The British, French, Germans and many other European countries have feigned offense following the announcement of Israeli measures in response to the UN passage of a resolution that recognizes Palestine as a state. The usual line is that the Israeli response will make it supposedly impossible to achieve a two state solution. These great friends of Israel were offended that Israel might react to the Palestinians explicitly breaching all previous understandings signed between Israel and the Palestinians. Where were they on November 29th? The French voted for Palestinian recognition and in favor of breaching the Oslo Accords. The Germans and the British abstained. In other words, when the Palestinians take steps that directly and explicitly contradict signed obligations with Israel the Europeans will either look the other way or cheerfully support them. Then these same great friends of Israel will turn around and insist that the only way forward is to sign more meaningless pieces of paper under which Israel surrenders valuable assets and the Palestinians promise a certain code of behavior. The reason why they suggest Israel should trust these pieces of paper? Well, you see, while the signatures are fresh the Europeans will make extravagant statements about ensuring that Israel is protected from the consequences of Palestinian breaches of the agreements. With such ironclad commitments on behalf of Europe what is there to lose?
Then there are the Americans, who valiantly sided with Israel on this vote, for which Israel should certainly be grateful. However, there are some questions that need to be raised. The US persistently demanded that the Palestinian Authority refrain from pursuing this vote in the UNGA. President Obama reportedly spent many hours trying to convince Abbas to avoid such unilateral steps. Unfortunately the Palestinians under Abbas ignored all the forceful advice and went to the UN anyway. What consequences did the PA suffer? None. None whatsoever. The Palestinians breached their agreements and went outside the framework that the United States was committed to pursuing and faced no consequences. And it isn’t like the US has no levers that can be used to pressure the Palestinians. In fact the US is the largest single foreign contributor to the budget of the Palestinian Authority – $400 million or more for the past five years and running. So, once again, the United States should be thanked for supporting Israel in pressing a red button at the UNGA, but what value can there possibly be in future signed agreements with the Palestinians when they are free to breach them at will while the world celebrates and the Americans do nothing?
Yes, yes, I know that I am looking at this in a very limited manner. Don’t I know that the PA under Abbas needed strengthening because it was under pressure from Hamas after the latest Gaza war which Hamas ‘won’? Yes, I am fully aware of this commonly used justification and apparently such ‘strengthening’ is to come at Israeli expense at the UNGA. So, it seems that it is more important to strengthen a 77 year old unelected dictator of God knows what and ignore the common sense definition of what a state is than to actually take measures to ensure that the Palestinians stick to their signed obligations. Presumably, in the future, the weaker the PA and Abbas are the more they will need to be ‘strengthened’ at Israel’s expense. Signed agreements ignored, the Palestinian Authority strengthened at Israel’s expense, Israeli positions undermined in future negotiations, and no end to conflict ever need be offered in return. Rinse and repeat. What could Israel possibly dislike about this arrangement?
The big news item now is American and European anger over the announcement of Israeli steps to pursue settlement construction between Jerusalem and Maaleh Adumim. This strategic neighborhood has not been built until now because both the Israelis and Palestinians were committed to resolving their outstanding issues at a negotiating table and according to the Americans the construction of this neighborhood would preclude Palestinian control over East Jerusalem which would prejudice future negotiations. Because of this the US received assurances from previous Israeli prime ministers that Israel would not build in this neighborhood. Israel has kept her word. Now, given that the Palestinians have done an end-run around direct negotiations in their little UN spectacle, what part of this commitment continues to make sense for the Israelis? From this step and the Palestinian hints of their future actions it is now apparent that the Palestinians are planning to pursue international intervention in order to enforce their terms of reference in future negotiations. These Palestinian terms of reference, as Abbas doesn’t tire repeating, are the Palestinian claim to the entirety of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. When the Europeans and some Americans talk about the fading possibility of a two state solution, this is what they are implicitly referring to – a Palestinian state in the entirety of the West Bank with East Jerusalem as its capital. In other words, this would be the only case in human history where the creation of a state for a stateless people is entirely dependent on satisfying the demands made by the stateless people for their desired capital. This is even more ridiculous when the same ‘stateless’ people has been recognized as a state by 139 countries without controlling the capital it claims. Needless to say, Israel has never and does not now accept these terms of reference and following the Palestinian steps at the UN is no longer obligated to avoid taking measures that would prejudice future negotiations.
According to media reports the Americans appear to have been worried that Israel was going to publicly abrogate the Oslo Accords following the UNGA vote. But, really, there is no need, is there? The Oslo Accords were abrogated by the United Nations General Assembly on November 29th, 2012, with a standing ovation which included many of those European states that are suddenly very concerned that it will be hard to get the sides to agree to sign future meaningless pieces of paper. When in the future the Europeans and Americans ask why Israel is unwilling to sign agreements surrendering strategic assets in return for European and American guarantees and adoration, please explain to them that this is because their guarantees are worth very little and the adoration will be just a memory along with the Palestinian commitments to the agreement signed.