The Palestinian quest for statehood at the UN will not translate into an altered reality on the ground. As of today, there are doubts as to whether the UN will even vote on the issue tomorrow, due to heavy international pressure by world powers to shelve the vote until a future date. Abbas, in spite of threats from Israel and the US that aid to the Palestinian Authority will be cut-off if they go ahead with their unilateral action at the UN, which would cripple the PA – has no other choice but to continue his UN bid. As stated yesterday, he has backed himself into a corner and by choosing to opt out now he will damage his credibility at home and in the Muslim world.
The Palestinian bid to become the 194th member-state of the UN will fail. The US has promised a veto and has said so publicly. However, if their request for statehood does go to the UN Security Council and they do decide to vote on the issue at the present time, which is in doubt, the Palestinians might not even receive the necessary nine votes to become a state. There are doubts as to whether Nigeria, Gabon, Bosnia-Herzegovina, or India will vote yes, no, or abstain. Thus, the US wouldn’t have to use its veto. If a veto is used, they will not become a full member state and will seek a UN General Assembly vote. A General Assembly vote will surely guarantee them as a non-member state with observer status, which would put them on the same diplomatic level as the Vatican. As Former US Ambassador the UN John Bolton said; “The only practical result of the General Assembly declaring “Palestine” a state will be to move its chair on the side of the Assembly hall a few feet from its present location to be next to theVatican, the only other “observer state.” This is nothing to get excited about.” This is because UN General Assembly resolutions are non-binding, thus a General Assembly vote in favor of Palestine, which will occur, will not change any facts on the ground. The Palestinians won’t have an airport, won’t control their airspace, nor will they have the ability to conduct independent foreign relations.
The issue as stated in yesterday’s entry is not what happens at the UN, but what does NOT happen. By proceeding to the UN and seeking unilateral action, the Palestinians have violated the Oslo Accords. The Oslo Accords forbade unilateral actions that threatened final status issues, such as Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, and borders. Notably, by rightfully or wrongfully bypassing negotiations, the Palestinians are declaring an end to these Accords. Thus, all earlier agreements can be discarded and any unilateral action by both sides would not be constrained by previous agreements. The end of the Oslo Accords, if Israel reacts in kind, is a game changer.
Right now, tensions are running high in the West Bank. Jewish settlers and the Israeli government are concerned that mass marches and violent riots will take place and Palestinians will attempt to converge on Jewish settlements. There have been clashes between IDF/settlers with Palestinians the past several days, but in the West Bank, these are routine. Jewish settlers are adamant about protecting their towns, villages, and cities, and have armed and are drilling for any escalation in and around their communities. Some settlers have even declared they will go on the offensive themselves to stop any rioters from reaching their gates. As of now, no one can predict what will happen in terms of violence or lack thereof, however, Israel’s deployment of 22,000 security forces in Jerusalemand theWest Bank illustrates the possible fallout from this vote. One thing that can be stated with certainty is that given the present-day reality on the ground, a “Two State Solution” is doubtful.
For several years, many Israelis and Palestinians have considered this peace strategy a failure. The impasse is simply too great and neither side is willing to budge on core principles, due to ideology, politics, history, stability, economic growth, or security. Everything is at a standstill and the status-quo persists. In addition, as earlier peace attempts have shown, peace talks usually bring a new round of violence, which make many wonder, is it worth it? As everyone knows, there have been previous offers, which were politically risky for Israeli leaders, yet nothing came of it. Even so, everyone efforts were maintained while the same old tune, of the “Two State Solution” continues.
In terms of facts on the ground, the realities needed for two independent states between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River do not exist. The political body seeking UN statehood, the PA and its armed group Fatah, don’t even control a major part of their future state, the Gaza Strip. Despite their reconciliation, both Hamas and Fatah are rivals and the unity deal was merely symbolic and thus disintegrated soon after. Hamas is opposed to any negotiations with the Jewish State and seeks the “liberation” of all the territory between the Sea and the Jordan River. Many on the right would claim this is the goal of the PA and Fatah as well, however, the PA is willing to make agreements and cooperate, on some level, with the Israelis. Hamas, which opposed the UN state bid, is eyeing theWest Bank as its next takeover. The possibility is very real and the aftermath of Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza in 2005, evokes worry amongst some Israelis of a repeat occurrence in theWest Bank should there ever be a withdrawal.
The Palestinian idea of a state, as stated on numerous occassions, which includes the entire West Bank and East Jerusalem as its capital will be void of any Jewish presence. Palestinian officials have even stated this publicly, thus making any agreement with Israel at present, physically impossible. Currently, in the area the Palestinians wish for a state, there are over 200,000 Jews living in the eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem and roughly 350 to 400,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Most Jewish settlers live in the settlement blocs, which contain in essence cities, with the remaining located in over 100 settlements across the West Bank. The settlements of Maaleh Adumim, Beitar Illit, and Modin Illit each contain over 30,000 people. The 2005 unilateral disengagement from Gaza removed some 8,500 settlers from the Gush Katif settlement bloc in the Gaza Strip. That action, which was very painful, costly, and took thousands of Israeli soldiers to complete, is miniscule compared to what would be needed to evict Jewish settlers from the West Bank. The events in Gaza and Southern Lebanon have turned many Israelis off of Land for Peace strategy. That plan, which was comparable to a religious ideology merely a decade ago, is fading fast. The reality is that the Jewish settlers expand at a rate many times faster than the Israeli and Palestinian average. The amount of settlers, their influence in the IDF and government, strategic nature of their communities, makes the idea of mass eviction unrealistic and dangerous. There is no way to remove them and such an action could create civil war and would be ill-advised strategically.
The recent documents released by Al Jazeera illustrate the almost impossible feat of a “Two State Solution”. When it was leaked that the PA was negotiating the status of Jerusalem, almost down to the last inch, and negotiating the issue of possible land swaps and limiting the return of refugees, the Arab street reacted in shock. Al Jazeera painted the negotiations as a travesty, hoping to bring down the PA, because they knew the nature of the US sponsored negotiations were of greater substance than what Palestinians were told. The PA has for years, neglected to tell its people the true nature of negotiations with Israel. They were fed false hopes and propaganda about a future Palestine. The PA sanctioned maps, school books, and other items would simply replace Israel with Palestine. For Israelis, the nature of the leaked negotiations was routine and old news. For Palestinians, it felt like betrayal.
Despite the massive amounts of money poured into the PA and the fancy institutions they have built, they are bankrupt and in political turmoil. Infighting and corruption run rampant and there isn’t much confidence that they would be able to manage a functioning state. For many Israelis, the thought of Hamas, a proxy of Iran, taking control of a weak Fatah in theWest Bank after an Israeli withdrawal is very real. There is no momentum or strategic necessity to force peace talks, which could instead, bring war. Right now, the region is in chaos. Who knows if any deal signed with a regional state will be maintained, as we are witnessing with Egypt and Jordan. The lack of will, facts on the ground, religious, historical animosities, security, and a growing Islamist sentiment in the region and the political right-wing trend of Israeli society, makes the “Two State Solution” almost completely unfeasible.
For years ,Israel has been on the diplomatic and political defensive. It has taken a besieged mentality to threats, accusations, boycotts, demonstrations, riots, attacks, and UN investigations. The Palestinians have embarked on a unilateral move to the UN, thus Israel, being no longer bound by any agreement from the Oslo Accords, should take the initiative and carry out its own new long-term strategy that enhances its geopolitical and geostrategic position.