September 1, 2011

Since fall 2010, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to resume direct negotiations with Israel and has abandoned negotiations altogether. Instead, he has been asking other nations to recognize a Palestinian state with borders on the 1949 armistice lines. This September, he plans to bring the demand for UDI to the UN. His UDI gambit will dash the hopes of Israelis and Palestinians who long for peaceful coexistence and establish dangerous international precedents.

U.S. officials and Congress denounced the Palestinian effort in strong terms, understanding that a durable peace can emerge only through direct negotiations, not unilateral declarations. In a unanimously approved resolution,
the U.S. House of Representatives underscored that “true and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties” and urged other nations to reject the Palestinians’ appeal. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on January 19, 2011, “We're working to keep the focus where we think it needs to be [direct negotiations] and that is not in New York.”

UN endorsement of the Palestinian unilateral demand for recognition of statehood would:

Crush hopes for peace, which can only come from direct negotiations. Israel’s peace treaties with its neighbors, Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994), were hammered out through direct negotiations. Israel made significant territorial concessions for peace, but only after security safeguards had been addressed. Israel has repeatedly shown its willingness to make concessions to the Palestinians, but Israel also has rights that Palestinians must acknowledge and address through negotiated agreements.

Establish dangerous precedents for international diplomacy. A UDI will undermine the principles of international diplomacy and of conflict resolution. Diplomatic processes lose their value when one party can simply walk out on them and achieve its own ends without considering the basic needs of the other—and gain international recognition anyway. The South American countries set a dangerous precedent despite their hollow claims that their recognition does not contradict their commitment to negotiations.

Violate the prevailing legal standard of statehood. Since 1933, a state has been defined by the Montevideo Convention Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States as possessing the following qualifications: “a) a permanent population; b) a defined territory; c) government; and d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states."5The Fatah-governed West Bank and the Hamas-controlled Palestinian entity in Gazado not meet these: there are two rival governments, two rival prime ministers whose terms have expired, and no functioning legislature.

U.N. Charter does not grant the United Nations the authority to establish a state. The UN only has the power to admit established states as members. The Palestinians are circumventing the rules and responsibilities for statehood and attempting to use the authority of the U.N. to symbolically elevate their international status while avoiding steps for establishing a state legitimately.

Undermine international stability by setting a precedent for separatist movements in Europe and elsewhere to also begin seeking UN endorsement. If one separatist group can go to the UN for recognition, then others could as well. In Europe alone, multiple groups could follow this path, such as the Basques and Catalonians in Spain, the Flemish in Belgium, the Roma in Romania, the Corsicans in France, and the Albanians in Macedonia.

Directly violate past PLO-Israel agreements. After painstaking diplomatic efforts, Israel and the PLO signed the Oslo Accords in 1993 and in 1995, both times under U.S. supervision. The Oslo Accords specifically called for a negotiated resolution to the permanent status of the West Bank, including the issues of borders, Jerusalem, and Palestinian statehood. They explicitly forbid either side from taking unilateral steps that would prejudge the final status of the disputed territory. Yet, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), is now trying to take unilateral steps. Neither Israel nor the PA has ever renounced its commitment to these agreements. If the PA now violates them, the whole edifice of peacemaking will be undermined, including the legitimacy of the PA that was established through the Oslo Accords.

Directly violate UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. Both resolutions call for negotiated land-for-peace agreements that will lead to “secure and recognized boundaries.” The pre-1967 line separating Israel and the West Bank was an armistice line delineated at the conclusion of the Arab states’ war to destroy Israel in 1948. It was never recognized as an international border, and the UN resolutions did not regard it as a secure border for Israel. The PA and nations that comply with the PA unilateral declaration of statehood on the pre-1967 lines are in defiance of the UN resolutions.

Not address the major obstacle to peace: terrorism. Hamas, which remains in an active state of war against Israel and dedicated to Israel’s “obliteration,” seized control of Gaza after Israel’s withdrawal in 2005. It has thousands of rockets, which it continues to launch at Israeli towns and farms; is smuggling in higher-grade weapons through Egypt; and is preaching for Israel’s destruction in its mosques and media. A unilateral declaration ignores the grave threat that Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups would pose to Israelis from the West Bank, which is only a few kilometers away from Israel’s major population centers and infrastructure.

Give official international sanction to the terrorist group Hamas. The PA signed a unity pact with Hamas, which governs Gaza. This pact may collapse, but the UN would still be sanctioning a Palestinian government that might include Hamas, which is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., the EU, Canada, the UK, Japan, andJordan. The PA did not demand that Hamas change its political platform, which calls for the “obliteration” of Israel, the murder of Jews, and violence.

Support the Palestinian ploy to bypass negotiations and avoid making the concessions that are prerequisites to peace. Palestinians must renounce terrorism, accept the Jewish state’s right to exist within secure boundaries, honor past PLO-Israel agreements, renounce claims to Israel, negotiate mutually agreed-upon solutions for other outstanding issues, and agree to an end to the conflict.

Be exploited as a stepping stone for the destruction of Israel. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas vowed that even if the UN passes the bid for statehood, the PA will not accept Israel as a Jewish State and will not renounce Palestinian claims to Israel. The PA will still fight for the “right of return” for millions of Palestinians to the Jewish, not Palestinian, state, which would destroy Israel demographically. The PA continues to issue maps depicting all of Israel as “Palestine.”

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad endorses the Palestinian strategy. "Recognizing the Palestinian state is not the last goal. It is only one step forward toward liberating the whole of Palestine."

Increase the potential for violence and war. None of the outstanding issues, such as refugees and Jerusalem, would be resolved. Instead, the Palestinians would feel empowered to continue making maximum demands, even by force of arms and terrorism, as Hamas is still doing. This will not lead to the peaceful coexistence sought by Israel and moderates in the region.

A UN Security Council resolution declaring Palestinian statehood should be vetoed, and any attempt to recognize Palestinian statehood by the UN General Assembly should be rejected. The U.S. should mobilize all diplomatic tools at its disposal to assure that other democracies reject the scheme. All efforts should be directed toward getting Palestinians back to the negotiating table, not supporting their campaign to bypass the peace process.