UDI Brief: Declaration of Palestinian Statehood in the UN

UDI Brief: Declaration of Palestinian Statehood in the UN

In September of 2010 the Palestinian leadership walked away from the negotiating table with Israel.  This move was a direct violation of previous agreements made between the Palestinians and the Israelis to engage in ongoing, direct negotiations towards a settlement of peace between the parties.  For almost a year the Palestinian leadership have refused to negotiate with the Israelis.  Instead they have insisted on a series of demands as pre-conditions for talks with the Israelis. 

Now the Palestinian leadership plans to appeal to the United Nations as soon as next month to appeal for recognition as an independent state. This campaign for unilateral declaration of independence, or UDI, is very dangerous, and if successful, will deal a deadly blow to the Israeli- Palestinian peace process.

This Palestinian quest for unilateral declaration of statehood in the U.N. is cause for concern for many reasons.

  • By circumventing the peace process the Palestinians signal fundamental rejection of the principle of solving the conflict through direct negotiations. 
  • The Palestinians are basing their demand for statehood on the pre-1967 war borders, ostensibly demanding the state of Israel reduce its borders to the boundaries of the armistice lines negotiated with Jordan in 1949.  These borders are indefensible, leaving Israel’s waistline 9 miles wide at its narrowest point.
  • This demand for a state includes East Jerusalem as its capital.  Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and the status of Jerusalem is a major point of contention in the peace negotiations.  Prime Minister Netanyahu has made it clear that Jerusalem will remain under Israeli sovereignty and will not be divided.  The United States Congress has repeatedly made it clear that it supports this policy on Jerusalem. 
  • The United States President, the United States Congress, Members of the Quartet, the Israeli Prime Minister have all urged the Palestinians to come back to the negotiating table to no avail.  Despite the incalculable investment on the part of the United States and the international community in the Peace Process, the Palestinians are now choosing to reject the call for direct negotiations and failing to be partners for peace.
  • Direct negotiations between the parties are the only true path to peace.

There is another troubling component to this unilateral move by the Palestinians and it has to do with the very nature of the future Palestinian state.  The Palestinians are currently split into two camps of leadership.  Gaza, a territory on the Mediterranean sea that shares a border with Egypt and Israel is led by Hamas, and the territory to the west of the bank of the Jordan River (the West Bank) is lead by the Palestinian Authority or P.A.  These two camps of leadership have a history of internecine violence and are fierce rivals for power in the Palestinian territories.  Israel does not negotiate with Hamas, as Hamas’ charter calls, not only for the destruction of Israel, but also for the extermination of Jews everywhere.  The European Union and the Governments of Israel, Canada, Japan, and the United States have all designated Hamas as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. 

Earlier this year, in approach of the Palestinian run for unilateral recognition of independence in the U.N., the Palestinian Authority made moves to reconcile with Hamas and attempted to broker a unity government between the two organizations.   This attempt has, so far, been unsuccessful.  This move by the P.A., to partner with Hamas, an Iranian proxy and designated terrorist organization, brings into question the legitimacy of the Palestinian leadership and begs the question: exactly who will be applying for statehood in the United Nations?  And when this hypothetical nation is born, who will run it? 

The United States supports the P.A. to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars per year; the P.A. is completely dependent on international aid to maintain stability.  Congress is currently reviewing legislation that limits funding to the P.A. if it continues down the path of reconciliation with Hamas.  If the Palestinians continue on the path of “statehood at any cost” the costs will include legitimacy, stability and any hope of peace.