Thursday October 8, 2015
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PM: Palestinians have much to lose from unilateral moves
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Minister Naftali Bennett

Abbas, let us buy your UN ticket

One of the most famous tales about Chelm is called "The Broken Bridge." The story goes, people would pass over the same bridge in Chelm, slipping and plunging some several meters below. So the wise men of the city congregated to find a solution. They decided to build a hospital underneath the bridge. According to their logic: We must fall down, so let's pay the price and deal with the problem later.

Over the past several years, a similar notion has become dominant in Israel. It says, "Anything but the U.N." Anything but The Hague. Each and every year the fright festival starts up all over again: If we don't do what the Palestinians want, they will head to the U.N., become a state and drag us to the The Hague over the actions of our government, the Israel Defense Forces and the settlers in Judea and Samaria. IDF officers won't be able to travel to France, Spain and England. Our government ministers will become wanted men and women in East Asia. Apparently, it's the Palestinians' doomsday device. A certain former defense minister once gave it a name: diplomatic tsunami.

So the time has come to alter the concept. A doomsday weapon it is not -- it is simply an empty gun. There is a good reason why the Palestinians have yet to become members at The Hague or the U.N., and it is high time we understand the matter at hand. Mostly, we must stop being afraid -- and start to act.

Did you know that lawsuits exist and have already been filed against us at The Hague? In 2013, the Comoros Islands, an archipelago off the southeast coast of Africa and a member of the International Criminal Court, filed a lawsuit against Israel over the IDF's seizure of the Turkish vessel the Mavi Marmara in 2010. Did anybody hear about that? Did the sky fall? Were the officers of the Flotilla 13 naval commando unit arrested abroad?

In any case, any and all lawsuits filed at the International Court of Justice in The Hague against us will help facilitate our membership at the exclusive club of nations that have also been subject to such lawsuits, such as the U.S. and the U.K. -- and no one is being asked to give up London in order to nullify this threat.

Also, there is something we can do. Israel and independent organizations must submit a lawsuit to The Hague against the Palestinian leadership for war crimes. There are two ways to back up such claims.

Firstly: Killing and terror against innocent civilians. The Palestinians have fired thousands of rockets at schools, hospitals and kindergartens, and shooting with the goal of harming civilians is a clear war crime.

Incitement and exhortations to terrorism -- broadcast everyday from Ramallah -- are the second reason. Every month, the Palestinian Authority pays pensions and financial stipends to the murderers of Israeli women and children, both to those who were released from prison, and to those who are still serving their sentences. Effectively, they are telling such terrorists -- go kill a Jew, and instead of paying you up front, you will get your reward after the deed is done. That constitutes exhortation to terror. It is incitement.

There is another reason that the concept is destined to founder: The international community has a clear interest in preventing it from taking place. The world has a full understanding of what such Palestinian claims at The Hague entail. If the PA's lawsuit over settlement construction is accepted, a political Pandora's box will be cracked open, with global consequences.

Israel is not the only country that has built so-called "settlements." Russia did it in Georgia after the 2008 war. Turkey has settlements in Northern Cyprus. And there's only one difference: It's much worse in their case. Those territories are defined as "occupied territory." In Israel, the definition is "disputed territory." They're the last ones who'll want this.

Additionally, lawsuits against the IDF could also end up setting off the international community. What happens next, the Taliban files a lawsuit against U.S. troops? North Korea decides to drag the U.S. the The Hague over its occupation of South Korea?

The tsunami will not only wash over us, but will end up on the doorsteps of all Western nations. So again, the tiny state of Israel is standing against the erosive threat. When terror began striking us in the early 2000s, we fought a counter battle, overwhelming the terrorist onslaught while the world watched from the sidelines. And if we need to, we'll do it again.

It's not only not worth it for the rest of the world, but the U.N. as well. Accepting the Palestinians will spawn an immediate financial crisis at the relevant U.N. institutions because their budgets will be hollowed out; they don't have suicidal ambitions. The reason: In the 1990s, the U.S. Congress passed two laws, each of which would cancel funding to any U.N. institution that accepts Palestinian membership, as long as such efforts were completed unilaterally and before the official recognition of an independent Palestinian state.

In 2011, the Palestinians joined UNESCO, and the law was activated immediately. The U.S. froze its funding to the organization. As a result, UNESCO was saddled with a $70 million deficit within a year. The damage to the organization was immense and they have already regretted accepting Palestinian membership. Other institutions won't repeat the same mistake.

In conclusion: the concept that "heading to the U.N. will spell disaster" is baseless. However, such self-intimidation exacts a high price from our nation, and allows the Palestinians to practice persistent coercion against us. It's time to put it down.

And we should tell the Palestinians: If you want to go to the U.N., then go ahead and call us first so we can buy your plane ticket -- the mistakes you've packed for this trip are your own, for sure.

Naftali Bennett is the economy and trade minister and the head of the Habayit Hayehudi party.

Editor's note: Habayit Hayehudi faction chairwoman MK Ayelet Shaked has signed off on a bill aiming to shut down Israel Hayom. Minister Naftali Bennett attacked Israel Hayom last week with harsh words, accusing us of not being a newspaper and calling us "Pravda." Nevertheless, as is our way, we at Israel Hayom give a platform to the entire spectrum of opinions.

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