Responses to the Potential UN Recognition of Palestine

Here are some responses to the UN Recognition of Palestine discussion, including an article by The Israel Project strongly against the Tikkun position–part of our function to provide peace-oriented people with an understanding of some of the views we don’t normally encounter and that we need to understand. Our views are set forward in the petition to recognize Palestine and re-affirm Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state with ironclad guarantees for both Israel and Palestine to grant equal rights to all the minorities living within their boundaries without any imposition of religion and with full human rights to all of the residents living within those states. Click here to view and sign the petition.

Obama’s Unique Opportunity
by Gideon Levy

What is the American president going to say to his citizens? What will he say to the citizens of the world? How will he rationalize his country’s opposition to recognizing a Palestinian state? How will he explain his position, which runs counter to the position of the enlightened – and less enlightened – world?

And above all, what will Barack Obama say to himself before he goes to bed? That the Palestinians don’t deserve a state? That they have a chance to get it through negotiations with Israel? That they do not have equal rights in the new world that we thought he was going to establish? Will he admit to himself that, because of opportunistic election considerations – yes, Obama is now being exposed as quite an opportunist – he is also harming his country’s interests as well as the (real ) interests of Israel, and is acting against his own conscience too?

It is difficult now to understand Obama’s America. The man who promised change is turning out to be the father of American conservatives. With regard to Israel, there is no difference between him and the last of the celebrants at the Tea Party. We did not expect a great deal from Hillary Clinton; she can continue to recite hollow speeches about negotiations-shmegotiations – but Obama?

Et tu, Brute? After all, in your Cairo speech you promised a new dawn for the Muslim world, you promised a new America to the Arab world. And what came of this? The same old American wolf – which blindly and automatically supports every whim of Israel’s to such an extent that it is not clear which is the world power and which is the protectorate – and not even dressed in sheep’s clothing. The riddle remains unsolved: How is it that the supposedly new America is continuing to sing the same old songs from its evil past? How is it that Obama is behaving as if he does not understand that the Palestinians will no longer agree to live another four decades without civil rights, certainly not in view of all that is taking place around them in the awakening Arab world?

Read the rest of the article here.

Israel Needs to Stop talking and Start Negotiating
Haaretz Editorial

Killing the Oslo process, giving up on the two-state solution and perpetuating Israel’s rule over millions of Palestinians would jeopardize its very existence as a Jewish and democratic state.

As if the crisis in relations with Turkey, the deterioration of Israel’s ties with Egypt and Jordan and the erosion of its standing in Europe were not enough, government spokesmen are now trying to outdo each other in promising to deepen the occupation of the territories.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened on Wednesday that a UN decision to recognize a Palestinian state “will have grave consequences.” His deputy, Danny Ayalon, called for annexing the West Bank settlement blocs and expediting construction in the settlements. MK Ofir Akunis (Likud ), a close associate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, did not make do with annexing the “blocs”; he proposed applying Israeli sovereignty to the entire territory.

Concern over the disastrous impact such irresponsible reactions could have on regional stability brought U.S. President Barack Obama’s envoys, Dennis Ross and David Hale, as well as EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton here this week. The three were recruited for a last-ditch effort to reach an agreed-on formula that would allow a resumption of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and reduce the danger of an outbreak of violence in the territories.

As they shuttled between Ramallah and Jerusalem, the envoys discovered that the parties were entrenched in their positions. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas held fast to his demand that talks be based on Obama’s speech of May 19 (the 1967 borders with mutually agreed territorial swaps ) and a 90-day hiatus on construction in the settlements. Netanyahu insisted that the Palestinians agree in advance to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. He also rejected Abbas’ demand to freeze construction in the settlements.

Neither the crisis with the Palestinians in the international arena nor the danger that it will deteriorate into a violent regional confrontation are decrees of fate. Instead of flexing its muscles and spouting deranged ideas, the government must cooperate wholeheartedly with representatives of the Quartet to find a creative solution that will stop the deterioration.

Killing the Oslo process, giving up on the two-state solution and perpetuating Israel’s rule over millions of Palestinians would jeopardize its very existence as a Jewish and democratic state.

Sad and Happy about Palestinian Statehood Bid
by Uri Avnery

“Will this be the happiest day of your life?” a local interviewer asked me, referring to the approaching recognition of the State of Palestine by the U.N.

I was taken by surprise. “Why would that be?” I asked.

“Well, for 62 years you have advocated the establishment of a Palestinian state next to Israel, and here it comes!”

“If I were a Palestinian, I would probably be happy,” I said. “But as an Israeli, I am rather sad.”

Let me explain.

I came out of the 1948 war with four solid convictions:

* There exists a Palestinian people, though the name Palestine had been wiped off the map.

* It is with this Palestinian people that we must make peace.

