In late September, leaders of the Palestinian Authority are expected to issue a Unilateral Declaration of Statehood and ask, in the words of PA Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath, that it receive “the blessing of the U.N.”
That blessing will not come from the U.N. Security Council: If the Palestinians ask for approval from that body, President Barack Obama is expected to exercise the American veto, though he has not unequivocally pledged to do so.
In the General Assembly, however, blessings almost certainly will be bestowed through the passage of a nonbinding resolution. The General Assembly has a permanent anti-Israeli (and anti-American) majority. More than 50 U.N. members also belong to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Many other nations are eager to please the OIC’s oil exporters — and not displease its terrorism exporters.
The General Assembly does not have the power to grant statehood in any legal sense. Nor can it admit new U.N. members. The idea, as Shaath phrased it, is simply “to exert pressure on Israel.”
Shaath’s goal, and that of his boss, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, is not a Palestinian state and a Jewish state living side by side in peace. On the contrary, as Shaath said clearly: “The story of ‘two states for two peoples’ means that there will be a Jewish people over there and a Palestinian people here. We will never accept this.” Last weekend, Abbas added: “Don’t order us to recognize a Jewish state. We won’t accept it.”
What they would accept instead: international recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1949 armistice lines — the point at which armies from the Arab states surrounding Israel were stopped after they refused, for the first time, to accept a “two-state solution” and launched a war, the first of several, intended to wipe Israel off the map. But the Unilateral Declaration of Independence does not acknowledge Israel’s right to exist even on its side of the 1949 lines.
In other words, Shaath and Abbas believe that a widely recognized Palestinian state can better demonize and delegitimize Israel, harnessing such institutions as the International Criminal Court. Palestinian leaders — those we call moderates quite as much as those we call extremists — remain intent not on a two-state solution but on a two-stage execution: Israel is to be weakened and then annihilated. From 1949 to now, the strategies have changed, but not the goal.
The Palestinian state Abbas and Shaath envision would be, to use the apt German word, judenrein, ethnically cleansed of Jews. Meanwhile, they hope, the international community will exert pressure on Israel to accept a “right of return.” The opening of Israel’s doors to Palestinian refugees, their descendants and relatives, would leave Jews as a minority in Israel. They would then enjoy the same rights that the Bahai enjoy in Iran, Christians enjoy in Pakistan and other religious minorities enjoy in other Organization of the Islamic Conference states. That is to say, they would enjoy no rights.
Many Western leaders choose to disregard these facts. That may become more difficult following General Assembly approval of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence. At that point, terrorist attacks on Israel can be expected to escalate. Israel will respond. Another war is likely.
There is still time to prevent this if there is the will to do so. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, announced last weekend that she will introduce legislation cutting off U.S. taxpayer funding to “any U.N. entity that grants membership or any other upgraded status” to the Palestinians following General Assembly approval of a United Declaration of Independence.
Obama could do much more. To start, he could make a strong statement explaining why unilateralism must be opposed and why negotiations must be resumed. He could order a diplomatic surge, instructing American ambassadors to advise our allies in Europe and our aid recipients elsewhere that he will view a vote for the United Declaration of Independence with extreme disfavor.
At the very least, he could push for a revised UDI, one that would make international recognition of a Palestinian state contingent on Palestinian recognition of the Jewish state with borders to be established only through negotiations.
Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.