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The Palestinia​n UDI and the Necessity of Direct Negotiatio​ns

JINSA Report #: 

September 22, 2011

The Palestinian Unilateral Declaration of Independence is a cynical ploy that bypasses the necessary requirement for direct negotiations between the Palestinian leadership and the Government of Israel. Despite a last-minute scramble by the White House intending to delay this action, it is all too likely that a vote at the UN for recognition of an independent Palestinian state will be held this Friday.

If the motion is brought before the UN Security Council, an American veto is expected. If that occurs, the matter is then likely to be brought before the General Assembly where the vote for the Palestinians' non-member status will certainly carry. If the administration succeeds in delaying a vote, the damage will have already been done.

At such a critical time, where long-time regional players are deposed and their successors uncertain, it would be foolish to denigrate America's and the West's only stable, reliable ally - Israel. Strategic concerns dictate that in the midst of this turmoil our best interests lie with strengthening and expanding our ties to Israel. Furthermore, the Palestinian push for a UN vote is a violation of the pledge Palestinian Authority (PA) head Mahmoud Abbas made to President Obama. It would be not unreasonable in response for the United States to take measures against the PA, as the U.S. Congress will be pushing for. Unfortunately, no American action can repair the damage done to hopes for a peaceful settlement and with it a better life for the Palestinians.

Strong statements and actions in support of Israel's resilient pluralistic democracy are more important now than ever. The UN vote could result in dozens of countries establishing diplomatic relations with the PA and increased pressure on Israel's friends in Europe to cool their relations with Jerusalem.

Adding to what is certainly a long list of counterproductive outcomes engendered by the Palestinian push for recognition is the distinct possibility that orchestrated demonstrations and "non-violent" actions in the West Bank will break out with thousands attempting to enter Israel. It is also far from certain that Israeli Arabs will be able to resist joining in with the demonstrations.

While it is true that the General Assembly cannot admit a new state to the UN, it can convey upon the Palestinians the status of "non-member" state along with a symbolic acceptance of Palestinian claims of sovereignty along the 1967 lines with a capital in the eastern part of Jerusalem. This alone will undo what little remains of Israeli confidence that mutually agreeable peace terms with the Palestinians can be found. Also, with their new status, the Palestinians will undoubtedly seek to have the International Criminal Court act against Israeli government officials.

Certainly, in the wake of the UN vote, Israel will continue its West Bank presence - most importantly along the eastern ridgeline in the Jordan Valley and will maintain its blockade of Gaza. After recognition of an "independent Palestinian state", Israel could be seen as violating the territorial integrity of this entity. This could likely cause ruptures in relations with a host of states worldwide, further increasing a sense of insecurity in Israel.

The last minute White House effort does nothing to address whether the Palestinian Authority meets the definition of a state. An independent state must be able to control its own territory, but the terrorist organization Hamas, which is not reconciled to Israel's existence, retains control over Gaza. This aspect of the situation has not been given adequate attention.

It is hoped that led by the United States more nations will insist that negotiations between the parties is the only realistic way to proceed. Israel's trust in such a process is crucial. Underlying America's future policies must be the principle that a secure Israel is in the best interests of the United States, and of achieving a more peaceful Middle East.

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