by Yonatan Silverman
In his famous speech at Bar Ilan University in June 2009, Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed for the first time in his political career to the establishment of a Palestinian state. He made two conditions: that the Palestinian state be demilitarized and the Palestinian state formally recognize that Israel is the state of the Jewish People.
But no sooner had he made this generous historic offer than the Palestinians pulled their Helen Keller routine, rendering themselves deaf, dumb, and blind to the whole idea.
Netanyahu's speech closed the door to permanent status negotiations," senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said. "We ask the world not to be fooled by his use of the term Palestinian state because he qualified it. He declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel, said refugees would not be negotiated and that settlements would remain.
The Palestinians then went the extra mile and terminated negotiations altogether.
Toward the end of 2009, the Palestinian Authority announced:
A plan to seek unilateral statehood through a UN Security Council vote. Palestinian leaders say the US and Israel leave them with no other option.
The government of Israel rejected this Palestinian gambit -- to wit, "Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a new Palestinian plan to seek unilateral statehood through a UN Security Council vote."
But the Palestinians were not deterred. While keeping a stiff forearm poised against any new negotiations with Israel, for the next two years, the Palestinians made a determined diplomatic effort to plow the globe and elicit official support from the world's governments for their U.N. statehood declaration in September 2011.
This enterprise also met with the wholehearted support and enthusiasm of the Quartet and the European Union.
On July 12, 2009, Javier Solana, the European Union's top diplomat, reportedly called on the U.N. Security Council to recognize a Palestinian state even without a final-status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. He said the U.N. "would accept the Palestinian state as a full member of the U.N., and set a calendar for implementation."
In August 2009, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced a unilateral plan to establish a de facto Palestinian state in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem following a twenty-four-month state-building process. Fayyad's 54-page plan to build Palestinian infrastructure and establish Western-style public institutions is the first of its kind since the signing of the 1993 Oslo accords.
So Fayyad oversaw an overhaul of the Palestinian internal economy. But the clincher here for the last two years is that the Palestinians have embarked on an aggressive international lobbying campaign to convince the world's governments to support recognition of the Palestinian state in September 2011 in the U.N.
In fact, as a result of Palestinian lobbying, around 130 U.N. ,member-states expressed support for Palestinian statehood in the U.N. But in the final analysis, this was a frivolous achievement. In order to become a U.N. member-state, it is necessary to obtain the approval of the U.N. Security Council, and the UNSC rejected the Palestinian initiative. In particular, the U.S. stated that it would impose its veto on the move. So for all their public relations blitzing around the world, the Palestinians had absolutely nothing to show in the end. It is more than likely that they knew all along that their effort to win U.N. membership would fail. But they pursued the initiative because it resulted in further diplomatic difficulties for Israel. However, even this hostile effort was fruitless, because the diplomatic maneuver aimed against Israel in this case just rolled off the country's back.
The Palestinians refuse to stop maneuvering for recognition they do not deserve, and in some cases corrupt international organizations -- like UNESCO -- answer their desires. In particular, UNESCO admitted Palestine as a full member-state in October 2011. But the organization got what was coming to it. The step cost UNESCO one quarter of its yearly budget -- the 22 percent contributed by the United States (about $70 million) plus another 3 percent contributed by Israel. Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman, said that American contributions to UNESCO, including $60 million scheduled immediately, would not be paid.
Acting under a legal requirement to cut U.S. funds to any U.N. agency that recognizes a Palestinian state, the State Department announced that the United States has stopped funding the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization because of the vote.
The most recent Palestinian trick, and betrayal, was the people's successful bid to have Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity recognized by UNESCO as located in Palestine.
Speaking from the podium in front of Manger Square in Bethlehem, Palestinian prime minister Fayyad bombastically stated that UNESCO's decision is important, as it evidences an international acknowledgment of Palestinian sovereignty over their land in the pre-1967 lines.
In terms of reality as people everywhere understand it, UNESCO's identifying the Nativity Church as a heritage site located in Palestine is completely meaningless. It was also meaningless when UNESCO voted to include Palestine as a full member-state in the organization. The Palestinian Authority's feverish exertions in the U.N. to obtain member status there are also meaningless. Through doing these things, the Palestinians are not dealing with reality as people everywhere understand it -- but rather with a malicious virtual reality whose meaningless elements are aimed to ambush Israel diplomatically. Claiming that the Christian faith's holy shrine in Bethlehem is located in Palestine is no different from claiming that it is located in Los Angeles. Both claims are false, of course. But there is a burning desire in the Palestinian community and the Palestinian leadership to take any measures virtually imaginable to harm Israel diplomatically.
The Palestinian hubris for state recognition also undermined the beginning of the recent U.N. Global Arms Treaty talks. Egypt, among other Arab states, lobbied for the inclusion of a Palestinian representative at this important conference. But this created a heated controversy, and Israel, for its part, threatened to leave the conference if Palestinians were admitted.
In April, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas renewed his threat to unilaterally seek U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state if Israel did not accept his conditions for resuming the peace process.
He added that there would be no resumption of the peace talks unless Israel halted settlement activities in the West Bank and east Jerusalem; accepted the June 4, 1967 lines as the future borders of a Palestinian state; and released Palestinian prisoners.
Of course, the Palestinian conditions are nothing but an outrageous ultimatum, a gun they are holding to Israel's head, which no self-respecting country would consider in a million years. In particular, Israel will never retreat to the 1967 borders under any settlement because these are what the late Abba Eban called "Auschwitz Borders." And he knew what he was talking about.
In a stalemate in a chess game, there are no valid moves, and the players shake hands and the game ends. But the process is different in a political stalemate. In a political stalemate, when neither side is prepared to compromise on the other side's positions and proposals, the game does not end. The gist of the conflict remains on the table, the conflict remains active, and the two sides have no choice but to live with the situation.
Since 1993, when the Oslo Accords were signed, there were fruitful efforts between Israel and the Palestinians to resolve the conflict and end occupation. Oslo represented an historic breakthrough in the long stalemate between the sides. The Oslo 2 Agreement signed in 1995, for example, turned control over to the Palestinian Authority in the following West Bank cities: Bethlehem, Hebron, Jenin, Nablus, Qalqilya, Ramallah, Tulkarm, and some 450 villages.
But that was 1995, and today is 2012. Israel never handed control of other West Bank territory to the Palestinian Authority. Although Gaza was handed over early in the process, Hamas violently took control of Gaza, and there can be no negotiating with Hamas about this territory. In theory, the Oslo process is still alive. But in practice, and on every plane, the Palestinians have betrayed Oslo, are seeking backdoor and unilateral paths to achieve statehood aims, and so on. But their behavior is nothing but an empty house of cards. Only bilateral negotiations will achieve a permanent settlement. There is no viable alternative.
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