United Nations Security Council chamber 311.
(photo credit: Patrick Gruban/WikiCommons)
In a reasonable world, one firmly girded by international law and wisely guided by its underlying principles, Israel would not need to be overly concerned about the Palestinian leadership’s strategic decision to bypass the agreed upon and internationally sanctioned peace process and instead seek United Nations endorsement of a unilaterally declared Palestinian state. Simply put, the Palestinians couldn’t get away with it.
As a UN member in good standing, Israel could take comfort in the fact that it is the only member of the UN General Assembly whose rights to sovereignty were twice affirmed in the past century; first in 1922, by the UN’s predecessor, the League of Nations, whose assignment of Jewish rights in the Mandate for Palestine were reaffirmed in 1945 by the United Nations’ founding charter. Then there was Israel’s acceptance into the United Nations in 1949, as the Jewish state painstakingly satisfied all the international conditions for statehood incumbent upon UN member states as set forth in the 1933 Montevideo convention.
In a reasonable world, The Jewish state would today still be able to rely on the UN Security Council’s (UNSC) commitment to “secure and recognized boundaries” for Israel via the council’s unanimous passage of Resolution 242 following the 1967 war and affirmation of its sister resolution UNSC 338 following the 1973 war that, both legally and diplomatically, still govern relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority pending a negotiated settlement.
And Israel might also take heed of the 1991 UN invalidation of the grotesque and PLO-inspired “Zionism is Racism” resolution passed 16 years earlier by the same international body.
Israel’s trust in the Security Council’s commitment to “secure and
recognized boundaries,” that became known in diplomatic shorthand as
“defensible borders,” inspired the minimal legal and diplomatic
confidence Israel needed to enter into 18 years of high-risk peace
processes opposite the terror group turned peace partner, the
Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).
Unfortunately, Israel’s calculated risks for peace, from the 1993 Oslo
exchange of letters and the 1995 interim agreement to Israel’s 2005 Gaza
withdrawal to the 2008 Annapolis peace talks, resulted in some 10,000
Palestinian rockets and mortars landing on Israeli towns and cities, and
more than 1,200 Israelis murdered in terror attacks. Ironically,
perhaps, Israel is still calling on its Palestinian neighbors to
negotiate a peace settlement.
Sadly, we do not live in a reasonable world and such utopian logic
appears to be naïve. It also fails miserably when it comes to the United
Nations, its treatment of Israel, and specifically the anticipated
events in the General Assembly over the coming few weeks.
These events will include, in addition to the routine, annual twentyodd
resolutions singling out and bashing Israel, a Palestinian request to
recognize a Palestinian state or grant the PLO an upgraded status in the
UN, and a “celebration” of the tenth anniversary of the infamous 2001
Durban Conference and Declaration, which has since become the precursor
for a concerted de-legitimization campaign against Israel.
It is patently clear to all members of the international community that
the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, cannot claim that a
Palestinian state exists except on paper since it has no control over
the territory it considers part of its state, nor does it have a
permanent population as required by international law for statehood.
Gaza is controlled by the Hamas terror organization. Jerusalem as the
capital of Israel is fully under its sovereign control, while a
considerable part of the West Bank remains under Israeli control and
jurisdiction in line with the agreed upon and UNsanctioned Oslo peace
process and pending the outcome of permanent status negotiations.
For Abbas to come to the international community and claim that he has
the components of statehood would be sheer hypocrisy and a cynical abuse
of the United Nations and its member states and institutions.
To knowingly claim that he has effective government control over a
permanent population and defined territory and the capability to fulfill
the international norms and obligations of civilized states would be to
willfully lie to and deceive the international community. To claim that
he represents a unified state entity that includes the Gaza Strip,
despite the failure of the attempts at a reconciliation and the total
breakdown in any dialogue between Fatah and Hamas, he will have to admit
that he has responsibility for the captive Israeli soldier Gilad
Schalit, being held hostage in stark violation of the most important
international norms and conventions.
CLEARLY ABU Mazen and his colleagues are coming to the international
community with “unclean hands” and without the bona fides that one might
expect from an entity that seeks to be a respected member of the
exclusive club of sovereign states.
It is depressing enough to weigh the sheer hypocrisy of the Palestinian
leadership in dragging the international community through this unwanted
and harmful process. What is worse, however, is the willingness of that
international community, as typified by the United Nations, to turn a
blind eye and enable itself to be steam-rolled into playing the
Palestinian game and allowing them to get away with it. This
unconscionable collusion is compounded by the fact that the UN knows all
too well that the requested acknowledgement of a Palestinian state
would be nothing more than a fiction, undermining the principles of the
UN Charter and some of the most important resolutions of the UN as well
as the very basis of the Middle East peace process.
Members of the international community also know that adoption of such a
resolution will not be the end of the exercise, but will generate
attempts by the Palestinians to manipulate and abuse the constitutional
principles and upgrade their status in all the various professional
specialized agencies of the UN, like UNESCO, the World Health
Organization, the Universal Postal Union and others in order to upgrade
Palestinian legal and diplomatic assaults against Israel.
It is high time that the international community resolves itself to stop
catering to the illegal whims of the Palestinian leadership in the
mistaken hope that by allowing them to manipulate international
institutions they might change their ways and adopt accepted norms.
It is also high time that the UN stop pampering the Palestinians and
bending their own rules and principles and instead take a serious look
at the far-reaching security, legal and diplomatic consequences of the
upcoming events and the dangerous precedent they will be setting for
future attempts by other non-state actors and similar international
bodies to abuse and manipulate the very principles that anchor the
international state system.Alan Baker is former ambassador to Canada and former legal advisor to
Israel’s foreign ministry where he served as one of chief legal advisors
during the Oslo peace process. He is currently the director of the
Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public
Affairs and a partner in the Tel Avivbased law firm MBKB and Co.Dan Diker is the secretary-general of the World Jewish Congress.