PALESTINIAN LEADERS TO SEEK THE U.N.’S BLESSING
Clifford D. May
National Review, September 1, 2011
Late this month, leaders of the Palestinian Authority are expected to issue a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) and ask, in the words of PA foreign minister Nabil Shaath, that it receive “the blessing of the U.N.” That blessing will not come from the U.N. Security Council: If the Palestinians ask for approval from that body, President Obama is expected to exercise the American veto.…
In the General Assembly (GA), however, blessings almost certainly will be bestowed through the passage of a non-binding resolution. The GA has a permanent anti-Israeli (and anti-American) majority. More than 50 U.N. members also belong to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Many other nations are eager to please the OIC’s oil exporters—and not displease its terrorism exporters.
The GA does not have the power to grant statehood in any legal sense. Nor can it admit new U.N. members. The idea, as Shaath phrased it, is simply “to exert pressure on Israel.”
For what purpose? Shaath’s goal, and that of his boss, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, is not what Obama and other Western leaders favor: a Palestinian state and a Jewish state living side by side in peace. On the contrary, as Shaath said clearly: “The story of ‘two states for two peoples’ means that there will be a Jewish people over there and a Palestinian people here. We will never accept this.” Last weekend, Abbas added: “Don’t order us to recognize a Jewish state. We won’t accept it.”
What they would accept instead is international recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1949 armistice lines—the point at which armies from the Arab states surrounding Israel were stopped after they refused, for the first time, to accept a “two-state solution” and launched a war, the first of several, intended to wipe Israel off the map. Note well: The UDI does not acknowledge Israel’s right to exist even on its side of the 1949 lines—not in Tel Aviv or Haifa or Eilat (where terrorists attacked last month, taking advantage of the deteriorating security situation across the border in Egypt).
In other words, Shaath and Abbas see the establishment of a Palestinian state as a means, not an end. They believe that a widely recognized Palestinian state can better demonize and de-legitimize Israel, harnessing such institutions as the International Criminal Court and energizing the ongoing BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanctions) campaign.
The truth is that despite years of peace processing, handshakes, and agreements, Palestinian leaders—those we call moderates quite as much as those we call extremists—remain intent not on a two-state solution but on a two-stage execution: Israel is to be weakened and then annihilated. From 1949 to now, the strategies have changed but not the goal.
The Palestinian state Abbas and Shaath envision would be, to use the apt German word, judenrein, ethnically cleansed of Jews. Meanwhile, they hope, the international community will exert pressure on Israel to accept a “right of return.” The opening of Israel’s doors to Palestinian refugees, their descendants, and their relatives would leave Jews as a minority in Israel. They would then enjoy the same minority rights that the Bahai enjoy in Iran, Christians enjoy in Pakistan, and other religious minorities enjoy in other OIC states. That is to say, they would enjoy no rights. Those who could emigrate, would do so. Some, perhaps a very large number, would be killed. A remnant might remain as dhimmis—most accurately defined as a permanently submissive, oppressed, and humiliated minority.
Many Western leaders choose to disregard these facts. That may become more difficult to do following GA approval of the UDI. At that point, terrorist attacks on Israel are likely to accelerate. Abbas has said he wants peaceful protests, not an armed intifada (the third if you’re keeping count). But if Hamas and Hezbollah add fuel to the fires, Israel will have no choice but to respond. Another war will be the result.
Those Europeans who are reflexively supporting Palestinian unilateralism and rejectionism will bear some responsibility for the carnage—though don’t expect them to shed salty tears. Instead, assuming Israelis successfully defend themselves, the Europeans will once again charge them with carrying out a “disproportionate response.”
There is still time to prevent this—if there is the will to do so. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, announced last weekend that she will introduce legislation cutting off U.S. taxpayer funding to “any UN entity that grants membership or any other upgraded status” to the Palestinians following GA approval of a UDI.
President Obama could do much more. To start, he could make a strong statement explaining why unilateralism must be opposed and why negotiations must be resumed. He could order a diplomatic surge—instructing American ambassadors to advise our allies in Europe and our aid recipients elsewhere that he will view a vote for the UDI with extreme disfavor.
