The Talk: A Trip to the UN
September 16, 2011
Ross Freiman-Mendel: The Palestinian Authority (PA) might appeal to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on September 20th to seek recognition for statehood. The PA hopes to receive at the very least legitimacy from the international community and the ability to participate in all the conventions and bodies of the UN. Chip, where do you stand in this debate?
Chip Lebovitz: Where I stand on the debate belies the significance of the Palestinian Authority’s decision. There is no reason that the Palestinians shouldn’t be allowed to take their case to the UN and, in fact, it is a brilliant strategic move – most likely forcing the U.S to veto a Security Council resolution. In a sense, it’s a win-win for the PA, a veto isolates Israeli support as solely stemming from the U.S. and simultaneously strengthens the Palestinian negotiating position. A successful vote establishes legitimacy for the Palestinian state.
Ross Freiman-Mendel: The PA has indeed staged a successful publicity stunt. The UN continues to cheapen its legitimacy with and respect for Israel. Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority is uninterested in a negotiating position; interest would imply that the PA is committed to peace, when in fact they strive for existential destruction. To the dismay of Israel’s enemies, the international community will have little bearing in convincing Israel to negotiate on indefensible terms.
Chip Lebovitz: That’s the inherent problem though with the American public’s position on the whole matter – it has no nuance. Seventy-three percent of Palestinians wants peace with the Jewish people, according to a 2010 Haaretz (an Israeli newspaper) poll, while 76 percent of Americans think that the Arabs want the opposite, to destroy the Jewish state. That’s a huge and depressing knowledge gap. The PA’s decision is wrong because it is a unilateral action that in the end may provide the PA with a temporary boost in negotiating power, but will in the end, just seed more long-term resentment between the two countries. What needs to happen is a return to the negotiations that the president had supported earlier in his presidency.
Ross Freiman-Mendel: There are polls and there are actions; Haaretz found 73 percent of Palestinians want peace, yet that Palestinians have been offered that — 1967 plus swaps — three times at Camp David in 2000, Taba in 2001, and Olmert-Abbas negotiations in 2008 to no avail. Having departed from the previous Turkish, Jordanian, British, and Egyptian rulers of yore, the Israelis gave the Palestinians sovereign territory in the form of Gaza, and in came “Iranian sponsored rulers [that] have devoted all of their resources to turning it into a terror base.” Peace has failed because one side has been intransigent, and successful negotiations will not happen until the PA comes to the table willing to make mutually agreed upon swaps.
Chip Lebovitz: Don’t conflate time periods and I’m not so sure the “moderate” Mahmmoud Abbas counts as an Iranian sponsored ruler. Most people I’m sure would agree that former PA leader Yassir Arafat was foolish to walk away from the Camp David deal, but Abbas is not Arafat. Right now, Israel is being increasingly isolated in the international community, in part due to a drop in Arab support stemming from the Arab Spring. Maybe part of the PA’s intransigence is due to Israeli obstinacy – refusing even the president’s request to stop building settlements in the West Bank.
Ross Freiman-Mendel: I wouldn’t characterize Abbas, who agreed to join in a unity government with Hamas as a “moderate.” I’d like to reference my opening argument, citing the possibility of peace only after the Palestinians Authority abandons its commitments for the destruction of the Jewish state. Israel is in a really unfortunate position, surrounded by enemies on all sides and friends “only ambivalently committed to its security.”
Chip Lebovitz: I wouldn’t characterize more than $2 billion in aid per year plus unmatchable access to the world’s greatest military as ambivalent commitment. The problem here is you are suggesting that the solution is in essence what the PA is doing by taking the vote to the UN: unilateral action. Peace processes require buy-in from both sides.
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Photo Credit: Ashitakka