by David Meir-Levi
On Saturday, August 13, The Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister, Riyad al-Malki, informed the UN that Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas will personally attend the UN’s 66th General Assembly on September 20, and request UN approval of statehood for “Palestine.” He seeks to make “Palestine” the 194th member of the United Nations by means of a UN fiat.
This idea was formally presented to the world by President Abbas in the New York Times on May 16. However, both President Obama and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke out against this move at a press conference on June 8. Obama said he would veto a favorable Security Council vote. Congress threatens to cut all ties to the Palestinian Authority if it goes forward with its statehood bid, ending hundreds of millions in US aid. So PA leadership has second thoughts.
Perhaps in response to this sustained US pressure, and out of the fear that major EU countries will vote against the Palestinian proposal, the Palestinian Authority has a “revised formula” requesting merely an upgrade in PLO status at the UN from “observer” to “non-member state”.
Given that the PA seems committed to creating their state, or some facsimile thereof, by “steamroller” tactics at the UN, it will be useful to understand why our Congress and President and some EU states are opposed to this PA maneuver.
The first problem is that the PA cannot yet demonstrate all of the four characteristics required for statehood by international law. A sovereign state is a political entity with a defined territory, a permanent population, a functioning government with the ability to exercise sovereignty over that territory (i.e., to command habitual obedience from that population by means of that state’s monopoly on the use of force), and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. [ [i]]
The PA fails on two counts. It currently cannot command habitual obedience of its population because it is in a state of civil war with Hamas [ [ii]] and because there are at least a dozen different armed terrorist organizations operating independently within the Palestinian Authority. Without a monopoly on the use of force, no government can exercise control over its population. Without one unchallenged head of state and a unified state government, the PA cannot guarantee its enforcement of treaties with other states. Hamas maintains control of the Gaza Strip, fields its own terrorist army, some 13,000 strong, is independent of the PA, and has refused to cooperate with Abbas on issues related to Israel. The much vaunted “accord” of May 20, 2011, to end the civil war, has faltered and none of the actions agreed upon for a “national unity government” has been carried out.[ [iii]]
The second problem is that a unilateral UN recognition of a Palestinian state contradicts three UN resolutions and the Oslo Accords.
UN General Assembly resolution 181 (29 November 1947) required that both the Jewish and Arab states settle all international disputes by negotiations (section 10:b), refrain from threat or use of force against another state (section 10:c), and guarantee all persons equal and non-discriminatory rights in civil, political, economic and religious matters (section 10:d).
UN Security Council resolution 242 (22 November 1967) demanded that all sides in the conflict agree to a “termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for, and acknowledgement of, the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area, and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries freed from threats or acts of force.”
UN Security Council resolution 338 (22 October 1973) required all parties to abide by UN Resolution #242 and enter into negotiations to establish a just and durable peace.
Article V, par. 2 & 4, of the Oslo Accords (13 September 1993) call for negotiated agreements as the path to the solution to problems relating to refugees, settlements, security, borders, and holy sites.
President Abbas, Arafat, and related terror groups, all have unceasingly declared their intention to destroy Israel no matter how long it takes. It is illogical to assume that this passionate Arab commitment to Israel’s destruction will suddenly evaporate with the UN’s recognition of “Palestine.”
Moreover, over the past two years Abbas has categorically refused to resume negotiations. Over the past 75 years various Arab leaders have rejected at least 31 opportunities for a two-state solution via a negotiated peace. Most recently Sa’eb Erekat has admitted that the PA has rejected Israeli offers, including a proposal by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to restart peace negotiations on the basis of Palestinian border demands.
Finally, the state that Hamas envisions, as its leaders have unabashedly promised, is based upon Shari’a law. Shari’a law requires that non-Muslims under Muslim sovereignty be dhimmi: non-citizens without equal rights. Such a status is in violation of resolution 181:10c.
The key concepts in all of the above are recognition, negotiations, peace, and basic human rights. All of these are an anathema to Hamas and the other terror organizations that constitute the PA. Thus a unilateral UN recognition of the PA as a state would be a violation not only of the resolutions listed above, but also of the very cornerstones of the UN’s noble purpose.
And that brings us to the third problem which lies within the core concepts of the UN itself. The UN was founded with the goal to settle international disputes via peaceful means. However, as noted above, the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, and kindred terrorist organizations, have been vociferous about their intentions to maintain a terror war against Israel until such time as they, and allied Arab or other Muslim states, have the power to launch a full-scale war of annihilation .[[iv] ]
It is important to recall that the charters of both Hamas and the PLO demand unequivocally the destruction of the Jewish state, and the Hamas charter foresees the genocide of all Jews world-wide. Genocide, attempted genocide and incitement to genocide are all violations of international law and crimes against humanity, per the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, 9 December 1948. The deeds of these and a dozen other Arab terror groups over the past 60 years have validated their genocidal rhetoric and diatribe of annihilation. The August 18th attacks near Eilat are the most recent manifestation of this psychotic hatred.
