Ghassan Khatib
Bitterlemons (Opinion)
August 24, 2011 - 12:00am

Israeli politicians and its media and PR machine have filled the news in the last two weeks with exaggerated and sometimes fabricated news and analysis about practical preparations on the ground for the upcoming Palestinian bid to the United Nations. Israel, which has two major difficulties with the Palestinian plan to ask the UN to discuss the stalled peace process, is having trouble fighting this move politically and diplomatically. Instead, it is resorting to its comparative advantage in public relations to try to reduce growing international support for this move.

The first problem Israel has with this discussion at the UN is that its political strategy in dealing with Palestinians is based on power politics and evasion of the international consensus. Any discussion in the United Nations about the conflict will expose Israel's illegal positions and behavior to international criticism, embarrassing it and its ally the United States, which has been ignoring Israel's role in stalling bilateral negotiations and carrying out violations of international law.

The second, albeit related, problem Israel faces is that this discussion will inevitably expose the real reason for the failure of the peace process and bilateral negotiations: illegal Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories. This policy has been rejected by every single country in the world. Any discussion in the United Nations will bring attention to this main obstacle standing in the way of the peace process and negotiations that the international community has blessed as the correct approach. Consequently, Israel will face international pressure to stop its policies and resume the bilateral negotiations process.

To avoid such censure, Israel has been trying to shift the debate from the need for collective international action on the crisis facing the peace process toward fabricated news about Palestinians preparing for confrontations during the debate in the UN. And, in order to give this PR campaign some genuineness, Israel has reported on its own preparations to counter the purported Palestinian violent activities.

Fortunately, this attempt has so far not succeeded in diverting attention away from the core issues that Palestinians seek to address at the United Nations. These are, first, to invite the international community to play a more direct and effective role in ending Israel's illegal occupation and allowing the establishment of a Palestinian state on the borders of 1967 on the basis of the international vision of peace. Second, Palestinians seek to shore up recognition for Palestine as an independent state on the borders of 1967. Finally, Palestinians are asking for a collective contribution to the resumption of a meaningful peace process that has clear terms of reference compatible with international law and the roadmap, with more direct and effective mediation in talks, as determined by the UN.

Otherwise, Palestinians have no plans for anything beyond peaceful public activities aimed at expressing support for the leadership's United Nations initiative. In parallel, Palestinians are undertaking a diplomatic campaign of contacting various countries to explain their legitimate intentions and to encourage a positive and constructive engagement at the UN. This is in light of the Palestinian government's success at developing and reforming its institutions, thereby attracting commendations from the World Bank and the UN. Any reports about anything more are simply part of a disinformation campaign that seeks to distort the legal and peaceful Palestinian approach.


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