taken to the cleaners by the ultra militant government in Israel. If anyone doubts the one sidedness of the negotiations, just browse through the WikiLeaks documents that give detailed accounts of Israel's bullying and the Palestinians desperation.
The United States could stop all that instantaneously. Israel's economy and military might is heavily reliant on the US, and if it wanted to, could stop Israel demolishing Palestinian houses, taking their land and bombing them into oblivion. But it hasn't, and it won't, so the Palestinians must do whatever they can to ensure their own survival. Declaring a state doesn't really mean much in the short term, but it does gives their cause more legitimacy. They can shame Israeli into abiding by international law without the usual excuse that it can behave as it likes because 'Palestine isn't even a country'.
The Palestinians are sick of waiting for America to play the honest broker and are taking matters into their own hands. The strategy may prove wrong headed, but right now, they have little choice.