Going proactive

Israel itself should sponsor a state for Palestine at the UN.

September 4, 2011 22:08
4 minute read.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations

PA President Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Chip East)


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To reverse the tide of tired opinion at the UN, and for Israel globally, what is needed is an idea that has never been tried. What the Palestinians need is a state of their own. There is another tide at flood in the Levant, and with this untried idea Israel can channel that freed, swirling energy to its own – and the Palestinians’ – advantage.

Israel, with the backing of the US and other allies, should sponsor its own bid for a Palestinian state to be presented to the UN for approval in September, or as soon as possible – preferably before Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas acts on the one he has planned.

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This document would include all the necessary protections Israel needs, and the US could say that not only would it not veto this one in the Security Council, but it would vote yes – only, of course, if the necessary parts were included.

Could the US, – or Israel, for that matter – be trusted to pull this off? I don’t know. It would be tricky. But one must hope they can.

It certainly would disarm, so to speak, a lot of people. It would call the Palestinians’ bluff for sure. If they and their allies refused such a proposal, the blame for its failure would clearly be on them. Israel would be largely off the hook, and it would be clear as the Negev sun that the Palestinians (and their friends) want only to destroy the Jewish state.

On the other hand, it might really work and result in a new, peaceable state if the great majority of Palestinians want one – if they have the courage to keep their brethren in line, and to reject not the state handed to them on a silver platter (yet again), but the true betrayal, the old cowardly backroom refusal of a state by their leaders. The independent state of Palestine would be there on offer, in public, take it or leave it.

Contorted Objections to this idea have come from friends of Israel. But many of these objectors don’t get the value of it.

It has been said that “Israel would be the first to recognize a legitimate and peaceful Palestinian state.” The key word there, “recognize,” is reactive.

Something else has to happen beforehand. The beauty of this new idea is that it’s proactive. It turns the tables: Instead of being on the defensive, Israel has the chance to seize the offensive for once, perhaps for the first time since 1948 (the advantage it seized in 1967, great as that was, was reactive). And this would be a peaceful offensive, a powerful one. Israel can do this.

Israel is strong now. And this will make it stronger.

Proposing alternative language for the Palestinian UN initiative – as some among the US and its friends are trying now – is also reactive, and it’s indirect. It’s like slinking in the back door. But Israel proposing a Palestinian state at the UN would be original, direct and preemptive. It would not come from countries perceived as Israel’s proxies, nor from its less trustworthy “friends,” nor from its enemies. It could not be portrayed as a lack of diplomatic courage or morality on Israel’s part.

All countries and political factions in the world would have to recognize it as proposed by Israel itself, and most would accord Israel greater respect for having done this. The motivations of those who trivialize or debase the proposal would be clear, as well. In the best sense, the whole process would be transparent, there for all to see.

This move could at least level the playing field for the debate on the world stage. And it could, if enacted with the passion for getting things done for which Israelis are noted, result in peace in the Levant.

Israel should take the initiative, take control of the process. It doesn’t just have to react. The Jews are no longer under the thumb of the czar, or the caliph, or a medieval overlord, or a Roman emperor; they don’t have to tread so exceedingly carefully. Israel is free to act on its own.

At times I despair that the only future for Israel is to hunker down and wait. To wait until the vast majority of Arabs and Palestinians evolve into a reasonable, humane people controlled not by the bloodthirsty fantasy of wiping out Israel and killing the Jews, but by the desire to enjoy life and build their own prosperity. To wait while the Palestinians learn to move beyond their self-defeating habits of violence and rejectionism, their negative history of failing themselves. This could take how long – 50 years, 100 years, another millennium? Might as well try something bold in the meantime. Maybe they’ll get it.

The writer is an author and visual artist based in New York. His writing has been published in Commentary Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Sun, and the New York Times.

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