This September, Palestinian representatives at the United Nations are going to be asking that body for recognition as an independent state, recognized 1967 borders, and official representation at the U.N. This is a huge mistake, and will have negative consequences for all the parties involved, especially the Palestinians themselves.
A Unilateral Declaration of Indepen-dence (UDI) by the Palestinians would be a violation of the Oslo accords which specifically forbid any unilateral moves such as this. Ostensibly, this fundamental violation of Oslo would leave that very important agreement null and void, and would free up Israel to make its own unilateral moves such as annexation of parts of the West Bank (Israel has denied that it is considering unilateral action). There are many reasons why this move is a big mistake:
It will be unsuccessful. In order for a state to be recognized by the U.N., there must be unanimous consent in the U.N. Security Council, and the United States has already promised a veto. While the Palestinians enjoy a natural majority at the U.N., many Western nations have already promised to vote against their initiative in the General Assembly. All the Palestinians can hope for will be an upgrade in status, where they will be in a position like the Vatican. If their thought is to increase international pressure on Israel, this will not work. Most Western nations recognize that Israel cannot be cowed into negotiations without American pressure, and they also recognize that this move by the Palestinians is their attempt to bypass negotiations.
The Palestinians need the United States. The U.S. is the largest funder of the Palestinian Authority by far (roughly $500,000,000 annually), and an attempt to bypass negotiations by going to the U.N. could result in a cutoff of U.S. funding. Already, the Palestinians are having severe financial troubles because promised aid from other Arab nations has not materialized. The Palestinians (despite a rapidly growing economy) are still heavily dependent on international aid, and a cutoff could lead to economic disaster for the Palestinians.
The Palestinians need Israel. Assuming the Palestinians gain international recognition as a state, they still cannot survive without Israel. The only real issue between the Palestinians and Israel are borders, and should the Palestinians declare a state without Israel’s cooperation, Israel will just annex the areas in the West Bank where the majority population is Jewish. The resulting Palestinian state will be much smaller than what they could get through negotiations.
In addition, the issue of refugees will be dead. The issue of water cooperation will be dead. The issue of movement between the West Bank and Gaza will be dead. Without Israel’s acquiescence, getting from the West bank to Gaza will involve driving into Jordan, taking a boat across the Red Sea to Egypt, and then driving through the desert to Gaza.
The Palestinians need Israel too for its economic survival as well. Roughly 25 percent of all working Palestinians are employed in West Bank settlements. UDI will mean that unemployment in the West Bank will be untenable. Furthermore, Israel transfers tens of millions of dollars to the Palestinians every month from tariffs collected on their behalf. UDI would mean no tax transfers (particularly with a government that includes Hamas).
U.N. Resolutions and all subsequent bi-lateral agreements between the parties call for a negotiated solution between the parties. It is not hyperbole to say negotiations are the only solution to the conflict. Negotiations are literally the only solution to the conflict.
We must urge the Palestinians to abandon their efforts at the U.N. and return to the negotiating table. We must also urge other nations’ representatives at the U.N. to vote against Palestinian independence and likewise urge them to return to negotiations.
Jewish Federations of North America in conjunction with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs has started an on-line petition urging other nations to vote no in the U.N. General Assembly on the issue of Palestinian Statehood.
Matthew L. Goldberg
Director, Community Relations
Jewish Community of Louisville, Inc.