Encountering Peace: Returning to negotiations

This resolution, with a few amendments, could have been a very positive development toward real peacemaking.

Delegates sit for a Security Council meeting at the UN Headquarters in New York (photo credit: REUTERS)
Delegates sit for a Security Council meeting at the UN Headquarters in New York
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinian draft UN Security Council resolution was voted down, not surprisingly, and begs the question: why did they submit the resolution now for an immediate vote? They must have known that the resolution would not pass. The Palestinians must be aware that pushing a UN resolution on ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the Security Council demands a lot of preparation work and drafting, with the engagement of the various parties needed to pass it.
My sense is that the Palestinians put down a draft to place a benchmark of their baseline positions – look at what we are demanding. We (the Palestinians) want the world to know that our demands are such and such and that they are reasonable. That is a kind of starting point for the Palestinians, and if their international diplomatic strategy continues, members of the Security Council sympathetic to the Palestinian side may now push for some amendments to that resolution.
For the most part, the resolution is quite good and I see it as a call to the international community to preserve the viability of the two-state solution. I see this as a call to save the State of Israel from the occupation and to enable Israel to break free from its hold over millions of Palestinians. It is most unfortunate that the Palestinians did not wait to bring the draft to a vote, at least until after Israeli elections.
Many of the parties in the international community and especially in Israel will say the Palestinians continue to never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Many will say that the Palestinians brought the resolution to a vote now knowing that it would not pass because they don’t really want a state. I do not agree with either statement. I do think that they made a mistake by bringing it to a vote right now. Nonetheless, I think it is important to examine the text to understand what exactly they were demanding from the world.
I think that there are many positive statements in the text. There are a couple of changes I would make but most of the text I would leave as is.
Here are a few recommendations I would make: I do think that it is possible to reach a negotiated agreement between the parties on all of the issues within a 12-month period – if there are clear and agreed terms of reference for the negotiations – that is what the resolution is essentially trying to create. I do not think it is possible to fully implement an agreement by the end of 2017, as the resolution calls for. One of the main lessons from the failures of the past is that we must create a system of implementation whereby there are clear, performance-based benchmarks on the basis of which it is possible to monitor and verify the implementation of treaty obligations. Those monitored and verified benchmarks would be required to determine if the parties are prepared to move from one phase to the next.
This means that territorial withdrawals and transfers would be phased over time and implemented once both sides have completely fulfilled their obligations. The number one obligation of both sides would be in the development and implementation of iron-clad security mechanisms based on Israeli-Palestinian cooperation.
The proposal in the draft resolution for third-party peacekeeping troops is, in my view, foolish and counterproductive.
Security responsibilities must be undertaken by the Israelis and the Palestinians together, not by foreigners from NATO or the UN.
I am pleased to see the Palestinians declaring that “the final status agreement shall put an end to the occupation and an end to all claims and lead to immediate mutual recognition.” There are many Israelis who maintain that the Palestinians refuse to end the conflict or to put an end to all of their claims. This paragraph makes it clear that this is in fact their intention – on the condition that the Israeli occupation of the lands conquered by Israel in 1967 comes to an end based on agreed upon borders.
The draft resolution was also positive in its adoption of the need to address incitement: “Urges both parties to engage seriously in the work of building trust and to act together in the pursuit of peace by negotiating in good faith and refraining from all acts of incitement and provocative acts or statements, and also calls upon all States and international organizations to support the parties in confidence-building measures and to contribute to an atmosphere conducive to negotiations.”
Despite the Israeli claim that the draft resolution is an act of Palestinian unilateralism, the draft itself states otherwise and calls for the parties to return to negotiations in order to reach an agreement to end the occupation, end the conflict and to make peace.
The draft “[c]alls for a renewed negotiation framework that ensures the close involvement, alongside the parties, of major stakeholders to help the parties reach an agreement within the established timeframe and implement all aspects of the final status, including through the provision of political support as well as tangible support for post-conflict and peace-building arrangements, and welcomes the proposition to hold an international conference that would launch the negotiations;” “Calls upon both parties to abstain from any unilateral and illegal actions, as well as all provocations and incitement, that could escalate tensions and undermine the viability and attainability of a two-State solution on the basis of the parameters defined in this resolution.”
This resolution, with a few amendments, could have been a very positive development toward real peacemaking. I am quite sure it will be revisited in the not too distant future. Hopefully at that time a new government in Israel will demonstrate a much more positive attitude toward working with the Palestinians and the international community in coming to an end to the Israeli occupation and creating a genuine peace process that will seek to resolve all of the issues in conflict between Israel and Palestine.
The author is co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit. His book Freeing Gilad: the Secret Back Channel has been published by Kinneret Zmora Bitan in Hebrew and as The Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from Hamas by The Toby Press.