By Gal Sitty
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor addressed the Security Council today with regards to the Palestinian’s unilateral bid for statehood. The Council is set to vote in November on whether to elevate the status of the Palestinian mission to the UN to a member state. The Ambassador’s main point to the Security Council was that peace must be achieved through bilateral negotiations, not unilateral declarations.
Speaking to the Council Prosor said that Arab states are more prone to making excuses than peace. A similar phrase was uttered by the late Israeli statesmen Abba Eban in 1973 when he said in regards to Arab states after the unfruitful Geneva Conference that they “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”
What we see in these in two statements, spoken almost forty years apart, is that despite the Arab Spring and changes in leadership in Arab countries, the underlying inability to meaningfully move forward still stifles many in the Arab world.
Prosor and Eban were trying to make it clear to the UN that attempts to bypass Israel in creating changes in the Middle East are not conducive peace and may have sinister motives. As we see with the peace agreements that have been signed, between Egypt and Israel and between Jordan and Israel, bilateral negotiations led to peace and prosperity for all the parties involved. Everyone benefitted.
Contrast this with efforts of unilateral action unfortunately including a couple mistakes made by Israel as well. Such unilateral actions include the 1973 Yom Kippur War where Egypt and Syria invaded Israel in a surprise attack. Egypt and Syria were hoping to at least gain back land lost to Israel in the 1967 war, but perhaps wipe out the state of Israel entirely. The war, eventually won by Israel, resulted in heavy casualties and widespread destruction for all. However six years later, after engaging in bilateral negotiations with Israel, Egypt regained all the land captured by Israel without a single bullet being fired.
The current Palestinian push for statehood is not their first “unilateral action.” The first and second Intifidas were attempts by Palestinians to violently separate themselves from Israel. Again, these actions led to more bloodshed and destruction. However when the Palestinians negotiated with Israel and signed the Oslo Accords an era of relative peace followed and an economic boom occurred in the Palestinian territories.
Not all unilateral actions are violent but all seem to lead to violence. Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 was a peaceful unilateral move to fully vacate the territory claimed by Palestinians for their future state. This “disengagement” was an extremely difficult and expensive endeavor for Israel. It was done with the hope that by giving the Palestinians a territory they completely control it will help create an atmosphere that would foster peace talks. What really happened was a sharp uptick in violence from the Gaza Strip where militants increased their rocket attacks on Israeli civilians and the terrorist organization Hamas seized control of the territory after killing over 1,000 of their fellow Palestinians.
As history has shown us time and again unilaterally moves like the Palestinian’s bid for UN recognition can lead to misunderstanding and violence even if their intentions are purely benevolent.
The negative outcomes to all these unilateral moves occur because the situation in the region is extremely intricate and complicated and the land in question is extremely small. For things to move forward peacefully all the affected parties should come together to find a proper solution. This is the method that Israel, the Quartet (comprised of the US, EU, UN and Russia) and other world powers have said is the only way to peaceably solve the problems that plague the region.
Netanyahu has been calling for unconditional peace talks since he resumed the office of Prime Minister. His predecessor Ehud Olmert also attempted to make peace by coming to the Palestinians with an offer that former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called extraordinary. Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas rejected Olmert’s offer and is still rejecting Netanyahu’s offer. Seemingly every opportunity to bilaterally advance peace and reach an agreeable negotiated solution has been afforded to the Palestinian leadership. It is time for the Palestinian leadership to stop “miss[ing] an opportunity to miss an opportunity” and finally do what is in the best interests of their people, the region and world peace.
Photo credit: Israel Government Press Israel
About the author
Holding two Master's degrees, from Tel Aviv University and the University of Chicago, Gal has focused his career in the public sector working in education reform before joining Act For Israel. Born in Israel but raised in the United States Gal knows firsthand how often Israel is misrepresented abroad. Understanding that Israel's interests must be heard beyond the established pro-Israel community Gal recently led an effort to raise billboards calling for the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The billboards were seen by over two million people, received news coverage in the US and overseas and garnered Congressional recognition.