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Why Yesterday’s UN Vote Was Such a Setback

A primer on the frustration about yesterday’s happenings

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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas(AP)

Yesterday, I asked readers to help me parse the draft of the Palestinian application for upgraded status that passed with overwhelming support yesterday in the United Nations.

Here was one reader’s smart critique:

I see a contradiction between “based on pre-1967 borders” and a “contiguous State of Palestine”. A contiguous Palestine will have to include Gaza, which would not be good for Israelis. Who would govern it?

I also missed references to Israeli and to American peace initiatives. It seems from the document that Arab countries and the UN have been struggling relentlessly for peace since the beginning of times.

On the document’s reference to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, another reader made this remark:

On a less technical view, doesn’t the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 exclude Israeli control of any biblical Jewish holy sites? Going back to being a body without a soul.

Following the vote, I wrote about what the enhanced status of the Palestinian delegation at the United Nations actually means, namely what powers are afforded a non-member observer state at the United Nations and what does this mean symbolically.

Here’s what I’ve concluded: Despite the above-listed quibbles (which are not to be overlooked), the document itself was pretty anodyne and the actual result of Palestine’s enhanced status at the United Nations is really not something that will put Israel in any danger. (Had the wording been more troublesome, I’m confident that a large portion of the 41 abstentions in yesterday’s vote would have turned into votes against and that more of the ‘yes’ votes would have been abstentions.)

Taken out of its political context, the idea that there should be two states “living side-by-side in peace” is not objectionable to a rational mind and the idea that giving up the West Bank (under the right conditions) absolutely remains in the long-term interest of Israel, if it’s going to be Jewish, democratic, and supported by a loving Diaspora.

But the problem was that it was impossible to separate yesterday’s maneuver from its petty politics. I imagine a not-insignificant number of people, Jews and Israelis chief among them, would have loved to applaud yesterday’s vote as the step it could have represented on the quest for peace. But the tenor of the conversation made that unnecessarily difficult and, if anything, made the distance between the Israeli and Palestinian camps seem greater, not narrower.

Here were some of the problems:

History: An acknowledgement that the decision by Arab nations to reject UN Resolution 181 back in 1947 was a historical misstep would have moved the conversation forward. As the Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor was left to explain, acceptance of the very resolution that would have granted statehood to both the Israelis and Palestinians (exactly 65 years before yesterday’s vote) would have made moot yesterday’s half-measure.

The 1947 plan was not a particularly good deal for either side, but given the choice between two states living in peace and the three generations of Israeli and Palestinian suffering that followed instead, the right choice obviously wasn’t made then (and few times since). Had Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sincerely wished to appear like a serious partner for peace, he should have said this or, at at the very least, conceded that the blame is shared.

Speaking of Abbas: His speech was unsurprisingly atrocious. At the very moment when he could have most acted like a statesman, he chose instead to be divisive and untruthful. How’s this for an opening paragraph?

Palestine comes today to the United Nations General Assembly at a time when it is still tending to its wounds and still burying its beloved martyrs of children, women and men who have fallen victim to the latest Israeli aggression, still searching for remnants of life amid the ruins of homes destroyed by Israeli bombs on the Gaza Strip, wiping out entire families, their men, women and children murdered along with their dreams, their hopes, their future and their longing to live an ordinary life and to live in freedom and peace.

Abbas’ aim was to shore up domestic support, but he forgets that if he is ever going to deliver the Palestinians a state–ostensibly the aim of the speech and the entire UN initiative–he did nothing to convince the Israelis with whom he must make peace that he understands their narrative and their considerable suffering as well.

Given how expected this was, it almost seems unnecessary to take Abbas to task for doing what we all knew he would do. (A telling symbol: Neither of Israel’s main news channels bothered to broadcast Abbas’ speech.) But imagining–however naively–what might have come of the moment had Abbas actually chosen to be a leader elucidates why Israel, the United States, and many skeptical onlookers viewed yesterday as the charade it was.

Earlier: What the UN Vote Actually Means [The Scroll]
Crowdsourcing the Palestinian UN Document [The Scroll]
Full text of the Abbas Speech [Times of Israel]

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Still, it’s an achievement for the Palestinians, despite its paltry face value. How long before another resolution to enhance their status is ratified, further cementing their claims to de jure recognition as a fully-fledged member of the international community? Yes, it’s cheap ploy, yes, Abbas is nothing but a tawdry mountebank who has balked at the opportunity to actually sit down with Israel’s leaders. Grant that he’s not sincere and it comes as little surprise that he’s chosen as a venue in which to pursue his strategy a forum that is dependably hostile to Israel, where that country’s only meaningful ally’s influence has been waning steadily with the rise of formerly stillborn economies like Brazil, Russia, India and China. Netanyanu and his team of short-sighted flunkies can fret all they want, but sitting in the corner at the UN sulking while the rest of the world gets up to dance, and mouthing empty slogans about the native attachment Jews around the world feel for their Israel is a terminally unsuccessful strategy. Besides being frustrating to watch, it is frankly embarrassing, like watching one’s home team flail miserably against a team with a losing record. It is time to replace the coach.