Even if, as the newest member of the UN family of nations, “Palestine” wanted peace, it is not likely that it could make peace, given the pressures it would face from Hamas, Hezbollah, even more extreme terror groups,[ [v]] and Arab confrontation states. It is far more likely that with the status of statehood, the PA and other pro-Palestinian groups could ratchet their political and PR campaigns and “lawfare” to new levels of intensity in the courts of various nations and even at the International Court of Justice. To enable these terrorist powers to gain the political status that will enhance their ability to achieve their genocidal goals is an astonishing abrogation of the UN’s basic purpose. Granting the PA the status of statehood and UN membership is likely to result in the UN’s complicity in genocide, or at least attempted genocide.[[vi]]
The fourth problem is quite practical. Without direct negotiations, highly contested issues like Jerusalem, borders and water rights will remain in legal limbo with no resolution, as will the status of refugees and the so-called Arab “right of return.” Resolution 242 requires a “just” solution to the “refugee problem.” A solution can be “just” only if it is accepted by the competing parties, not imposed on them.
The fifth problem is the economy. A flourishing economy is not a requirement for statehood; but the PA economy is an important indicator of preparedness. As a result of some recent economic improvements in the PA, the IMF decided that “…the PA is now able to conduct the sound economic policies expected of a future well-functioning Palestinian state;” and the UN concluded that the PA’s financial management is “…now sufficient for a functioning government of state.”
But reality is not quite so rosy. This growth is largely the result of donor funds. Somewhere between one-third and one-half of the PA budget comes from external aid (more than $1 billion) from the US, the EU and Arab states. In recent years Arab states have become less generous, giving $462 million in 2009, $287 million in 2010, and so far in 2011 $78 million. In recent months some of the Arab pledges have failed to materialize. This drop in foreign aid has created a huge deficit in PA finances.
Moreover, unemployment is rising. An UNRWA report of June 2011showed that unemployment among Palestinians in the West Bank and east Jerusalem rose from 21.7% to 25% during the last year. Unemployment in the Gaza Strip is 37.4%, the highest in the world. Paradoxically, Israeli settlements are major employers of Palestinian labor. About 80,000 Palestinians, 25% of the entire Palestinian payroll, work in the Israeli economy. The PA also depends on Israel to collect and remit tax revenues of about $1.5billion per year. If Israel were to economic cooperation, the PA could not pay its bills.A large part of these financial problems arises from the cronyism and corruption that characterize PA governance. Reports of corruption and plundering of PA coffers under Arafat and Abbas have pervaded the Israeli media for years. During his tenure as “rais,” Arafat skimmed $2 million a month from the gasoline trade in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. At the time of his death some $1billion in funds donated to the PA went missing from his accounts. Billions of dollars that are meant for humanitarian purposes have been siphoned off into private accounts and into the maintenance of terrorist organizations.
The PA’s economy is in such shambles that even a Palestinian economist, Nasr Abdul Karim, criticized the PA for failing to better manage its finances. He warned that its financial mess might weaken its plea for statehood.
It seems clear that the Palestinian Authority’s request for UN recognition is merely another ploy in the decades-old multi-faceted PR and political war against Israel. As George Jonas notes: “Those who complain that such a declaration undermines the peace process …don’t understand that that’s the declaration’s purpose.”
If the Palestinian leadership wanted to co-exist peacefully with Israel, it could do so by reversing the Arab commitment to “no recognition, no negotiations, no peace.” But Palestinian leadership does not want their state alongside of Israel. They want it instead of Israel. Their UN gambit is another ploy to galvanize world opinion and increase political pressure on Israel. The UN’s complicity will only aid and abet those who seek Israel’s destruction.
[i] These characteristics were enumerated at the Montevideo Convention of 1933. For a useful summary see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sovereign_state. For more detailed discussion see: Shaw, Malcolm Nathan (2003). International law, Cambridge University Press, p.178. “Article 1 of the Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States, 1933 lays down the most widely accepted formulation of the criteria of statehood in international law. It notes that the state as an international person should possess the following qualifications: ‘(a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with other states’;” and Jasentuliyana, Nandasiri, ed (1995). Perspectives on international law, Kluwer Law International, p.20. “So far as States are concerned, the traditional definitions provided for in the Montevideo Convention remain generally accepted.”
[ii] Schanzer, Jonathan, Hamas vs. Fatah: The Struggle for Palestine, Palgrave, 2008)
[iii] Hanan Ashrawi demurs: “We fulfill all the requirements of statehood as stipulated under Article 4 of the UN Charter and the Montevideo Convention.” June 8, 2011, http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=394991 quoted in http://www.imra.org.il/story.php3?id=52728; but she offers no evidence to support her statement.
[iv] For the most recent exposition of this uncompromising extremism, see http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/5584.htm. On August 16, 2011, the Gazan jihad group Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad issued a video titled “The Path of Honor versus the Path of Shame,” in which it attacks Fatah for its alliance with Israel, but reserves its fiercest opprobrium for Hamas, for not implementing Shari’a law in Gaza. The film’s authors confront members of Hamas’s military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, excoriating them for tolerating the cease-fire with Israel and the non-implementation of the Shari’a. Apparently Hamas is not extreme enough.
[v] Including Fatah, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, the PFLP, the DFLP, the PFLP-GC, Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, Sayyif Allah, Jayyish al-Jihad, el-Qaeda in Sinai, el-Qaeda in the Maghreb, the Resistance Committees, Force 17, and Ansar al-Islam, just to name a few.
[vi] Even as Abbas urges the world to support his bid for PA statehood, the PA continues teaching its children to hate Jews and to make the destruction of Israel the ultimate goal of their lives. See, for example:
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