JPost Editorial: Dialogue, not diktat

In yet another misguided decision, the UNSC will hold a meeting to condemn Israel for settlement building.

The United Nations in Geneva  (photo credit: REUTERS)
The United Nations in Geneva
(photo credit: REUTERS)
What would happen if the international community made it clear to Palestinians that their only path to statehood was via direct negotiations and dialogue with Israel? What if the Palestinians were faced with a reality in which no international body or major world power condoned imposing unilateral measures on Israel? What would Palestinians do if they realized that there only hope for political autonomy was to gain the trust of Israelis? It is impossible to know because a body called the UN Security Council exists. And on October 14, in yet another misguided decision, the UNSC will hold a meeting to condemn Israel for settlement building.
Nothing will likely be said about the Palestinian Authority’s supposedly “moderate” President Mahmoud Abbas, and his refusal to enter into direct negotiations with Israel without preconditions. Nor will the UNSC mention Palestinian incitement to violence against Israel as an obstacle to peace.
The UNSC’s focus on settlements as the main impediment to peace plays right into the hands of the Palestinians: why enter into direct negotiations with Israel if respected international bodies like the UNSC accept the Palestinian claim that settlement construction must stop as a precondition to peace talks? Palestinians can put pressure on Israel and get what they want without having to make compromises of their own, as part of the give and take that is central to all sincere negotiating practices.
News that the UNSC was planning to address Israeli settlement building emerged after UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nikolay Mladenov appeared before the UNSC this week and slammed Israel for continuing to build settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
Mladenov claimed that Israel’s actions go against the Middle East Quartet’s report from July.
“Its recommendations continue to be ignored,” Mladenov said, before proceeding to focus solely on Israeli construction of housing in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Not only was Mladenov distorting reality by concentrating exclusively on settlements, he misrepresented the Quartet’s July report itself, which focused extensive attention on Palestinian incitement to violence against Israelis as a central factor preventing peace and reconciliation between the sides.
Indeed, the July report was remarkable because rarely, if ever, does a diplomatic document undersigned by practically the entire international community denounce so unequivocally how Palestinian terrorists are glorified by the Palestinians Authority, and how Palestinian political leadership not only fails to curb the ugly phenomenon but even encourages it.
“Many widely circulated images depict individuals committing terrorist acts with slogans encouraging violence,” the July report stated.
It also noted that incitement to violence on social media – which has a particularly strong impact on young people – has increased since October 2015, about the time the present wave of knifings and vehicular attacks began: “Members of Fatah,” the party of PA President Abbas, “publicly supported attacks and their perpetrators, as well as encouraged violent confrontation.”
The report even cites a senior Fatah official who praised terrorists as “heroes and a crown on the head of every Palestinian.”
But none of this was mentioned by Mladenov, nor is it likely to be mentioned by the UNSC.
The Quartet’s report in July was an encouraging development. The international community recognized that Israel is not the only one to blame for the deadlock in negotiations. Palestinian incitement, officially condoned by the political leadership, sows hatred, encourages violence, and makes reconciliation impossible. Only through direct dialogue without any preconditions can the sides hope to achieve peace.
Focusing on settlements and transforming them into the sole obstacle to peace prevents this dialogue from taking place. The international community must create an environment in which neither side takes the sole blame for the conflict. Perhaps then the Palestinians will be forced to begin the hard work of compromise.