Gershon Baskin
The Jerusalem Post (Opinion)
July 26, 2011 - 12:00am

Despite the threats of a US veto and a congressional decision to cease US financial support to the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian leadership is resolute to bring the issue of Palestinian statehood to the United Nations. There is an intense debate among Palestinians on the nature of the UN move; between the more aggressive position of requesting Palestinian state membership in the UN through the Security Council, knowing that this will cause direct confrontation with the United States, and the more moderate position of seeking non-UN membership statehood recognition of the Palestinian state in the General Assembly. Both options are currently vociferously opposed by the Government of Israel and by Washington.

Jerusalem and Washington both declare that there can be no imposed solution, that the UN is not the correct venue for resolving the conflict and that the conflict can only be resolved through direct negotiations. The Palestinians concede that their state will really only exist and that the end of the conflict can only be reached through negotiations, however, they believe that there is currently no possibility for constructive negotiations to take place without clear parameters, a time table and the implementation of the Israeli Road Map obligation to freeze all settlement building. Israel, of course, rejects these parameters. So we are at a dead-end and a face off, where each side is devoting time and energy considering a series of mutually-damaging unilateral steps. Israel is now threatening to annex settlement blocks and cease the transfer of Palestinian tax collections to the PA and even canceling the Oslo agreements. Palestinians meanwhile, are preparing the new battle front of “law-fare,” seeking to achieve membership in a broad range of international organizations such as the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. Both sides fear demonstrations and provocations such as those that took place on the Nakba and Naksa days.

WITH THE absence of a decisive US mediating role, the US publicly taking the Israeli side, and the divisiveness of the 27 member states of the European Union, the Quartet seems unable to arrive at a common platform that could renew negotiations. It seems that rather than transforming the current situation from crisis to opportunity, Israel and Palestine seem to be walking directly into the darkness of a inevitable disaster. There is now an urgent need for rational discourse ensuring that steps be taken to resume negotiations.

Let’s examine what is crucial for both sides. For Israel it is essential that the international community does not impose a solution on borders. It would also be crossing of ‘a red line’ to allow the international community to determine the future of Jerusalem or to even entertain the possibility that Palestinian refugees would return to Israel proper. Likewise, from Israel’s perspective, only Israel can be responsible for Israel’s security, and therefore any Palestinian state must be non-militarized. Lastly, Israel insists that Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.

For Palestinians it is essential that their inalienable right for self determination on the territories occupied by Israel in June 1967 be recognized and preserved through mechanisms of international legitimacy. Furthermore, Palestinians assert that it is their right to have their capital in East Jerusalem and to have full control over their external borders. They also demand that the rights of Palestinian refugees must be negotiated and no Israeli move can pre-empt or prevent those negotiations. Lastly, they demand that the Palestinian minority in Israel be recognized as a national minority and that their rights as such be protected.

BOTH SIDES recognize that the end of the conflict and the parameters of the two states solution must be negotiated. Both sides should understand that under the current circumstances there is no process available to bring the parties to the table. In order to avoid the eventual political, and perhaps violent, escalation between them, unofficial talks should take place, with or without a third party mediator, to find a formula through which a UN resolution would assist them in getting back to the table. Since the US is too preoccupied with trying to save itself from financial collapse to mediate and Obama has already begun his campaign for re-election, perhaps it is the opportune time for a small group of Israeli and Palestinian peace experts from the NGO world to step in a play a role. Instead of instructing his national security advisor to work with government ministries on planning the annulment of the Oslo agreements, Prime Minister Netanayhu should instruct his top advisor to work with Palestinian authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s top advisors to draft an acceptable UN resolution, or even better – design the path to return to negotiations.

AN AGREED on UN resolution could be beneficial for both sides. It should state that the parties must re-enter negotiations to create a reality of two states and to end the conflict between the two peoples. The resolution should also state that all permanent status issues, including: borders, Jerusalem, refugees and security, must be on the agenda for negotiations. The Palestinians should agree to suspend their request for membership in the UN and the international courts for a year to allow for permanent status negotiations to take place. In exchange, Israel (and the US) would agree that a new resolution, to essentially replace Resolution 242, be brought to the Security Council. The new resolution would mandate a two states solution, based on the June 1967 borders, with agreed territorial swaps that take into account changes that have taken place since 1967, as stated by President Obama.

Another step forward might be a reiteration of UN Resolution 181 (aka “the partition plan,”) which serves as the international legitimate birth certificate for both states. The Palestinian declaration of Independence from November 1988 quotes this resolution even mentioning “a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine.” Israel’s demand for recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people could be achieved by stating that at the end of the process and within a permanent peace agreement, Israel would be recognized as the Jewish national homeland and Palestine the Palestinian national homeland. Both sides would agree to add the proviso that the rights of minorities in both states will be protected and guaranteed.

The resolution should also set a reasonable, one year, timetable for negotiations. The implementation of the agreement may be incremental over a period of several years, with the formal establishment of the Palestinian state in one year and its acceptance as a member of the United Nations following the signing of a peace treaty.

Lastly, the resolution would call on both parties to enter into direct negotiations, with the assistance of the Quartet, led by the United States. In a rational discourse we distance ourselves from mutually hurting steps to mutually beneficial ones. There is no need for artificial confidence building measures. What is necessary is a positive approach to build forward-moving steps that demonstrate the true intention to reach peace.


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