The Palestinian bid to have the United Nations recognize a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood (upgrading Palestine to a “nonmember state” at the U.N., probably Thursday) should be subject to a simple litmus test: Does it bring the two sides any closer to peace? Unfortunately, the Palestinian leadership’s effort to circumvent direct negotiations and obtain statehood recognition without coordination with Israel is a setback for the cause of peace.
The simple fact is that Palestinian statehood without peace is a recipe for permanent conflict. A unilateral declaration of independence essentially disconnects the objective of peace from the obtainment of Palestinian statehood. This is not simply a new tactic on the part of the Palestinian leadership. It is an effort to turn the established framework for peace upside-down; to grab a prize (statehood) without having to compromise (with Israel); to claim the end result of the much ballyhooed “Middle East peace process” without having to engage in any process.
Until today, the world understood that Palestinian statehood could be feasible, and acceptable to Israel, if it was the result of a peace accord with Israel that settled all claims in the conflict. The current reckless gambit, however, ensures that Palestinian statehood will only sharpen conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and do so with Israel placed at a disadvantage.
That, of course, is exactly Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ purpose: To ratchet up the conflict. To escalate the Palestinian struggle against Israel. He is essentially threatening us with legal and political warfare, that could very well slide into actual conflict. He is, essentially, threatening us with war.
Abbas stood before the U.N. General Assembly in September, as if he were appearing before the International Criminal Court, and argued that Israel is guilty of numerous crimes, including ethnic cleansing, terrorism, racism, inciting religious conflict, apartheid, house demolitions, dispossession, imprisoning “soldiers of freedom,” war, occupation, settlement colonization, peace obstructionism and much more. These are all exact quotes. Israel is preparing a new “nakba” (catastrophe) for the Palestinians, he charged.
Consequently, Abbas declared, the international community must “compel the government of Israel to respect the Geneva Conventions” and “impose a solution” (a Palestinian state) on Israel.
Like the letter that Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad sent to Prime Minister Netanyahu in April, Abbas’ text mixes fact with fiction, is maximalist and threatening, and indicates no real desire to negotiate with Israel or make true peace with Israel — only to place Israel in the international dock of criminality.
The April letter and September speech also clearly outline the bogus diplomatic history on which the PA is basing itself and its strategy going forward. The language used is manipulatively taken directly from the texts and discourse of international law. The PA “seeks the full and complete implementation of international law” to criminalize and penalize Israel’s presence “as an occupying power in all of the occupied Palestinian territory.”
The International Criminal Court is getting ready to play along with the PA’s strategy. The ICC’s new prosecutor, the Gambian-born Fatou Bensouda, has said that “if Palestine is able to pass over the hurdle of statehood (by U.N. General Assembly recognition as a nonmember state), we will revisit what the ICC can do” about prosecuting Israel for war crimes against the Palestinians. The ICC, she said, will not need to wait for another Palestinian request to begin investigating Israel. (In other words, the original 2009 Palestinian Authority request to join the Rome Statute is enough to give the ICC jurisdiction to investigate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at its discretion.)
So Abbas is spitting in Israel’s face and rejecting the very foundations of the only-realistic, internationally-recognized, pathway to peace: Negotiations with Israel that settle the conflict and lead perhaps to Palestinian statehood on terms acceptable to Israel. It is simply scandalous that France, Britain, Spain and others are lending a hand to Abbas’ reckless and destructive attack on Israel and the peace process.
In taking this route, Abbas is, of course, conveniently ignoring the historical record: That former Israeli prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert generously offered the Palestine Liberation Organization a state on 100 percent of Gaza and on more than 90 percent of the West Bank with additional land swaps inside the Green Line — and this was rejected by PA leaders.
Abbas’ treacherous maneuver also seeks to obscure that plain fact that the PA is far from being ready for or deserving of statehood. Palestinians are irreparably split between the Hamas terrorist regime that controls Gaza and the Fatah-led PA which controls the West Bank. The PA itself has been a nasty, irresponsible and hostile neighbor to Israel, unwilling to take responsibility for, or cooperate with Israel in so many vital civilian areas, from water and waste management to the sharing and development of archaeological/religious sites. It also is an “authority” that uses anti-Semitic television broadcasts and official events to demonize Israel.
There is absolutely no indication that if the PA becomes a “state” it will be any more neighborly to Israel. Just the opposite is true; it will become ever-more belligerent. In such a situation, how dare the international community foist this new, warlike “state” upon Israel?!
Ramallah’s current path could very well lead to violence, further empowerment of extremists, or even the PA’s demise. What is needed to avoid this is a renewed multilateral effort to the proven combination of state-building, security cooperation and direct negotiations without preconditions.
The international community should be encouraging the Fatah leadership to favor concrete gains on the ground over symbolic, questionable and dangerous gains in the international arena. In short, responsible Western leaders should be dragging Abbas down from his rancorous perch high up in the trees of Ramallah, and voting down tomorrow’s proposal at the U.N.