* Peace will be impossible unless the Palestinians are allowed to set up their state next to Israel.

* Without peace, Israel will not be the model state we had been dreaming about in the trenches, but something very different

While recovering from my wounds and still in uniform, I met with several young people, Arabs and Jews, to plot our course. We were very optimistic. Now everything seemed possible.

What we were thinking about was a great act of fraternization. Jews and Arabs had fought each other valiantly, each fighting for what they considered their national rights. Now the time had come to reach out for peace.

The idea of peace between two gallant fighters after the battle is as old as Semitic culture. In the epic written more than 3,000 years ago, Gilgamesh, king of Uruk (in today’s Iraq) fights against the wild Enkidu, his equal in strength and courage, and after the epic fight they become blood brothers.

We had fought hard and had won. The Palestinians had lost everything. The part of Palestine that had been allotted by the U.N. to their state had been gobbled up by Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, leaving nothing for them. Half the Palestinian people had been driven from their homes and become refugees.

That was the time, we thought, for the victor to stun the world with an act of magnanimity and wisdom, offering to help the Palestinians to set up their state in return for peace. Thus we could forge a friendship that would last for generations.

Eighteen years later I brought this vision up again in similar circumstances. We had won a stunning victory against the Arab armies in the Six-Day War, and the Middle East was in a state of shock. An Israeli offer to the Palestinians to establish their state would have electrified the region.

I am telling this story (again) in order to make one point: when the “two-state solution” was conceived for the first time after 1948, it was as an idea of reconciliation, fraternization, and mutual respect.

We envisaged two states living closely together, with borders open to the free movement of people and goods. Jerusalem, the joint capital, would symbolize the spirit of the historic change. Palestine would become the bridge between the new Israel and the Arab world, united for the common good. We spoke of a “Semitic Union” long before the European Union became a reality.

When the two-state solution made its extraordinary march from the vision of a handful of outsiders (or crazies) to a worldwide consensus, it was this context in which it was viewed. Not a plot against Israel, but the only viable basis for real peace.

This vision was firmly rejected by David Ben-Gurion, then the undisputed leader of Israel. He was busy distributing new Jewish immigrants across the vast areas expropriated from the Arabs, and he did not believe in peace with the Arabs anyhow. He set the course that successive Israeli governments, including the present one, have followed ever since.

On the Arab side, there was always support for this vision. Already at the Lausanne Conference in 1949, an unofficial Palestinian delegation appeared and secretly offered to start direct negotiations, but they were roughly rebuffed by the Israeli delegate, Eliyahu Sasson, on direct orders from Ben-Gurion (as I heard from him later).

Yasser Arafat told me several times — from 1982 to his death in 2004 — that he would support a “Benelux” solution (on the model of the union between Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxemburg), which would include Israel, Palestine, and Jordan (“and perhaps Lebanon too, why not?”)

People speak about all the opportunities for peace missed by Israel throughout the years. That is nonsense: you can miss opportunities on the way to a goal that you desire, but not on the way to something you abhor.

Ben-Gurion saw an independent Palestinian state as a mortal danger to Israel. So he made a secret deal with King Abdullah I, dividing between them the territory allocated by the U.N. partition plan to the Arab Palestinian state. All Ben-Gurion’s successors inherited the same dogma: that a Palestinian state would be a terrible danger. Therefore they opted for the so-called “Jordanian option” — keeping what is left of Palestine under the heel of the Jordanian monarch, who is no Palestinian (nor even Jordanian — his family came from Mecca).

This week, the present Jordanian ruler, Abdullah II, flew into a rage when told that yet another Israeli former general, Uzi Dayan, had again proposed turning Jordan into Palestine, with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as “provinces” of the Hashemite kingdom. This Dayan is, unlike his late cousin, Moshe, a pompous fool, but even a speech by such a person infuriates the king, who is mortally afraid of an influx of Palestinians driven from the West Bank into Jordan.

Three days ago, Benjamin Netanyahu told Cathy Ashton, the pathetic “foreign secretary” of the European Union, that he would agree to anything short of Palestinian statehood. That may sound strange, in view of the “historic” speech he made less than two years ago, in which he expressed his support for the two-state solution. (Perhaps he was thinking of the State of Israel and the State of the Settlers.)

In the few remaining weeks before the U.N. vote, our government will fight tooth and nail against a Palestinian state, supported by the full might of the U.S. This week Hillary Clinton trumped even her own rhetorical record when she announced that the U.S. supports the two-state solution and therefore opposes any U.N. vote recognizing a Palestinian state.

Apart from the dire threats of what will happen after the U.N. vote for a Palestinian state, Israeli and American leaders assure us that such a vote will make no difference at all.

If so, why fight it?

Of course it will make a difference. The occupation will go on, but it will be the occupation of one state by another. In history, symbols count. The fact that the vast majority of the world’s nations will have recognized the State of Palestine will be another step toward gaining freedom for Palestine.

