[Published 29 July 2011]
The debate in the Security Council this week on the situation in the Middle East was the last before the opening of the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly - affording the United States an opportunity to state its position and issue a warning to those thinking of pushing for the recognition of a Palestinian State in September.
United States Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN - Rosemary DiCarlo - stated America's position unequivocally and unconditionally when she stated:
"My government has been clear all along. The only place where permanent status issues can be resolved, including borders and territory, is in negotiations between the parties-not in international fora such as the United Nations."
She warned the Security Council:
"Let there be no doubt: symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September will not create an independent Palestinian state. The United States will not support unilateral campaigns at the United Nations in September or any other time."
A viable and sustainable peace agreement can only be achieved by mutual agreement of the parties themselves. Only through serious and responsible negotiations can the parties achieve the shared goal of two states for two peoples, with a secure, Jewish state of Israel living side by side in peace and security with an independent, contiguous and viable state of Palestine.
This is the goal. This is the vision. But there are no short-cuts."
The United States has apparently given up on such a Palestinian State being democratic - contrary to the following provision of the Bush Roadmap:
"A two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will only be achieved through an end to violence and terrorism, when the Palestinian people have a leadership acting decisively against terror and willing and able to build a practicing democracy based on tolerance and liberty and through Israel's readiness to do what is necessary for a democratic Palestinian state to be established"
This seems a strange step backwards in the face of current calls for democracy and the end to despotic long term rulers in many Arab countries including Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria and Yemen.
In the absence of free and fair elections in the West Bank and Gaza - Israel is entitled to be concerned at the current - and future - political structures existing in both territories where:
1. political power is divided between separate governments headed by Hamas and Fatah and they remain unable to reconcile their political differences.
2 the constitutions of both Hamas and Fatah call for the destruction of Israel and
3. the date for fresh elections keeps being postponed and continues to remain a perpetual pipedream.
Successful negotiations to conclude a binding and enforceable peace agreement are not remotely possible until the Palestinian Arabs sort themselves out and elect a Government that is prepared to:
1. recognize Israel as the Jewish State; and
2. outlaw any political party that calls for the destruction of Israel.
Ms DiCarlo offered little comfort to the Palestinian Arabs when she stated:
“Let me also reiterate that, like every U.S. administration for decades, we do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity.“This was a far cry from the misleading claim often made by the Palestinian Arabs and other countries that the settlements are illegal in international law.
International law - in particular article 6 of the Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the United Nations Charter - is very clear on recognizing the right of the Jewish people to close settlement on the land comprising the West Bank and Gaza - including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes. These vested rights continue uninterrupted and inviolate in 2011.
Pursuing such rights whilst negotiations are ongoing is certainly a legitimate area for concern.
However Israel did place a ten month moratorium on settlement activity - which expired on 26 September 2010 - to induce the Palestinian Authority to return to the negotiating table - but they waited till the death knell to respond.
Additionally Israel’s offers to cede its legal claim to more than 90% of the West Bank and Gaza in 2001 and 2008 fell on deaf ears. Any suggestion that ongoing settlement activity is an obstacle to peace - in just 1.7% of the West Bank or 5-8% if you count the area encompassed by the security barrier - is risible.
Perhaps ominously for the Palestinian negotiators Ms DiCarlo issued this warning:
“The fate of existing settlements must be dealt with by the parties, along with other permanent, status issues.”
The Palestinian Authority has made it clear that any Palestinian State to be created must be exclusively Arab and a Jew free zone. Its call for such a State to be recognized within the 1967 armistice lines means 500000 Jews will have to pack up and leave their homes and businesses established over the last four decades. This is not going to happen as the result of any negotiated peace agreement.
Indeed what can only happen is the scenario contained in the letter from President Bush to Israel’s then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on 14 April 2004.
“As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centres, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.
It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.”
Like it or not the Palestinian Arabs - and those who support their quest for an independent State - will have no option but to accept the division of the West Bank between Israel and any Palestinian State. The longer they dither the more likely new realities will emerge on the ground to make that division less attractive.
The Palestinian Arabs could have had their State in all of the West Bank and Gaza at any time between 1948-1967, when Jews were banned from living there for the first time in the recorded history of the West Bank and Gaza. One can only shake one’s head in disbelief at the opportunity then missed during those 19 years.
Returning to that unique situation is never going to happen again. Believing it will only prolongs the conflict between Jews and Arabs and ensures further needless death, pain, suffering and trauma on both sides.