This is provided as a framework for considering the current Palestinian Authority’s initiative to pass a declaration of independence (or statehood) at the United Nations this fall. Its purpose is to help you better understand the complexities and implications, in order to facilitate internal dialogue and external communications.
1) This issue is very complex and cannot be reduced to a matter of being in favour of a Palestinian state versus being opposed to a Palestinian state.
It is entirely possible to strongly support peace and Palestinian statehood, while still believing a declaration of statehood at the UN (without the requirement to make peace) is not the way to achieve this.
The government of Israel’s standing policy is the same as that of most of the global community to support the creation of a peaceful Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel.
Some Canadian Jews may criticize specific Israeli policies, and some may staunchly defend those same policies. Among those who support Israel’s right to exist as the national Jewish homeland, there is a range of opinions as to the best way to achieve this and this diversity is healthy. Wherever one stands, opposing the current Palestinian initiative at the UN does not mean that one supports all of the government of Israel’s policies or opposes the aspirations of Palestinians. Nor does it mean one is against the creation of a Palestinian state, but rather opposed to a unilateral declaration at the UN.
Perhaps the most effective way of approaching this issue is to ask the question: “Does it bring us closer to peace, or further away from peace?”
2) For many of those who oppose Israel’s right to exist, this effort at the UN is aimed at isolating Israel on the world stage not creating a Palestinian state.
Unfortunately, many who advocate Palestinian statehood refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist in security and as a homeland for the Jewish people. That is, they recognize the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, but reject the same right for the Jewish people.
If the world recognizes a Palestinian state even in principle without a peace agreement, this will be used by many anti-Israel activists as a basis to further delegitimize Israel. That is, they will (wrongly) accuse Israel of occupying a sovereign country thus adding momentum to the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions campaign against Israel.
The Palestinian leadership has also urged Palestinians to “take to the streets” in protest this September. In the past two years, Palestinian and anti-Israel activists have attacked Israeli troops in order to draw Israel into bloody and embarrassing confrontations. Some predict that activists intend to do the same this fall, for the purpose of further isolating Israel on the world stage.
Those who support Israel’s right to exist and the establishment of a Palestinian state, but also support the upcoming declaration at the UN, could unintentionally play into the hands of those who wish to delegitimize and isolate Israel.
3) We should always be looking for peaceful solutions that bring both sides together, not those that risk violence or drive a wedge between Israelis and Palestinians.
Even if successful, this move will not create a Palestinian state on the ground. As mentioned, it is expected there will be renewed violence on Israel’s borders and in the Palestinian territories as a result of the UN bid (and defeated expectations) posing dangers for Israelis and Palestinians alike.
The solution to the conflict lies in securing the needs and hopes of both sides safety and security for Israelis, and independence for the Palestinians. As long as there is agreement on these basic principles, there is a lot of room for the two sides to figure out and negotiate exactly how this should be done.