Debating Unilateral Declaration of Independence Fans

By Jennifer Hanin, September 23, 2011

Palestinian authority leader Mahmoud Abbas stated he ask the UN Security Council for recognition of Palestinian statehood next week. But this request is coming without a previously-negotiated settlement with Israel. While many UN members have stated they’ll support the Palestinian request, key players like the US have made it clear they will veto any such effort. All eyes are on the EU as they acted as signatories on the Oslo Agreement, which implicitly stated in Article 31:

“Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.”

Oslo Interim Agreement, September 28, 1995

The fact remains that without negotiation and agreement with Israel, there simply cannot be an independent, peaceful Palestinian state in the Middle East.

Myth: The Palestinians deserve a home.  Why can’t we just jump on the UN bandwagon and celebrate the unilateral declaration at the UN?  Isn’t it high-time for the Palestinians to have a state?

Fact: The debate here is not about a Palestinian state.  Israel supports a Palestinian state, but not a unilateral declaration at the UN.  If there was a shred of hope that a unilateral declaration would help to usher in peace, Israel would have welcomed the initiative with open arms.

Myth: Isn’t this just another example of Israel’s pattern of avoiding a peaceful resolution for the Palestinian problem?

Fact: Israel’s government is openly committed to a two state solution.  Israel seeks two states, for two people, living side by side in peace and security.  A true and lasting peace will be born out of negotiated agreements.  For more than a year, the Palestinian Authority has refused to participate in direct negotiations and focused solely on political maneuvering at the UN.

Myth: Israel has never been interested in peace.

Fact: Israel has a long track record of making risky concessions for peace.  Most recently, Israel pulled out all troops from Gaza and left the entire area in the hands of Hamas.  This unilateral move to advance peace resulted in more than 10,000 rockets and mortar attacks originating from Gaza – terrorizing 1 million innocent Israeli citizens on a daily basis.  In past decades, Israel left Sinai for peace with Egypt, gave up natural resources to secure peace with Jordan, and left South Lebanon in an attempt to secure peace with Lebanon.

Myth: Prime Minister Abbas’ intent is solely to liberate the Palestinians of the West Bank.

Fact: Abbas has stated that he is going to the UN because the Palestinians “have been under occupation for 63 years.” Israel gained control of the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank (known as Judea for thousands of years) and collectively both areas are referred to by some as the “Palestinian Territories”, only 44 years ago.  This means that Abbas sees all of internationally recognized Israel as Palestinian territory thereby showing his true motive that undermines Israel as a independent democratic nation-state. Abbas’ Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was established in 1964, three years before Israel acquired the Territories.

Myth: Why doesn’t Israel want a Palestinian state?

Fact: Seven Israeli administrations (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu counts twice with two terms) have spoken in favor of establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Israel has willingly and eagerly participated peace efforts towards peace with the Palestinians that include UN Security Council Resolutions 242, 338, 1850; the Roadmap; Quartet statements, etc. the Camp David Accords, the Oslo Interim Agreement, the Roadmap only to meet Palestinian rejection. All international peace accords and resolutions have established one criteria: nothing can happen to Gaza and the West Bank (Judea) until all issues are resolved between Israel and the Palestinians through direct negotiations.

Myth: Israel is not committed to peace hence the Palestinians must act unilaterally.

Fact: Israel has gone above and beyond in committing to peace. Israel returned the entire Sinai Peninsula to Egypt for peace, an area of land four times as large as Israel. Israel gave precious scarce natural resources to Jordan to secure a peace agreement. Israel withdrew its forces from southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip to further peace. Israel has always expressed a desire to do more for peace with more partners.

Myth: The Palestinian Authority has worked hard to reach a peace agreement.

Fact: In recent years the PA has refused to come to the negotiating table to discuss peace. The PA has also flatly rejected previous peace initiatives, even as a basis of discussion as they did with Prime Ministers Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak and President Bill Clinton. The PA contributed to the breakdown of the Oslo Peace Accords by initiating incitement and launching the Second Intifada.

Myth: Other Arab nations have worked hard to create a Palestinian state.

Fact: The Palestinian areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip were controlled by Egypt and Jordan respectively during the years 1948-1967. During this period none of the Arab nations moved to establish a Palestinian state in these territories. Rather they used these areas to continually attack Israeli civilians with mortars, rockets and incursions. Since Israel acquired the territories these countries have not provided significant financial support to the Palestinians as many Western nations have. Incidentally, the US and Europe lead the world in contributing to UNRWA (United Nations Refugee Workers Agency), which was a “temporary” agency set up decade ago to exclusively supports Palestinian “refugees.”

Myth: A unilateral declaration will change conditions for the better.

Fact: Because a unilateral move does not address the pressing issues between the Israelis and Palestinians such a move would not change any conditions for the better. Reports indicate that a unilateral move could actually hurt the Palestinian economy, it does not give the Palestinians defined borders or a recognized capital, and it does not contribute to reconciliation efforts between the rival Palestinian factions led by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Fatah in the West Bank.

Myth: Over twenty years of peace negotiation has not led to a solution. Why continue?

Fact: Negotiations have led to peace agreements between Israel, Egypt and Israel and Jordan. There is no denying peace agreements between rivaling entities around the world have made significant strides. Acting unilaterally will not solve issues of borders, safety, etc. The only way to solve the differences between the two sides is by reaching mutual agreements through direct negotiations and compromise. Palestinians have avoided both while demanding all their requests are met. This is not negotiating nor is it compromising, both of which is necessary to settle grievances.

Myth: A Palestinian state would promote democratic principles of tolerance, freedom and human rights.

Fact: In speaking about a possible Jewish minority in a future Palestinian state the PLO representative to the UN said that the two peoples should be “totally separated,” implying that Jews would not be welcome in this future state. The Christian population of the West Bank is also in significant decline. In Bethlehem alone, a major Palestinian population center, the Christian population is less than half of what it was before Israel transferred control of the city to the PA in 1995. Even today many Palestinian gay and lesbians, as well as other minorities, flee to Israel or other countries out of fear for their lives and to escape persecution.

For more on Israel and the Peace Process, visit Debating Those Claiming Israel is Not Interested in Peace.

Video credit: Jewlarious
Jennifer Hanin

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