    Arafat had the recognition of the whole world. And he died a lonely man in his Muqata compound. If Abbas wants to enter or exit the West Bank, he needs Israel’s permission every time, as do the other Palestinian officials and the foreigners who want to visit PA. So, if there will be some boycott of Israel, it will be by default also a boycott of the PA with all of its rights of an observer state.

    But I do agree with you that it was their political achievement. It may be time to replace the coach, the problem is – there is no other coach available right now.

Had Israel been astute it would have offered amendments to the Palestinian wording such as suggested above (including reference to the 1947 Resolution. Of course it would have lost? Maybe, maybe not.

At this point the current Israeli government doesn’t seem as if it has much credibility.

    The point of Israel’s opposition to the “Palestinian” Arab move was that the Arabs were violating the Oslo Accords in order to evade negotiations with Israel, and this once again demonstrates that they never honour agreements.
    So it’s the Arab side that lacks any credibility at all.

      I agree that the Palestinian leadership makes a rather unsatisfactory negotiating partner, but how could it be otherwise? Historically speaking, the idea of a Palestinian state itself lacks credibility. However, that still leaves the problem of what to do with those persons who call themselves “Palestinians”, wherever they may be. In respect of the Arabs who currently live on the West Bank at least, Israel needs to “be the bigger man” and give them the same rights as its Arab citizens who dwell in Israel proper.

        RACHEL says:

        Ah! you naive man. I have been a student of Middle Eastern History and political science fot he past forty years. Read Rhashid Khalidi’s essay on the history of Palestine. There is none! He is a professor of Middle Eastern affairs and pro Palestinian and yet is honest enough to admit this fact.

        The word Palestine is the English translation from the Hebrew word Peleshit meaning Phillistines. So yes let the Palestinians live in Gaza because this was the ancient home of the Phillistines.They are exactly where they should be!

        But where they should not be is in the West Bank. Why?

        Because the West Bank was originally Judah and Samaria Jewish territory. I advise you to read Howard Grief’s book THE LEGAL FOUNDATION AND BORDERS OF ISRAEL UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW.

        Historically, archaeologically and according to International law Israel is not the occupier of the territory in question, but the owner of the land.

        Well, if more European countries ban kosher slaughter and circumcision, the issue may resolve itself as a one-state solution. Europe has about two million Jews, if the majority of them move to Israel, one-state solution may be quite doable with Israel remaining both Jewish and democratic. (Hamas, of course, can remain independent or be a part of Egypt.)

        Well, if more European countries ban kosher slaughter and circumcision, the issue may resolve itself as a one-state solution. Europe has about two million Jews, if the majority of them move to Israel, one-state solution may be quite doable with Israel remaining both Jewish and democratic. (Hamas, of course, can remain independent or be a part of Egypt.)

        Well, if more European countries ban kosher slaughter and circumcision, the issue may resolve itself as a one-state solution. Europe has about two million Jews, if the majority of them move to Israel, one-state solution may be quite doable with Israel remaining both Jewish and democratic. (Hamas, of course, can remain independent or be a part of Egypt.)

        Why doesn’t your country give equal rights to Jews, Toussaint?

artgenie says:

Sooner or later all those illegal settlements will come under the jurisdiction of a Palestinian State.

    They are all legal. If the “Palsestinians” want war, they will get war.

      Legal or illegal, they are intolerably racist. If someone built a suburb in the mainly Cathjolic country where I am resident and said only Catholics can live there, the local Catholics would be appalled.

        Ilan Toren says:

        If there were a law putting people to death for selling to a non-Catholic it would be appalling. But then the Palestinians do have a law that puts the penalty for selling any property to a Jew as death

        20 percent of Israel’s population are Arabs; the “Palestinian Authority” and its “President” have vowed that not a single Jew will be allowed to live in their “state.” Hamas, the government of the other part of “Palestine” is less sophisticated; it says that all Jews everywhere must be murdered.
        Anyone who denies that the Jewish People have the right to their nation-state in the Land of Israel is a racist.

        Hmm, I guess you never lived in Spain in the 1490’s or in Canada where Jews were precluded from entering into Christian clubs, never mind joining. You’re memory loss is very convenient. Coptic Christians are struggling in Arab countries suffering from the same kind of oppression that you claim the Israelis impose on the Palestinians, and arguably worse. You have no words even for your fellow Christians hypocrite. Perhaps you have never spoken to the Aboriginal peoples that were stripped of their lands in Australia, or similar events in the United States, Canada and yes that Catholic bastion of human rights Quebec. Quebec where you have French language laws and you are punished for using English. Why are you not boycotting them? You are a hypocrite and a racist of the first order. If you are such a saint, why are there no other causes to focus on? Like the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries where they had lived for thousand of years. Why do you not speak of their right of return and the compensation they should receive, the businesses and lands they should get back? The Neo-Nazis in Greece beating up immigrants. You only wag your tongue about Israel. It’s simple. Hypocrite, racist, antisemitic.

