Waiting for the UN

The anticipated UN decision to establish a Palestinian state within the 1967 Green Line border is a vital Israeli interest.

By JOSHUA SOBOL
May 12, 2011 13:57
4 minute read.
Only a peaceful solution may save us from war.

peace doves_521 (do not publish again). (photo credit: Avi Katz)

ISRAELIS SHOULD NOT FEAR PALESTINIAN independence. On the contrary, the anticipated UN decision to establish a Palestinian state within the 1967 Green Line border is a vital Israeli interest. It will finally liberate Israel from the curse of subjugating millions of Palestinians who have been living under Israeli military control for the last 43 years and pave the way for a lasting peace between two neighboring states. Only such a peaceful solution may save us from the almost inevitable use of weapons of mass destruction in a future regional war.

This is one of the reasons 500 Israelis, among them 27 Israel Prize laureates, signed a declaration of independence for Palestine on April 21.

Everyone knows what the permanent solution of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict will look like, yet the leaders of both nations lack the power to implement it. If the 7.7 million Israelis need every inch of the 20,770 square kilometers of the land of Israel between the Green Line and the sea, the four million Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza strip certainly need every inch of the 6,220 square kilometers of this mini-territory left for them to lead a normal life.

Moreover, for the vast majority of Israelis, it is still the Green Line that separates them de facto from the Palestinians, just as was the case before 1967. The attempt to erase the old border through the settlement enterprise achieved a ghoulish result: it forced Israel and the West Bank into forming a monstrous pair of “Siamese twins” for whom life together is hell and the threat of death imminent.

The claims that a minority of extremists on both sides make on one another’s territories are of a deeply emotional nature, be it theological or historical. These claims are by no means vital, and therefore belong to the realm of the so-called “painful concessions” both parties will have to make in order to coexist peacefully on both sides of a de jure border based on the Green Line.

Nevertheless, due to the pressure exerted on them by their respective extremists, neither the present Israeli government nor the Palestinian Authority seems capable of reaching this eminently reasonable solution through bilateral negotiations. Our miserable Siamese twins know they cannot pull through for long, but are incapable of carrying out on their own the life-saving surgery that will finally separate them and allow them to lead a normal life. They need a skilled surgical team to conduct the painful operation.

In our case the surgeon is the international Quartet (the US, EU, UN and Russia) backed up by a UN decision. Both the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government need this surgical intervention to liberate them from their obsolete taboos. Yet the Israeli prime minister warns that a unilateral UN decision will provoke a unilateral Israeli response. Netanyahu must have forgotten that the decision to build settlements in the occupied territories was made unilaterally by Israeli governments without seeking anyone’s consent. And these settlements now constitute a major obstacle in the way of accepting the Green Line as the most rational border between Israel and the impending Palestinian state.

The big unilateral step the Israeli government could take to counteract a UN decision to constitute a Palestinian state would be to annex the West Bank. Some right-wing thinkers cherish the illusion that this could be done without giving Palestinians full Israeli citizenship, denying them the right to vote and to be elected to the Knesset. Such a stark apartheid policy would inevitably lead to devastating international sanctions that would ultimately destroy the State of Israel as we know it.

All this leads to one conclusion: that it is a most authentic Israeli interest to join or even lead the initiative for UN recognition of a Palestinian state, including international recognition of the Green Line as its definitive border with Israel. Doing so would allow Israel to play an active role in the formulation of the UN decision. The goal should be for concerted action shepherded by the Quartet, following a bilateral agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The time is ripe for this. Indeed, this is the kind of action the Israeli signatories of the Declaration of Independence for Palestine hoped to prompt.

Is the present Israeli government capable of adopting such a bold and sophisticated policy? If not, all it can do is sit on the fence, as it has been doing for the last two years, and wait for the UN to pull the chestnuts out of the fire.

Joshua Sobol, a leading Israeli playwright, was one of the peace activists who signed the symbolic Declaration of Palestinian Independence.


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