Benyamin Netanyahu hit the nail on the head yesterday. The problem is not whether the world accepts a Palestinian State. It is whether the Palestinians accept a Jewish State.
The bottom line of this conflict is the deep-seated refusal of Israel´s neighbors to accept the existence of a Jewish State in the Middle East. Until Israel´s neighbors accept and embrace the existence of Israel as a Jewish nation, no compromise solution concocted by President Obama or anyone else will lead to lasting peace.
If we have learned one lesson from the last 100 years it is that imposed political solutions never lead to lasting peace.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can´t make it drink.
Recognizing a Palestinian State at this point in time would be the worst thing the international community could do. Once a State is created, there is no turning back. A State cannot be “undone” when things go wrong.
Here are some facts.
- Neither President Abbas nor the Palestinian leadership accept the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish State. None of the Palestinian leaders have ever openly accepted the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish State. In his recent New York Times Op-ed (16th May), President Abbas stated clearly that the Palestinians’ objective is to use Statehood as a springboard for the Palestinian refugees to be transferred back to Israel (thereby destroying the Jewishness of the State), and to launch further political and legal attacks on the legitimacy of Israel. Hamas refuses – and will always refuse – to accept the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish State within secure borders.
- The Palestinian National Authority under Mahmoud Abbas has entered into a unity deal with Hamas. Hamas is likely to have a controlling influence within a new Palestinian State. Hamas’ stated objective – its raison d’être – is to eliminate the Jewish nation. It refuses to recognize Israel, and it continues to promote terrorism. Under any scenario, it is likely that a new Palestinian State will refuse to accept Israel’s existence as a Jewish State, and be extremely hostile towards Israel.
- Israel is a tiny country. The former Israeli Prime Minister Eban referred to the 1949 Armistice Lines (often erroneously referred to as the “1967 border”) as the “Auschwitz border”. If Hamas and its allies are enabled to operate from within the 1949 Armistice Lines, Israel would be practically indefensible.
- International law does not support use of the 1949 Armistice Lines as a border. While the Palestinian Arabs may have certain rights to self-determination, the “West Bank” as such does not “belong” to the Palestinian Arabs. International law does not require Israel to pull back to the 1949 Armistice Lines, or to give the West Bank automatically to the Arabs or anyone else. On the contrary, Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 recommend, and “Oslo II” (the 1995 Israel-Palestinian Interim Agreement obliges, Israel, the Palestinians and the international community to pursue a negotiated solution in which the rights of all parties to “live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force” are guaranteed. They certainly do not envisage or require a unilaterally imposed solution. The lines existing at the outbreak of the 1967 Six Day War were cease-fire lines only, NOT internationally recognized borders. Countries which recognize an Arab State of Palestine on the basis of the so-called 1967 lines are arguably breaching their own commitment to support a negotiated settlement of all final status issues, including borders.
- At the end of World War I, following the collapse of the Ottoman Turkish Empire, the international community undertook to create a safe homeland for the Jewish people in the area then known as “Palestine”. This was in recognition of the historical connection of the Jewish people to the land and (in light of centuries of persecution) their right to self-determination. This was part of an overall internationally-recognized package which took full account of the interests of the Arab and other populations in the region, and ultimately also led to the creation of several independent Arab States in the region. The right of the Jewish people to establish a homeland in the area originally known as Palestine in peace and security was a fundamental and non-negotiable part of this settlement. It remains a fundamental principle that even today has legal, historical and moral force. Recognition of a unilaterally declared Palestinian State based on the 1949 Armistice Lines – with or without “land swaps” – would breach our fundamental obligation as an international community to ensure that the Jewish people have a safe homeland. It would threaten the historical and legal rights of the Jewish people with respect to Jerusalem and the “West Bank”. And it would completely undermine the existing framework of agreements which are based on the principles of recognition of Israel and negotiations to settle all final status issues – including Jerusalem, secure borders and Palestinian refugee
The way forward to peace is through mutual acceptance leading to bilateral agreements and genuine cooperation, not through one-sided unilateral measures.