Arieh O'Sullivan
The Media Line
August 3, 2011 - 12:00am

If the Palestinians succeed in their quest to get recognition of a state from the United Nations in September, Israel has no strategy to deal with it, according to a new report being drafted in the parliament (Knesset).

Entitled “The September Process: Findings, Developments and Recommendations,” the report was put together at the request of Shaul Mofaz, head of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and a leader in the Kadima opposition party.

“It seems that at the present time Israel has no clear and recognized strategy for the challenges of September,” Mofaz told the committee meeting behind closed doors on Wednesday.

He added that even the slightest thread of a political process could be beneficial for the show down expected next month.

According to Israeli security assessments, the Palestinians are not planning any violent demonstrations to coincide with the statehood quest in New York at the UN General Assembly. The Palestinians themselves also say that they prefer the “soft power” approach.

Senior Palestinian officials have said that they will organize a million man march to pour into the streets on September 20th, the day before the United Nations General Assembly votes on recognition of Palestinian statehood.

While a million people may seem exaggerated, Mofaz, a former Defense Minister and army chief of staff, envisioned upwards of 60,000 Palestinians marching on Israeli communities or army checkpoints, a move that the Israeli army would be obliged to repel.

“There is a high probability that we will have to call up reservists. Tens of thousands will be needed,” Mofaz told army radio on Tuesday.

At the moment, Israel is caught up in major social-economic turmoil with tens of thousands in the streets protesting the rising costs of housing and consumer goods. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s focus was on taking measures to satisfy these demands with quick fixes at a time when the peace process with the Palestinians has been frozen for nearly two years.

Netanyahu had earlier won the support of President Obama who urged the Palestinians to drop their UN gambit and move instead for direct negotiations based on the framework of pre-1967 borders with agreed upon land swaps.

Amid domestic turmoil, the looming issue of the Palestinians’ threat for unilateral action has been relegated to the back burner. But still, it had experts scratching their heads to figure out just what UN recognition would mean for the Palestinians.

One of the main questions that the Knesset committee was seeking to have answered was the diplomatic ramifications of Palestinian statehood recognition. After much deliberation with experts, it seems there are no precedents upon which to base their forecasts.

It may be that the Palestinians, or Palestine, would be eligible to join some of the 70 UN committees or NGOs and have voting rights. These could, for example, include the organizations overseeing aviation or communications that could rule that Israel was violating Palestinian sovereignty with its overflights or radio broadcasts. The Palestinians could push to isolate Israel and de-legitimize its hold on what the world would see as their sovereign state.

Some committee members feared Israel was opening itself up to boycotts and sanctions similar to what the world imposed on the apartheid regime of South Africa.

Committee members were regretfully surprised to find out that they were the only venue which brought together the major bodies dealing with Israel’s political strategy. This included the country’s intelligence agencies; foreign and justice ministries; police; National Security Council; and various military branches and academics.

“It was the first time that they were able to synchronize themselves to the issue. This wasn’t our function. We’re supposed to oversee it, not manage it,” said one insider associated with the committee.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has been stocking up on an unprecedented scale with non-lethal armament and rushing troops and reservists through riot-control training. Israel’s army has also recently rejigged its open fire regulations, making them more stringent in order to prevent escalation.

Some legislators from the opposition, such as Labor’s Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Kadima’s Meir Shetreet -- both former senior ministers in previous governments, believe that movement on the political track could head off the September qualms. They recommend that Israel recognize a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.

It is still not clear whether the Palestinians will opt for UN recognition. Israel’s reaction could be severe and include the cutting of funding, canceling security coordination and blocking movement in or out of the territories.

The Palestinians are more vulnerable to this sort of pressure now than they were during the second Intifada under the rule of Yasser Arafat. This is because the subsequent Palestinian leadership, especially Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, has gone to great lengths to build foundations of a new state and has brought an atmosphere of prosperity and law-and-order to the territories.

“Netanyahu has poor assessment of the present reality. My assessment is that this earthquake which is sweeping the region will not pass over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Mofaz warned on the radio.


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