The unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, and its international
recognition, would be a huge mistake.
A peace agreement between Israelis
and Palestinians is essential, but can be achieved only through honest
negotiations – not by one party imposing a unilateral decision.
past two years, the Palestinian Authority has refused to sit at the negotiating
table with the Israeli government, hiding behind the excuse of construction work
on a few West Bank settlements. At the same time, it has been negotiating the
creation of a national unity government with Hamas – a terrorist group whose
stated aim is the elimination of Israel. A Palestinian “government” of a
unilaterally established, self-declared “Palestinian state” in which Hamas is a
member will make negotiations, to say nothing of a peace agreement,
US President Barack H. Obama has recently advocated a return
to talks based on the pre-1967 lines with mutual landswaps.
those lines, as delineated in the 1949 Armistice Agreements, were subject to
negotiations in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338,
which both sides agreed at the time would form the basis for a future peace
agreement. Any future border, according to these resolutions, must be the
outcome of a negotiated agreement.
The unilateral declaration of
Palestinian statehood is also a clumsily concealed delegitimization device.
Serious Palestinians know very well that they do not meet the internal and
external requirements to become a viable state, much less a new UN member with
all its attendant obligations.
Their objective is different; the
unilateral declaration is in reality simply another tactic in a broader strategy
of embarrassing and then delegitimizing the State of Israel.
There is no
historical, institutional or legal basis for recognizing a Palestinian state
today, except as a kind of “virtual state” which exists in the imaginations of
various parties but which has no tether to reality. In the West Bank,
Palestinians depend on Israeli cooperation to function. Other modern aspects of
statehood, such as respect for human rights, freedom and a functioning democracy
– all of which are required of other countries seeking recognition – are sadly
lacking in the Palestinian case. Indeed, this rush to a unilateral declaration
of statehood, including the intra-Palestinian negotiations with Hamas, is
impeding the formation of civil society in the West Bank, which has made
progress in recent years and which is essential to any enduring peace.
declaration of Palestinian statehood by the UN General Assembly will only make
it even more difficult to find a solution.
Unilateral action will have
unforeseeable consequences; the only true way forward is through a bilateral
This is not the time for destructive gestures: it is time to
encourage everyone to sit down and negotiate face to face, with no preconditions
other than mutual and unequivocal recognition.
There cannot be two states
living in peace side by side unless Palestinians accept that Israel is the
nation-state of the Jewish people and the Israelis accept that the Palestinian
state will be the state of the Palestinian people. Without that basis, no
genuine progress will be made.
The government in Jerusalem has said on
numerous occasions that it is ready to talk. Now is the moment of truth for the
Palestinians. They must choose negotiations, with all that such negotiations
entail, including concessions by both parties.
The alternative is for
representatives of the Palestinian people to continue demonizing their only
possible negotiating partner while expecting the international community to tilt
the scales in their favor. But blackmail will lead to
Negotiations must be conducted in good faith, not as a means of
exerting international pressure.
It’s time for the international
community, starting with the UN, to say the time for game-playing and wishful
thinking is past.
Serious negotiations can only be conducted by the
Israelis and Palestinians themselves, no matter how much help or goodwill is
provided from the outside. A unilaterally declared Palestinian state which is
not the product of a bilateral negotiation is a demand that Israel accept the
Diplomacy demands, above all, negotiation and agreement,
not unilateral demands imposed with contempt.
The undersigned all have a
sincere desire to see a Palestinian state alongside Israel, living in a lasting
and stable peace. We therefore call on all leaders of the European Union and the
Western world to reject the PA’s current position. We urge the Palestinians to
see that the only way they can have their own state is through an agreement with
the Israelis. No other options should be supported. Only sincere dialogue and
the unconditional recognition of each side by the other can form the basis for
renewed negotiations. Only sincere dialogue and the unconditional recognition of
each side by the other can set the foundations of a viable Palestinian
This piece was co-written by members of the Friends of Israel
Initiative (www.friendsofisraelinitiative.org): Jose Maria Aznar, David Trimble,
Alejandro Toledo, George Weidenfeld, Marcello Pera, Andrew Roberts, Fiamma
Nirenstein, George Weigel, Robert Agostinelli, Carlos Bustelo and William Shawcross.