Viewpoint: How not to create a Palestinian state
Twice in the last decade Israeli leaders - Ehud Barak in 2000 and Ehud Olmert in 2008 - have accepted Palestinian statehood.
Dozens of settlements would have been uprooted and others concentrated in blocs along the border, in exchange for which Palestine would have receive compensatory territory from within Israel proper.
The result would have been a contiguous Palestinian state in the equivalent of the territory taken by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War, with Jerusalem as a shared capital.
Palestinian leaders effectively said no.
That's because the deal would have required one significant reciprocal concession: confining the return of the descendants of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war to a Palestinian state.
Internal collapse The main obstacle to an agreement, then, is not territory or settlements but the Palestinian insistence on the "right" to demographically destroy the Jewish state. Absurdly, the Palestinian leadership is demanding that Palestinians immigrate not only to a Palestinian state but also to a neighbouring state, Israel.
Palestinian viewpointYezid Sayigh of the Carnegie Middle East Center argues that the hollowness of US-led diplomacy and the deeply entrenched Israeli occupation have forced Palestinian leaders to resort to trying to gain full UN membership
Also, compensation should be offered to descendants of Palestinian refugees and to descendants of the nearly one million Jews who fled or were expelled from Arab countries and came, destitute, to Israel.
Those are the kinds of details that need to be worked out in negotiations. The UN vote is an attempt by Palestinian leaders to evade their side's concessions in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal.
Existential threat A majority of Israelis recognise that ongoing occupation is devastating and that a peaceful Palestinian state is an existential need for Israel.
Palestinian UN Statehood Bid
- Palestinians currently have permanent observer entity status at the UN
- They are represented by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)
- Officials now want an upgrade so a state of Palestine has full member status at the UN
- They seek recognition on 1967 borders - in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza
- Enhanced observer member status could be an interim option
Those fears are well-founded. In 2005, Israel uprooted all its settlements in Gaza and withdrew to the international border. For many Israeli centrists, that was a test case for a possible withdrawal from the West Bank.
The results were disastrous. Thousands of missiles fell on Israeli towns and villages along the Gaza border. Finally, four years after withdrawing, the Israeli army was sent back into Gaza to stop the attacks.
The international community reacted with disproportionate outrage - including the creation of a biased UN commission of inquiry headed by Justice Richard Goldstone, who recently retracted some of his conclusions.
Deepening Israeli fears Israel's dilemma is unique. It is, on the one hand, the only democracy that is also an occupier - a situation forced on the Jewish state by the Arab world's attempts to destroy it in 1967, but which has taken on an increasingly permanent nature.
Instead of encouraging Palestinian rejectionism and fantasies of a 'right of return' to the Jewish state, the international community should be asking Palestinian leaders some hard questions”
Palestinian leaders need to prove that Palestine won't be a stage in a long-term attempt to undermine the viability of the Jewish state - either through the demographic subversion of refugee return or through terror attacks on the Israeli heartland.
Instead of encouraging Palestinian rejectionism and fantasies of a "right of return" to the Jewish state, the international community should be asking Palestinian leaders some hard questions: Why have you rejected every offer for statehood - going back decades? And do you really expect Israeli Jews to accept an agreement that would threaten the only state in the world in which the Jewish people is sovereign?
The UN vote will only reinforce Israeli fears about a Palestinian state. The inevitable result will be to deepen the Palestinian-Israeli tragedy and distance us even further from a peaceful and mutually just solution.