The Palestinian campaign to upgrade their diplomatic status at the United Nations is a train wreck in the making.
The question is: how bad will the smash-up be?
The worst-case scenario is that the Palestinians will seek full recognition, forcing the United States to use its veto power as a permanent member of the Security Council to avert calamity.
That would immensely complicate — perhaps completely undercut — the ambiguous and largely thankless role that America is trying to play in the Middle East and North Africa, where the democratic promise of the Arab Spring is being threatened by numerous factors, including the rise of religious fundamentalists.
The only slightly less horrible alternative would be that the Palestinian Authority would circumvent the Security Council and go to the General Assembly, seeking a change in status from nonvoting "observer entity" to still nonvoting but more active "observer state."
As the Phoenix goes to press, the Palestinians appear to prepared to do both.
This would be bad news for Israel. Diplomatically, it will further isolate the Jewish state from the world at large and from the two Muslim states with which Israel has been closest: Turkey and Egypt.
Even before the Palestinians launched their latest divisive campaign, and even before Israel's unfortunate military clash at sea with a civilian Turkish vessel last year, the once-warm relations between Turkey and Israel were cooling.
Seeking energy sources for its expanding economy, Turkey has been tilting favorably toward Iran, a fundamentalist theocracy in favor of exterminating Israel. The fact that the Turkish government is becoming less secular and more Islamist is a further complication.
In search of new markets for its goods and services, Turkey has warmed up to Syria, another self-avowed enemy of Israel.
The situation with Egypt is similarly fraught with peril.
Much of the world may have understandably applauded the fall of the authoritarian Mubarak government, but it does not comprehend the slow rise and often hard-to-detect influence inside Egypt of the Muslim Brotherhood, the inspiration for Al Qaeda.
To say that this could be problematic for both Israel and the United States is to revel in understatement.
Also misunderstood were the recent Cairo riots and sacking of the Israeli embassy there. These were not an expression of solidarity with the Palestinians. Rather, they were an eruption of the deeply ingrained hate and hostility toward Israel that, sadly, still burns in too many Egyptians.
The hatred toward Israel is certainly a major factor, but what's going on in Egypt is as much the result of total frustration with the post-revolutionary process. The issue of unmet expectations will also cause enormous problems — and resultant violence — if the Palestinians achieve even observer-nation status. Just as in Egypt we are witnessing a counter-revolution of failed hopes, so too will the world witness a counter-revolution of despair among the Palestinians.
In so many ways, the situation today with Israel is what it was in 1948. Despite the widespread diplomatic recognition Israel has received, multitudes still question Israel's right to exist.
And within that mob sits Hamas, the internationally recognized terrorist organization that, together with the Palestinian Authority, constitutes the civil authority in Gaza and the West Bank.