Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has apparently cozied up even further to the Republican Party, if that is possible. He has been invited by the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives to speak at a joint session of Congress next month. It is widely expected that Netanyahu will use the speechto lay out some further steps toward an agreement with the Palestinians and to counter an expected speech from President Barack Obama that is expected to lay out an American plan to restart stalled peace negotiations.
As usual, the dance here is between the Americans and Israelis, with the Palestinians doing their own waltz solo on the sidelines. But there is a difference this time. The Palestinian two-step is heading in the direction of the United Nations and a proposed vote in September in the General Assembly on recognizing an independent state of Palestine.
There’s a lot to be said about this issue. It is a big gamble on the part of the Palestinians. It is not doubted that such a resolution will have a clear majority of support in the GA. But the real question is whether it will have the support of Europe and even the United States. It is the prospect of the latter that have many on Capitol Hill, both in the government and in the role of lobbyists, shifting into high gear to act on the will of the Israeli right.
How panicked? Well, as I recently reported here, there will be legislation in both houses of Congress to try to push an anti-UN agenda, based on the recent op-ed by Richard Goldstone. Well, consider the words of one Congress member, Joe Walsh (R-IL), who introduced the legislation in the House. This is from a “Dear Colleague” letter he circulated to other members in advance of his introduction of the resolution:
What is worse, the United Nations may use the Goldstone Report as justification to officially recognize a Palestinian state, which could place Israel in the position of occupying lands belonging to a sovereign state and member of the United Nations. Yet, Goldstone’s confession confirms that the United Nations lacks the moral authority for such a declaration.
So let’s start with the first part, where Walsh seems to be virtually screaming in terror at the very prospect of recognition of a Palestinian state. This bears some examination.
No one believes that UN recognition of a Palestinian state will actually create that state. [I’ll note here that it is often repeated that the UN partition resolution in 1947 “created” Israel, which is not the case, a point I will explore further in a subsequent article]. But it is likely to create a significant shift in diplomacy and in Israel’s position regarding its ongoing occupation.
But really what this is, at last, is a formal declaration by the international community that the Palestinians are a distinct people with the right to a state. Virtually every country (including the US, and, sometimes, even Israel, grudgingly) has expressed this point, now it will become official. How, exactly, does one oppose this with any credibility?
Well, one doesn’t, one simply opposes it for the reason Walsh states: it puts Israel in a more uncomfortable position.
Israel is already experiencing growing international ostracism because it steadfastly refuses to end its siege of Gaza and its occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem (there is also the issue of the Golan Heights, but that is a different point as it is not a question of Palestinian land). To date, even though no one seriously buys the trickery, Israel has managed to make convoluted legal arguments about the land not being “occupied” (despite the fact that the High Court of Israel has already ruled that the land is held in “belligerent occupation”), but rather “disputed.” This argument has rested on the fact that the land in question has never been considered part of a sovereign, independent state of Palestine. The UN declaration of recognition would end that argument.
And that will matter, though it won’t be decisive. It will increase the already growing pressure on Israel to end its nearly 44-year old occupation.
So, Walsh is attempting to tie the question to the issue of the Goldstone Report, which, in fact, has absolutely no bearing on this point. With or without Goldstone, or even if Operation Cast Lead had never happened, the case for recognition would be the same. Moreover, it is not the siege and devastation of Gaza that is prompting this move by the Palestinians, but the fact that the Netanyahu government has now made it abundantly clear that it is not interested in ending the occupation.
Likud Opposition to Peace
An awful lot of words have been spent discussing and debating the Hamas charter, and this is understandable. The charter has some very frightening and bigoted points. But why not give equal consideration to a much more updated document, the platform of the Likud coalition, Netanyahu’s party and the biggest party in the governing coalition in the Knesset?
Here’s what Likud’s stances are:
The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting
Jerusalem is the eternal, united capital of the State of Israel and only of Israel. The government will flatly reject Palestinian proposals to divide Jerusalem, including the plan to divide the city presented to the Knesset by the Arab factions and supported by many members of Labor and Meretz. The government firmly rejects attempts of various sources in the world, some anti-Semitic in origin, to question Jerusalem’s status as Israel’s capital, and the 3,000-year-old special connection between the Jewish people and its capital. To ensure this, the government will continue the firm policies it has adopted until now:
The Likud government will act with vigor to continue Jewish habitation and strengthen Israeli sovereignty in the eastern parts of the city, while emphasizing improvements in the welfare and security of the Arab residents. Despite protests from the left, the Likud government consistently approved the continuation of Jewish living within the Old City and in ‘City of David’
The Jordan River as a Permanent Border
The Jordan Valley and the territories that dominate it shall be under Israeli sovereignty. The Jordan river will be the permanent eastern border of the State of Israel. The Kingdom of Jordan is a desirable partner in the permanent status arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians in matters that will be agreed upon.
And here is Likud’s vision of the goals of a “peace process”:
The Permanent Status
The overall objectives for the final status with the Palestinians are: to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of a stable, sustainable agreement and replace confrontation with cooperation and good neighborliness, while safeguarding Israel’s vital interests as a secure and prosperous Zionist and Jewish state.
The Likud government will honor all the international agreements signed by its predecessors and strive to achieve a final status arrangement with the Palestinians. The only way to reach a final status arrangement is via dialogue and political negotiations.
The permanent status arrangement will minimize the security dangers implicit in the Oslo accords. The primary such danger is the presence and the possible expansion of the Palestinian security forces within close range of Israel’s population centers, government offices, emergency warehouses and staging areas of the Israel Defense Forces
So, that’s why the Palestinians are pushing for statehood—this stance, reinforced by Netanyahu’s refusal to even credit any of the discussions Palestinians had with his predecessor, his constant belligerence and bellicosity with regards to Jerusalem and settlements make it clear that there is no chance Bibi’s government will steer Israel away from its own destruction by trying to get to a two-state solution. And we should bear in mind that Likud is actually among the more moderate parties in the current Knesset majority!
Netanyahu and his Republican pals in Congress are worried that the Obama Administration might support recognition of Palestinian statehood by the UN. This seems very doubtful to me, especially with the election looming next year. Still Nahum Barnea, writing in the Israeli daily, Yediot Akhoronot (the article is not online, either in Hebrew or English as far as I know) reported the following:
President Obama is determined to bring about the establishment of a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 borders. The revolutionary wave in the Arab world has only strengthened his support for establishing such a state, and fueled his anger over Israeli policy. This week, a conference of the Palestinian Authority’s donor states will open in Brussels. On Friday, the Quartet states, including the US, are expected to issue a statement saying that the Palestinian Authority is ready for economic independence. In the meantime, the EU states are drawing up the draft resolution that will be brought before the UN General Assembly for approval in September. The resolution will pave the way for the state’s establishment and its acceptance by the UN. The assessment that arose in the discussion in Jerusalem is that the US administration is not trying to block the process; on the contrary, it may be encouraging it.
Thus far, Democrats have remained silent, but you can be sure they are already getting an earful from AIPAC on this subject. American support for this proposal in September would be a huge step forward, for us and for peace. It’s worth your time to work to get your congressional representative to push Obama in that direction.