In his weekly Canadian Jewish News media analysis column "According to Reports," Paul Michaels, CIC Director of Communications, takes aim at a National Post editorial that supports the Palestinian decision to seek a state via a UN resolution.
The April 16 National Post editorial, "A better way to build a Palestinian state," presented what might appear to be a reasonable case for the Palestinian Authority's decision to seek recognition for a Palestinian state at the United Nations in September.
The Post noted that unlike former PA president Yasser Arafat, who used violence and terrorism against Israelis, the current PA leadership, President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, "have made a conscious decision to pursue statehood through nonviolent means. And this month, they are expected to receive an extraordinary gesture of encouragement from the international community."
Indeed, the IMF, World Bank, and the UN have all recently acknowledged that the PA, which, in the words of the Post, is committed to "building the trappings of a real, modern state," has met the conditions for statehood.
The "West Bank economy is now growing at an annual rate of 9 percent. A decade ago, Palestinians were synonymous in the media with human bombs: Who would want to give the powers of a sovereign government to such extremists? Now, the public face of the PA is two somewhat boring men who put on trade shows and celebrate the merits of direct deposit."
In other words, the Post argues that the Palestinians have finally earned the right to statehood – something, the paper points out, many Israelis who favour a two-state solution, also support.
Who could object to this promising picture?
Well, the Post acknowledges that "Supporters of Israel may be concerned by a PA campaign for statehood that endruns Israeli negotiations," yet immediately adds, as if this mitigates that concern, "But the nature of that campaign at least shows a welcome turn in Palestinian tactics."
In a nutshell, here's the problem: a change in Palestinian tactics does not amount to a change in strategy. As this column explained a few weeks ago, the PA's refusal to negotiate with Israel, in violation of the Oslo II agreement, signals to Israelis that the Palestinians want to establish their state without recognizing the Israeli one. In this respect, Abbas' strategy is not different from Arafat's, even if his tactics are.
When the Post wrote that "PA leaders already have announced that, absent meaningful negotiations with Israel this year, they will apply for UN membership in September," it failed to observe that it's the Palestinians who reject negotiations. They believe that, without having to compromise with Israel, they can achieve statehood by appealing to the international community instead.
(This refusal to compromise became even more entrenched following Al Jazeera's leaks of the "Palestine Papers," which erroneously made it appear that during the Annapolis talks in 2008, Abbas made generous offers which then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert rejected. Abbas was left embarrassed before his outraged public and then declared he'd no longer be able to "compromise" with Israel.)
Now, Palestinian officials speak about pressing the UN to call for the recognition of a Palestinian state on the "1967 borders" along with the acknowledgement of the "right of return" of Palestinian refugees (to Israel) – both "red lines" for Israel.
Some legal analysts in Israel have tried to downplay the impact of the PA's UN gambit, arguing that General Assembly resolutions are only recommendations (i.e. non-binding), so Israel has little to fear. Others, though, explain that should Palestinian statehood be recognized under the "Uniting for Peace" GA resolution (which employs the language of "aggressor" and "threat to peace"- language that would be applied against Israel), the Jewish state would likely become even more isolated internationally and vulnerable to sanctions. Branding Israel an "aggressor" would officially play into the Palestinian/Arab narrative and turn history on its head.
Meanwhile, UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which underlie all Mideast peacemaking efforts, including Olso, require, through negotiations alone, the recognition of Israel, the "establishment of safe and secure boundaries," and the "termination of all claims or states of belligerency." The PA's unilateral drive ignores all these requirements.
That's a prescription for conflict, not peace.