Mahmoud Abbas 311.
(photo credit: AP/Nasser Nasser)
The Americans are making a last-ditch effort to convince Palestinians to halt
their plan to ask the UN later this month to recognize a Palestinian state along
the 1967 lines. The US – as well as other Western countries such as Italy and
Germany, not to mention Israel – would rightly like to see the Palestinians
scrap their unilateral push for statehood and replace it with serious dialogue
with Israel that leads to a negotiated peace agreement acceptable to both sides.
Unfortunately, it appears highly unlikely that Washington’s efforts will
Palestinians refuse to budge on a number of unacceptable demands
that they have made conditions for entering into talks with Israel. Unless these
demands are met by Israel, says chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat, there will be
no renewal of talks and Palestinians will push forward with their request for a
vote in the UN.
A building freeze is one of these preconditions.
Construction of new homes in existing settlements to accommodate natural
population growth neither impairs Palestinian access to locations in the West
Bank nor changes significantly the demographic balance. In contrast, substantive
progress in face-to-face negotiations offers the best chance for Israelis and
Palestinians to determine borders – and by extension to reach agreement on who
builds where. Yet the Palestinians remain intransigent on a freeze, which seems
to show that their leadership is more intent on hurting the growth of the Jewish
state than on advancing the cause of the Palestinian people for political
self-determination in their own sovereign state.
Palestinians are also
demanding that the 1967 lines be the starting point for negotiations,
conveniently ignoring the fact that in the past 44 years, while the Palestinians
and the larger Arab world slowly came around to the realization that Israel
could not be defeated militarily and that a peace agreement was the only viable
option, a number of “facts on the ground” have been established in the form of
large settlement blocs.
Perhaps most disturbing, however, is the
Palestinian refusal to give up on the “right of return” for
Just this week Erekat told The Jerusalem Post
’s Khaled Abu
Toameh that “going to the UN won’t cancel the right of
“Recognition of a Palestinian state,” said Erekat, “will pave the
way for the state to enter international institutions and demand all our
legitimate rights, including the right of return.”
insistence on the “right of return” explains their refusal to recognize Israel
as the sovereign state of the Jewish people. To accept Israel as an exclusively
Jewish state implies that Israel has the right to maintain a strong Jewish
majority. Exercising the Palestinian “right of return,” in contrast, would
result in the influx of millions of “refugees” who, together with Arab Israelis
who already make up 20 percent of the population, would seriously endanger, if
not overturn, the Jewish majority.
Nevertheless, while the vote in the UN
General Assembly – which the Palestinians are expected to win by a wide margin –
appears to be unavoidable, there still might be a chance, through a combination
of aggressive lobbying and the threat of sanctions against the Palestinians by
the US Congress, to make the wording of the UN resolution more favorable to
Israeli and US interests. Jewish groups have already launched efforts to this
effect, according to JTA’s Ron Kampeas. If a resolution is to be passed
recognizing a Palestinian state, it should include recognition of a Jewish
state; it should remain purposely vague about borders separating the two states;
and it should stipulate that following the passage of the resolution, direct
negotiations between Israel and Palestinians aimed at bringing about an end to
the conflict should be relaunched without any preconditions. A resolution worded
this way could actually help advance peace talks and help serve both Israeli and
The creation of a Palestinian state is an eminently
Israeli interest, provided such a state respects the Jewish people’s right to
political sovereignty within secure borders. A successful two-state solution
that leads to peace and a complete resolution of all claims would not only end
decades of strife, but would also ensure that Israel remains both Jewish and
democratic. But only through dialogue and a genuine commitment to reconciliation
by both sides can true peace be attained.