At the very least, he could…push for a revised UDI, one that would make international recognition of a Palestinian state contingent on Palestinian recognition of the Jewish state—with borders to be established through negotiations rather than terrorism or the rulings of international entities controlled by the OIC and openly hostile toward Israel.
Is that not the outcome that American presidents, Democratic and Republican alike, have for decades worked to achieve? Does President Obama really want history to record that, on his watch, it all crashed and burned?
(Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.)
THE PALESTINIANS’ U.N. AGENDA
Alan M. Dershowitz
Wall Street Journal, September 13, 2011
As Egypt and Turkey increase tensions with Israel, the Palestinian Authority seeks to isolate the Jewish state even further by demanding that the United Nations accord Palestine recognition as a “state” without a negotiated peace with Israel. President Mahmoud Abbas described his playbook for seeking U.N. recognition while bypassing the step of negotiating a two-state solution: “We are going to complain that as Palestinians we have been under occupation for 63 years.”
What exactly happened 63 years ago? The U.N. recommended partitioning the former British mandate into two states: one Jewish, the other Arab. Israel and most of the rest of the world accepted that partition plan, and Israel declared itself the nation-state of the Jewish people. The United States, the Soviet Union and all the great powers recognized this declaration and the two-state solution that it represented.
The Arab world unanimously rejected the U.N. partition plan and the declaration of statehood by Israel. The Arab population within Israel and in the area set aside for an Arab state joined the surrounding Arab nations in taking up arms. In defending its right to exist, Israel lost 1% of its population, many of whom were civilians and survivors of the recent Holocaust. Yet the current Palestinian leadership still insists on calling the self-inflicted wounds caused by its rejection of a two-state solution the “nakba,” meaning the catastrophe.
By claiming that the Palestinians “have been under occupation for 63 years” (as distinguished from the 44 years since the Arab states attacked Israel in 1967 and Israel occupied some lands of the invading nations), the Palestinian president is trying to turn the clock back to a time prior to Israel’s establishment as a state based on the U.N.’s two-state proposal. In other words, the push for recognition by the U.N. of Palestine as a state, based on Mr. Abbas’s complaint that the Palestinians have been under occupation for 63 years, is an attempt to undo the old work of the U.N. that resulted in Israel’s statehood 63 years ago.
Mr. Abbas’s occupation complaint also explains why he is so adamant in refusing to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. Every Arab state is officially a Muslim state and yet, as in 1948, none of them is prepared to accept the permanent existence of a state for the Jewish people in the Middle East. Certainly some, including the Palestinian Authority, are prepared to mouth recognition of Israel as a state, so long as the so-called right of return remains for four million so-called refugees who, if they were to return in mass, would soon turn Israel into yet another Arab state.…
If the General Assembly recognizes Palestine as a state without the need to negotiate with Israel, it will, in effect, be undercutting many of its own past resolutions, as well as many bilateral agreements reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Such recognition would set back the prospects for a negotiated peaceful resolution and would encourage the use of violence by frustrated Palestinians who will gain nothing concrete from the U.N.’s hollow action but will expect much from it.
We saw what happened when the Palestinian people came close to achieving statehood in 2000-’01—a prospect that was shattered by Yasser Arafat’s rejection of the Clinton-Barak peace plan. Arafat’s rejection, which even the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. at the time, Bandar bin Sultan, later called a “crime” against the Palestinian people, resulted in a bloody intifada uprising among Palestinians in which thousands of Palestinians and Israelis were killed. The U.N. will be responsible for any ensuing bloodshed if it stokes the flames of violence by raising Palestinian expectations while lowering the prospects for a negotiated peace.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged the Palestinians to return immediately to the negotiating table without any preconditions.… The job of the U.N. is to promote peace, not to retard it. So instead of discouraging negotiations by promising recognition, the U.N. should be demanding that the Palestinian leadership and the Israeli government begin negotiations immediately without any preconditions. That would be a positive step.
