Report on PA UN bid seeks return to bilateral track

Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies recommends acceptance of Palestinian statehood – with conditions.

ICC 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
ICC 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
On the eve of the UN General Assembly vote regarding Palestinian statehood, the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies is distributing a report estimating worst-case scenarios, such as Israeli leaders connected in the settlements being brought before the International Criminal Court, and recommending the acceptance of Palestinian statehood with conditions.
The purpose of the report, according to Institute director-general Meir Kraus, is to encourage Israel to take steps to bring the Palestinians back from the path of unilateral action to bilateral negotiations.
Kraus said that the fundamental concern the report addresses is that Palestinian success by taking unilateral action in declaring statehood will convince the Palestinians to continue to take even more aggressive unilateral actions in the future.
He added that even within the context of negotiations, a win at the UN General Assembly could make the Palestinians more demanding, more assertive and less willing to compromise.
To avoid this, the report suggests Israel accept Palestinian statehood with reservations, indicating that issues, such as the borders of that state, must still be resolved by negotiations.
In putting forward this suggestion, Kraus said that the report was essentially recommending leap-frogging to stage two of the road map, which discusses a period in which there is a full-fledged Palestinian state, but with temporary borders.
The report cites a potential parade of horrible scenarios for Israel that could result from the Palestinians getting UN General Assembly statehood recognition without co-opting the Palestinians to return to negotiations.
The report discusses the possibility that Israel could be brought before the International Criminal Court.
Not only could cases be filed against soldiers who served during Operation Cast Lead, the report notes, but even Israeli leaders and civilians involved in encouraging the settlement enterprise, including in east Jerusalem, could be brought before the court.
The basis for such criminal cases would be the allegation that Israel had transferred its population into a conquered or occupied area.
Kraus did qualify the report’s worst-case scenarios by stating that there would be many obstacles to the Palestinians achieving membership and bringing cases in the ICC against Israelis.
He also said it was not clear that they would decide it was in their interest to do so, despite public threats.
However, he did believe that the ICC, until now, has “leaned toward getting involved” and that Palestinian statehood in the UN General Assembly would be another significant step toward making that happen.
The document also mentions that the Palestinians could build up their military, or push for a UN force on the Green Line.
But it also says these steps are not likely, as it could cost the PA in security relations with Israel and it might also be hard to achieve without Israeli cooperation.
The document further says that it will be easier for the Palestinians to sign on to international treaties, many of which don’t require full UN membership and to raise issues to damage Israel’s public image and further isolate Israel in various international forums, even concerning issues such as West Bank environmental issues.
Next, the report mentions that Israel may be embarrassed by conflicts over an increase in diplomatic delegations wanting to visit and establish full embassies in the West Bank.
Discussing the status of east Jerusalem, the report says that while the Palestinians would not be able to force a change in status after a win at the UN, any pressure on Israel on the issue from the past will only get exacerbated by the fact of formal Palestinian statehood, which would likely include east Jerusalem.
The report swings from warning that the Palestinians may try to establish more of an official presence in east Jerusalem to stating that the Palestinians may be afraid of angering other nations and religions who also have an interest in Jerusalem.
The final section of the report lists four possible ways of addressing the PA push for statehood.
It notes that Israel appears to have chosen diplomatic pressure to try to thwart the statehood push, but recommends instead co-opting the Palestinians back to the negotiating table and accepting their statehood with reservations.
Kraus said the purpose of this move is to “get Israel out of the corner” of being viewed as the problematic or “refusing party.”
He criticized wasted diplomatic time and energy spent on limiting “the size of the failure and catastrophe” of Palestinian statehood when “the writing has been on the wall” for a long time that the Palestinians would win the UN vote.
Kraus said that those in favor of trying to stop Palestinian statehood blame the Palestinians entirely for the peace process stalemate, whereas he believes Israel has not been perfect either in not taking advantage of a Palestinian leader, such as PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who Kraus said had “given up armed resistance.”
Kraus said that it was probably too late now to fully implement the report’s recommendations, which would have a cost, but that Israel’s best response to damage control would still be accepting the Palestinian state and trying to lure the Palestinians back into bilateral cooperation.