Palestinian bid for statehood at the U.N. this month will be a disaster for the U.S., Israel . . . and the Palestinians
Dear Friend of Israel, Friend of FLAME:
When the U.N. starts up on September 20, one of its first items of business will be the long awaited and much feared attempt by the Palestinian Authority (the P.A.) to have the U.N. declare a Palestinian state, bypassing negotiations with Israel.
Any way you look at it, this action is ill fated. At best it is destined to make the Middle East a less secure place, at worst, it could trigger a conflagration of epic proportions---between Israel and the Palestinians . . . and among the Palestinians themselves.
First, let's make clear, as we have in previous posts, that the U.N. is extremely unlikely to declare a legitimate Palestinian state, since that would require confirmation by the Security Council, in which the U.S. has, and will surely exercise, a veto. But while the General Assembly cannot legally declare a Palestinian state, the specter of 100-plus nations voting for it would have disastrous PR ramifications for Israel.
In any case, the declaration of a Palestinian state would necessarily define borders that neither Israel nor the Palestinians are ready to accept. It would also preclude the Palestinians insisting, as they have for half a century, on the so-called right of return of descendents of refugees from Israel's War of Independence. In addition, numerous Palestinians have called for violence following any such a declaration. It's doubtful that whether the Palestinian Authority, even with Israel's help, would be able to control, say, thousands of Palestinians marching on West Bank settlements.
What's more, dozens of U.S. legislators have said they will move to cut off some $800 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority if the P.A. bypasses negotiations with Israel and takes its case unilaterally to the U.N. Even the head of the Arab League, Nabil El Araby, has called on the P.A. to rethink its U.N. folly: "This unilateral appeal to the U.N. Security Council and U.N. General Assembly could be a very dangerous move for the Palestinians during this period, and I propose that [President] Abbas reconsider the handling of the matter."
No wonder President Obama has launched a last-minute---and frankly pathetic---plea to the Palestinians to abandon their U.N. gambit. Unfortunately, if Obama hasn't been able to convince Abbas by now, it's unlikely such desperate, eleventh-hour groveling will help.
This week's FLAME Hotline gives you more details on why the Palestinians' cynical U.N. ploy is completely disingenuous and how this impending disaster is likely to affect Israel. The article below, by commentator Barry Rubin, will prepare you to help friends and colleagues understand the implications when the momentous Palestinian statehood battle explodes in the U.N. in just a few weeks.
On a personal note, I admire your diligence in keeping up to date on current events in Israel and its position in the Middle East and the world. However, as you know, it's just as important for others to stay abreast. For this reason, I urge you, using the Forward to a Friend button below, to pass along this week's FLAME Hotline to your friends, family, and colleagues.
Please remember that we are front-line activists in the public relations effort to communicate the facts of the matter to the American people. Israel needs increasing numbers of us spreading the truth . . . today. Won't you spend just 5-10 minutes, as you're able, to support Israel again this week?
Why Supporting Unilateral Palestinian Independence Is a Deadly Mistake
Marwan Barghouti, under a life sentence in an Israel prison, has said that if the United States vetoes a unilateral Palestinian statehood proposal at the UN, there will be massive riots. To underline the point, he called such a decision a "historic, deadly mistake."
When he says, "deadly," he means it. Indeed, Barghouti, the leader of the Fatah grassroots' (Tanzim) organization on the West Bank, is in prison precisely because he organized massive deadly riots after the Palestinian Authority (PA) rejected a compromise peace with Israel that would have given them a state in 2000. In other words, they're intransigent and then start a war when they don't get everything they want.
It's the basic tactic in the terrorist playbook: Give me everything I want so I can better destroy you in the long run or I will kill you in the short-run.
And it is encouraged by the basic tactic often used by Western governments: We feel your pain, understand that you are a victim, and will give you as much as possible. Those concessions are rejected and then more are demanded.
This doesn't make sense to most Western observers: Aren't the Palestinians desperate for a state and to end a terrible "occupation?" In fact, though, Israel pulled completely out of the Gaza Strip six years ago this month and the Palestinian Authority (PA) has now governed almost all West Bank Palestinians for the last 17 years.
In fact, the PA is not in a hurry to negotiate a deal for several reasons.
First, the moderates in the PA are very weak compared to the radicals who still run Fatah, its ruling party. Second, the PA is still competing with revolutionary Islamist Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip in a race to prove its militancy. Third, almost nothing has been done to prepare the Palestinians for a compromise peace and two-state solution alongside Israel. Finally, most Palestinian leaders still think that total victory and Israel's extinction is possible, desirable, and just. Many in the West—whether intentionally or not—encourage that last belief by hostile policies and beliefs regarding Israel.
That doesn't mean Israel is willing to give everything or that its policies are perfect. But the mood in Israel today, and for the last dozen years or more, is ready—even eager—for a lasting, stable two-state solution. The differences over borders and other issues can be argued at the negotiating table and are possible to resolve in a genuine exchange of compromises and concessions on both sides.
But 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.
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.
Instead, the PA came up with a new strategy, why negotiate a compromise agreement with Israel when it could go to the UN and be handed an independent state without having to make any concessions? No need to reach a deal with Israel over borders, refugees, east Jerusalem, security guarantees, agreeing that the conflict is completely finished, or recognizing Israel as a "Jewish state" (the Palestinian constitution says that Palestine will be an Arab and Muslim state), just get a vote in the General Assembly!
This, of course, is not a solution to the conflict but a way of avoiding a negotiated solution to the issue. It is not a way to end the conflict but to ensure that the conflict continues and more lives are lost on both sides.
The underlying problem is that the PA and its allies among Arab and Muslim-majority states want to wipe Israel off the map. If they want a Palestinian state on the basis of an agreement with Israel that goal could be accomplished within months. But because such a peace arrangement would block the advance toward the ultimate goal it is undesirable.
But suppose that the UN did agree to recognize Palestine as a state, meaning that the Security Council approved and the General Assembly voted to do that? Immediately, the state of Palestine would have no incentive to reach a deal with Israel. Instead, it could do things like trying to import weapons from abroad; allow Arab armies to send forces onto its soil, and even allow cross-border terrorist attacks on Israel. In the Gaza Strip, Hamas, a terrorist group that openly calls for genocide against Israel and all Jews, would be in effect part of an internationally recognized government.
If Israel then responded to any attack, the state of Palestine would go to the UN, declare Israel to be the unprovoked aggressor, and the automatic majority in the General Assembly would back it up no matter what the facts. The possibility of real negotiations, much less a peace treaty, would be set back for years. And in a region increasingly heading toward revolutionary Islamism in many places, a deteriorating security situation overall plus this new development would bring war.
Far from helping the situation, then, the UN gambit is likely to lead to less peace, no hope of a negotiated settlement, and more bloodshed.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and Middle East editor and featured columnist at PajamasMedia.