What will happen the day after? Our army has already announced that it has finished preparations for huge Palestinian demonstrations that will attack the settlements. The settlers will be called upon to mobilize their “quick-reaction teams” to confront the demonstrators, thus fulfilling the prophecies of a “bloodbath.” After that the army will move in, pulling many battalions of regular troops from other tasks and calling up reserve units.

A few weeks ago I pointed to ominous signs that sharpshooters would be employed to turn peaceful demonstrations into something very different, as happened during the second intifada. This week this was officially confirmed: Sharpshooters will be employed to defend the settlements.

All this amounts to a war plan for the settlements. To put it simply: a war to decide whether the West Bank belongs to the Palestinians or the settlers.

In an almost comical turn of events, the army is also providing means of crowd dispersal to the Palestinian security forces trained by the Americans. The occupation authorities expect these Palestinian forces to protect the settlements against their compatriots. Since these are the armed forces of the future Palestinian state, which is opposed by Israel, it all sounds a bit bewildering.

According to the army, the Palestinians will get rubber-coated bullets and tear gas, but not the “Skunk.”

The Skunk is a device that produces an unbearable stench which attaches itself to the peaceful demonstrators and will not leave them for a long time. I am afraid that when this chapter comes to an end, the stench will attach itself to our side and that we shall not get rid of it for a long time indeed.

Let’s give free rein to our imagination for just one minute.

Imagine that in the coming U.N. debate something incredible happens: The Israeli delegate declares that after due consideration Israel has decided to vote for recognition of the State of Palestine.

The assembly would gape in disbelief. After a moment of silence, wild applause would break out. The world would be electrified. For days, the world media would speak of nothing else.

The minute of imagination has passed. Back to reality. Back to the Skunk.

Israel’s Friends Abandon It

By M.J. Rosenberg

This is beginning to look like one of the worst periods in Israel’s history. (Read this great piece from the Israeli blog 972).

The Turkish government has essentially broken relations with Israel over the Netanyahu government’s refusal to apologize for storming the Mavi Marmara relief ship and killing nine Turkish nationals in the process. Ordinary Egyptians (not the government) attacked the Israeli embassy in Cairo, forcing all its personnel to return home to Israel. And the Palestinians, having despaired of achieving anything in negotiations with Israel under current conditions, are taking their case to the United Nations where an overwhelming majority of the General Assembly will endorse Palestinian statehood, even though Israel will still control the territory of the new state.

Each of these events, standing alone, would be catastrophic for Israel. In combination, however, they create a perfect storm, one whose force can only be kept at bay by the U.S. government which is, however, unwilling to help Israel in an election year.

Read the rest of the article here.

Shooting Our Selves in the Foot at the U.N.

By MJ Rosenberg

It is amusing watching the usual suspects – including those in the Obama administration – announce their opposition to the UN resolution that would grant the Palestinians their long-sought state.

Some of the opposition comes from the lobby and its congressional cutouts who are dedicated to preserving the status quo (i.e., the occupation). The Obama administration surely has a far more nuanced position, but is terrified at the prospect of challenging the lobby as it faces a tough re-election campaign.

In any case, the US looks utterly helpless. The Palestinians no longer view President Obama as an honest broker. Having watched him back down after every attempt to bring Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to the peace table, they view Obama as no different from his most recent predecessor.

As for the Israeli leadership, it openly disrespects the president. Netanyahu, like most bullies, is only impressed by those who bully him right back. Obama’s repeated capitulations win him no points with Netanyahu, who believed from day one that Obama could be rolled. He has been proven right while his many dovish critics at home – who insisted that there would be a price to be paid for disrespecting the US- look like Nervous Nellies.

Read the rest of the article here.

The Israel Project presents a very different perspective:

Response to President Abbas Statement on UN Actions

September 17, 2011

Washington, Sept. 17 – Last night, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that when he comes to the U.N. next week, he is not just going to ask countries to vote for a Palestinian state; he is going to ask them to vote for the exact physical boundaries of that state.

He said: “We are trying to get a full membership in the U.N., on the 67 borders, so we will be able, afterwards, to go back to negotiations…during which we will discuss final status issues, Jerusalem, refugees, borders, water, security, settlements and the issue of our prisoners, that by that stage will be prisoners of war, not terrorists or criminals. Even if this won’t be the case, they will be our top priority.”

At that point, what would be left for the Palestinians to negotiate? And then later, how can Abbas go to his people and tell them to take less than what the U.N. promised them? He’d once again be up a tree without a ladder.

If such a resolution passes, the entire idea of peace talks under the “land for peace” concept will be destroyed because the U.N. already will have given the land to the Palestinians, but Israel won’t have received peace.

Read the rest of the statement here.

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