by Daniel S. Mariaschin, executive vice president of B'nai B'rith International
It’s a shame to have to re-visit history for the umpteenth time, but Palestinian revisionism forces us to provide a reality check.
The Palestinian National Authority has announced it will seek to upgrade its status at the United Nations to non-member state (the status the Vatican now enjoys) on Nov. 29. The choice of date is no accident.
The date, of course, relates to the partition vote at the United Nations in 1947, rejected by the Arabs, and now considered the origins of what the Palestinians call the “Nakba”—or “catastrophe” (the Palestinians actually “commemorate” the “Nakba” on May 15, which is when the State of Israel was declared).
Put bluntly, the Palestinians today are seeking to gain, on the cheap what they rejected in 1947.
Sixty-five years later, the world, and the Jewish people are in a far different place.
(It is unclear if the recent wave of Hamas rocket attacks into Israel and Israel’s defensive response will have an impact on the Palestinians’ efforts at the U.N., but the latest word is the Palestinians will stick with the plan to seek a change in status on Nov. 29.).
Part of the problem is that Palestinian leadership is both in denial, and is also emboldened, by side-stepping Israel and taking these steps directly to the international community.
It is time for the countries the Palestinians either fear or respect to lay down the law and declare to the Palestinians: Don’t expect us to do your heavy lifting. Get to the negotiating table or lose your opportunity.
Now it may be that the Palestinians won’t listen to this advice, or more likely, really don’t care.
In the years since Oslo, what’s become increasingly clear is the impression that the so-called moderates of the Palestinian National Authority prefer the status of permanent victim, while still enjoying the trappings of statehood (e.g. an annual speech by Mahmoud Abbas before the U.N. General Assembly). They’d rather continue on both of those fronts than concede the right of Jewish sovereignty to Israel and assume the responsibilities and obligations of running a state.
For nearly four years, the Palestinians have refused to commit to negotiations notwithstanding Israel’s offer to meet without pre-conditions. Logic would have it that the onus for this failure to move forward would lie with the Palestinians. But that is not the way it plays out in real life. The fingers of blame are often pointed in Israel’s direction: The settlement freeze wasn’t long enough, there are too many checkpoints, the Gaza blockade—the list goes on and is well known.
With a full agenda of contentious issues, how can anyone expect unilateral moves by the Palestinian National Authority will produce anything other than a perpetuation of the conflict?
Having cast Israel into the corner at every turn, and with a good part of international public opinion at his back, Abbas is now gambling on doing the ultimate end-run, but being accorded increased international recognition.
What makes this all-the-more hypocritical is that with the United Nations, where this vote will occur, and European Union, which is divided on this issue, we have two of the four parties to the Quartet— the international grouping which has pledged support for a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.
So far, according to an EU spokesman, nearly half of the 27 EU member states have expressed support for the non-member state status bid of the Palestinians. Hopefully, this will not be the case. The EU nations that do vote “for” will cast those countries as enablers of diplomatic oblivion for the peace process. All EU countries should adhere to their bloc’s own guidelines on a negotiated settlement and vote against the Palestinian move.
One would think that with the Middle East in the midst of what will be a long period of uncertainty (at best) and violent uncertainty (at worst) cooler heads would see the Palestinian initiative as counterproductive to a goal of stability in the region.
That appears not to be the case, as expediency—or issue fatigue—may very well, and most regrettably, carry the day.
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