THE TIME ISN’T RIGHT FOR STATEHOOD BID
Montreal Gazette, September 8, 2011
Any negotiated resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—as part of wider Arab-Israeli peace and reconciliation—should be based on the principle of two states for two peoples living side by side in peace and security. Accordingly, a premature, unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood would undermine rather than resolve the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and would constitute a standing affront to the integrity of the United Nations, international agreements and international law.…
On July 27, [Canadian] Prime Minister Stephen Harper dismissed a unilateral declaration of statehood by the Palestinians as “a very unhelpful development.” He said a two-state solution should be predicated on “mutual recognition, including recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.”
What has gone largely unnoticed is that opposition to the proposed unilateral declaration has recently come from disparate—and unlikely—Arab and Palestinian leadership. First, the secretary-general of the Arab League, Nabil Al-Arabi, said the statehood bid “could be a very dangerous move for the Palestinians during this period.” Second, Hamas leadership—which presumably would be part of a proposed Palestinian state—has called the whole exercise a “sham.” Third, the Palestinian team responsible for preparing this initiative has been given an independent legal opinion—by its own counsel—that argues against such an initiative and warns of the serious risks involved to the Palestinian people, a position echoed by Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
These declarations opposing UN recognition of a unilateral Palestinian statehood bid—whether they emanate from western political leaders or from Arabs and Palestinians themselves—can be said to be anchored in a series of foundational principles and related precedents of international law, including:
-Such a unilateral declaration would undermine all accepted international frameworks for peace, such as UN Security Council resolutions 242, 338, and 1850; the Roadmap for Peace; and various statements by the Quartet (the UN, the U.S., the European Union and Russia), all of which call for a mutually negotiated and agreed-upon resolution of the conflict while rejecting unilateralism.
-It would violate existing Israeli-Palestinian bilateral agreements, most notably the Oslo II agreements, which state that “neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the Permanent Status negotiations” (Article 31).
-While the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement was signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, it was witnessed by the UN together with the EU, the Russian Federation, the U.S., Egypt and Norway. It would be highly inappropriate for such witnesses to now authorize a UN measure that would effectively violate this agreement, while undermining major resolutions of the UN Security Council and the Quartet itself.
-Such a unilateral declaration would unravel the institutionalized legal and administrative framework that underpins existing Israeli-Palestinian relations, which include bilateral arrangements in over 40 spheres of civilian activity, and which serve as a basis for economic, legal and security co-operation.
-Such premature and precipitous recognition—which would prejudice, rather than enhance, Palestinian rights and Palestinians’ legitimate claim to statehood—might well precipitate new and violent confrontations. Palestinians’ aspirations will be frustrated rather than realized.
-If such UN unilateral recognition were to take place while Hamas is the ongoing authority in Gaza, in partnership with Fatah, it would effectively constitute recognition of Hamas—a terrorist organization outlawed in Canada, the U.S. and European countries—while Hamas continues to reject the basic requirements of the international community, such as recognizing Israel’s right to exist, forswearing terrorism and accepting previous international agreements.
-The Palestinian Authority does not yet meet the traditional test for statehood—particularly the test of effective government, effective representation, control over a defined territory and adherence to the rule of law. A premature and unilateral recognition of an “unripe” Palestinian state could have a prejudicial effect on other regional conflicts.
Only an immediate return to direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians—based on the principle of mutual recognition of two states for two peoples—will invite the establishment of a just and lasting peace.
(Irwin Cotler is MP for Mount Royal
and a former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada.)
TIME TO FACE REALITY IN THE MIDDLE EAST
FrontPage, September 9, 2011
The idea that conflicts between peoples can be resolved by diplomatic negotiation has frequently been a dangerous delusion. Duplicitous states bargain in bad faith, using the process to buy time and mask their aggression. States unwilling or unable to use force will make diplomacy an excuse to substitute words for deeds. Too often, as historian Robert Conquest wrote about Cold War diplomacy with the Soviet Union, “since diplomats’ forte is negotiation, they believe negotiation to be good in itself.… But the Soviets did what their interests required when the alternative seemed less acceptable, and negotiation was merely a technical adjunct.”