    Keep dreaming.

You want to talk about a charade? How about, “We want peace and a two-state solution but we will keep taking your land for our settlements.”

    It’s Jewish, not Arab land.

      That, I submit, is a racist thing to say. How can any land be “Jewish” or “Arab”? Of course, the problem is latent in Max’s comment above, but from where I’m standing, twenty years after the abolition of the Group Areas Act in South Africa, anyone who builds a town or a village or a settlement and says “You’re not getting a house here unless you’re the right race or religion” deserves no sympathy at all.

        You’re not a sophisticated thinker, are you?
        “Jewish land” means the nation-state where the Jews are the majority population and exercise national self-determination there.
        20 percent of Israel’s population are Arabs.
        The “Palestinian Authority” won’t let a single Jew live in its “state”; its partner, hamas, constantly proclaims its aim of murdering all Jews and other infidels.
        Are you an infidel? beware of hamas and the “Pal Authority.”

      Really? Why?

        Reread the article. Because back in 1940’s Arabs said “NO” to resolution 171 of 1947 and instead of building the Palestinian state were only concerned with grabbing as much as they could and trying to destroy Israel and kill Jews there.

      Please explain.

        Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish People, where Jews constitute the majority of the population, and where they exercise their right to national self-determination, with equal rights guaranteed for minorities, like the 20 percent of the population who are Arabs.

The two-state solution is a nonsense, as the continued settlement building and Abbas’ sterile posturing make clear. As the article rightly points out, that boat sailed in 1947. For advocates of the Palestinian cause, the cry henceforth should not be “give us a state” but “give us our rights as citizens of Israel”

    If you think that the Jews will allow you to do to them with impunity what you did to them in 1933-45, or for the 2,000 years that preceded, think again.

Plumbline says:

……A 2 state solution is a secular one, whereas the one state of Israel is Gods idea. As you can see, these two opposing views are continually clashing, and will lead to Armageddon, where the nations try to force their will on tiny little Israel………Oh how the devil has always hated them, and the Christ she bore………

……..Spiritual Warfare……..

Revelation 12:17……..17 And the dragon (Satan) was angry at the woman (Israel) and declared war against the rest of her children—all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus.

I am an idiot for (once again) responding to an online forum where people tend to base their arguments on emotion rather than reason…where any small, tenuous justification serves to deny an overarching reality. I should know better.

The simple reality is that Jews confiscated 2/3 of Palestine against the objections of the people who lived there for millenia. Today the state of Israel exercises military control over the remaining third, treats the residents badly, and continues to confiscate even more of this land through expansion of settlements regarded by the world community as illegal.

I am neither Arab nor Jew. I hate oppression wherever it occurs. I am pleased that my country helped to stop the Nazis who were oppressing and killing Jews, and I fully understand why some Arabs would want to fight Israel. The Israeli government, with its continued shameful treatment of Palestinians, is the greatest promoter of anti-Semitism since Hitler. Now I’m done.

    shalomaleichem says:

    Max you may be an idiot but not for your stated reasons. What you write is egregiously false. Of perhaps more interest is that your conclusions are based on emotion rather than analysis of history or international law.

    1) Israel confiscated nothing- the territory in question was not an independent state but rather a awarded by the League of Nations to the Jewish people recognising their national rights.The UNGA 181 is advisory and of no legal standing in terms of the legal boundaries of the State of Israel. According to International law the West Bank belongs to either Israel or to no-one.

    Israel came to control additional territory in wars widely considered at the time to be defensive forced on it by Arab nations who wished to conquer the lot for themselves.

    2) Settlements are not illegal. They may be referred to as such for political reasons but an open-minded analysis of international law shows that (a) Jews have the legal right to live in Judea and Samaria (b) even were it applicable, there is no rule in the Geneva convention that forbids nationals of one state packing up and moving themselves. The rule forbids transfer and it isn’t clear how Israel has breached any article of international law in this respect. Individual settlers are not in breach of international law because they are not bound by it unless working as agents of the state. .

    3) 80% of what was Palestine is now called Jordan, why is this not a place for Palestinians to express their unique culture and identity? Could it be that they don’t have one that isn’t inherently linked to the destruction of Israel?

    4) You don’t see fit to criticise any Palestinian actions in respect of the conflict and then you blame Jews for anti-Semitism but apparently you aren’t bigoted…

    5) I think your first four words said all that needed to be said.


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Why Yesterday’s UN Vote Was Such a Setback

A primer on the frustration about yesterday’s happenings

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