Peace Table: Party of One

Baltimore Jewish Times

Melanie Maron Pell

December 19, 2012

On Nov. 29, 1947, the United Nations adopted the historic Partition Plan, int-ending to divide the territory formerly under British rule into separate Jewish and Arab states. While Israel accepted partition, the Palestinians and the entire Arab world refused.

Exactly 65 years later, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas spoke before the U.N. General Assembly shortly before the world body approved non-member state status for “Palestine.” The 1947 date, he said, became “the birth certificate for Israel,” and now the international body had “a historic duty” to issue a similar birth certificate for an Arab state of Palestine.

Abbas conveniently omitted a critical bit of history: In addition to rejecting the Partition Plan, Israel’s Arab neighbors attacked the fledgling Jewish state with the goal of annihilation. Against all odds, and despite a series of subsequent wars launched by Israel’s Arab neighbors, Israel survived and thrived. Moreover, Israel never gave up on the dream of peace with its neighbors. Today, Israel has peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan and continues to seek a negotiated two-state agreement with the Palestinians.

Rather than negotiate with Israel, the Palestinian Authority opted to appeal directly to the U.N. for enhanced status. Abbas chose to present a fictional accounting of the intervening 65 years rather than risk the embarrassment of recalling the actual history of the Middle East conflict, which demonstrates the Palestinians’ own responsibility for failing to secure a state.

Abbas spoke of “barbaric” Israeli aggression and threw in the inflammatory charges of racism, colonialism, ethnic cleansing and apartheid. Such allegations — especially ones so false — do not sound like the words of a leader interested in peace.

And yet 138 U.N. members went ahead and approved non-member state status for “Palestine.” Fifty states withstood considerable diplomatic pressure to go along, 41 of them abstaining and nine voting against. Particular credit goes to the United States, whose U.N. ambassador Susan Rice stressed that peace “cannot be made by pressing a green voting button here in this hall.” Canada, which has become a staunch supporter of democratic Israel, the Czech Republic, the only European Union nation to buck the tide, and Panama, the sole Latin American country to put conscience over expediency, also voted against.

The resolution’s passage changes no facts on the ground, since Israel rightfully insists on direct negotiations with the Palestinians before granting any form of recognition; in fact, the resolution’s passage encourages the Palestinians to stay away from the negotiating table. With its new status, the PA could further poison the atmosphere by bringing trumped-up charges of war crimes against Israel, and possibly the U.S., before the International Criminal Court.

If Abbas pursues that path of confrontation, it will make the goal of attaining two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace, even more elusive. Many countries, including the Europeans who backed the resolution, sought to explain their “yes” votes as expressions of support for a two-state solution. If truly committed to peace, those countries must now press Abbas to fulfill his pledge to resume negotiations with Israel. After all, in the real world the only path to sustainable peace is direct talks, without layer upon layer of preconditions. Abbas walked away from the table four years ago. Israel awaits his return.
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