The 60-year-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs is the textbook example of the dangers of insincere diplomatic negotiation. The latest phase of that struggle is the threat of the Palestinians to ask the U.N. Assembly to change their status from non-voting observer “entity” to non-voting observer state. “The change,” The New York Times writes, “would pave the way for the Palestinians to join dozens of United Nations bodies and conventions, and it could strengthen their ability to pursue cases against Israel at the International Criminal Court.” The United States has threatened to veto such a move if it comes before the Security Council, which unlike the Assembly can grant full U.N. membership as a state. Thus the U.S. is furiously lobbying other states in order to head off a move that could, according to the director of the American Task Force on Palestine, “inflame emotions [in the Middle East] and bring anti-American sentiments to the forefront across the region.…” A United States veto, former ambassador to Israel Martin S. Indyk agrees, “will provoke a Palestinian awakening” and incite “new violence” for which “we will be blamed.”
One has to wonder what world these diplomats live in. They seem to think that the conflict is one merely of achieving Palestinian statehood, and that negotiating to that end will resolve the dispute and bring peace to the region. They’re worried about the Palestinian move in the U.N. because it will end negotiations with Israel, negotiations that have been fruitless for decades, and that have done nothing to stem the terrorist violence perpetrated by Palestinians who want to destroy Israel, as the charter of Hamas makes explicit. Nor has the allegedly “moderate” Palestinian Authority negotiated in good faith over the years, turning down numerous opportunities to achieve a state because of an “all or nothing” attitude. Moreover, agreements that have been negotiated have merely encouraged the P.A. to demand more and more concessions from Israel.
Barry Rubin outlines this dismal history of the wages of bad-faith negotiation: “Since 1993, the Palestinian Authority has made several agreements with Israel. In exchange for being handed control over the Gaza Strip and much of the West Bank; billions of dollars in aid; the supply of weapons; the return of tens of thousands of Palestinians to these territories; and many other benefits, the PA promised to do various things in return. These include an end to incitement to kill Israelis; stopping terrorism; and negotiating in good faith for a comprehensive agreement.” Yet the P.A. has not fulfilled any of these promises for which it received such concessions. Indeed, as Rubin continues, “Since Hamas attacked Israel with rockets and mortars setting off a war in December 2008, the PA has refused to negotiate with Israel. When President Barack Obama in September 2009, announced he wanted to hold direct talks in Washington, the PA refused. In 2010, when Israel, at the request of President Barack Obama, froze all construction on settlements for nine months, the PA again wouldn’t talk.” Clearly, negotiation is a tactic to be used depending on circumstances, and the P.A. believes at this moment that the U.N. is a better avenue for achieving its aims than is engaging in talks with Israel.
As for that famous “peace treaty” with Egypt often touted as proof of the possibilities of a negotiated settlement, the fall of Mubarak is making it increasingly clear that it was merely a 30-year cold truce purchased with the Sinai’s oil fields and the $2 billion a year in U.S. aid. Now with Mubarak gone, the border with Gaza is open to weapons, and the Sinai is a launching pad for terrorist attacks like the one a few weeks ago that killed eight Israelis.
The historical experience of negotiation to end the Israeli-Arab conflict is clear: concessions negotiated by Israel are met with violence and intransigence, just as the Oslo Agreement of 1993, which handed over control of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority, was followed the rest of the decade by attacks that killed 256 Israeli citizens and soldiers. For those with eyes to see beyond the false promise of a negotiated “two-state” settlement, the explanation is obvious. The goal of most Palestinians is not two states living side-by-side in peace; rather, the goal is the same as it was in 1947, when the Palestinian state created by U.N. resolution 181 was rejected and followed by war––the destruction of Israel.…
Instead of trying to head off the U.N. vote or calling yet again for futile “peace talks,” the U.S. needs to cast off the delusions of a negotiated two-state solution, and act on the basis of reality. We could start by making it clear to the Palestinians that further intransigence will result in the cut-off of U.S. aid, which (including contributions to the U.N.’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestine) has averaged $800 million a year.…
“It is easy enough,” [Robert] Conquest wrote, “to fall into the trap of thinking that others think, within reason, like ourselves. But this trap is precisely the error that must be avoided in foreign affairs.” The dismal history of the Middle East gives us ample evidence that we have fallen into that trap for decades, compromising our own national interests and putting at risk the security of a valuable ally. It’s long past time that we made policy based on reality instead of on our own delusions.