J’lem fears UN may recognize PA state
As proximity talks near, Israeli officials wary of Abbas’s intentions.
While Israel and the Palestinian Authority are finally expected to begin US-mediated indirect “proximity” talks in the very near future, concern is growing among some in the Israeli government that the PA is planning to marginalize the diplomatic process and instead unilaterally seek UN recognition for a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines.
There is a rising conviction among some in the Netanyahu government, The Jerusalem Post has learned, that the PA is aiming to secure a new UN Security Council Resolution, updating 1967’s Resolution 242, providing for the establishment of Palestine and fudging the refugee issue.
The idea of such a move, runs the bleak assessment, would be to establish a state not at peace with Israel, but rather to continue the conflict with Israel.
Not all senior figures share this assessment, it is stressed, although it is very widely doubted within the coalition’s senior decision-making echelon that PA President Mahmoud Abbas is prepared to negotiate viable terms for peace with Israel.
By contrast, the US administration, in its contacts with Israel, is said to have conveyed the assessment that Abbas is ready for a negotiated peace, and President Shimon Peres is said to have made clear his belief that Abbas does not intend to seek to flood Israel with refugees under the demand for a “right of return.”
In an interview with Channel 2 this week, Abbas denied plans for a unilateral declaration of statehood or any other unilateral acts, and noted that the Arab League peace initiative provided for a “just and agreed” solution on the refugee issue – a solution, that is, that would have to be acceptable to Israel.
In February, the Post reported that a paper prepared by chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat on the status of the peace talks recommended that the Palestinians try to secure a UN Security Council resolution that recognized the state of Palestine on the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital, as well as a just solution to the Palestinian refugee issue in accordance with UN Resolution 194.
The Erekat paper, entitled “The Political Situation in Light of Developments with the US Administration and Israeli Government and Hamas’s Continued Coup D’etat,” recommended that the Palestinians consider the possibility of abandoning the two-state solution in favor of a one-state solution if the peace process did not move forward.
Within the Netanyahu government, the Post understands, there is a growing awareness of the rising level of international support for Palestinian statehood, and of the reduced international empathy for Israeli concerns and reservations.
Central to those trends, it is recognized, is the credibility of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who has impressed international figures, including many of the most firmly pro-Israel American political leaders, with his commitment to building credible institutions of statehood in the West Bank.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has essentially partnered the PA and Fayyad via his “economic peace” moves over the past year, dismantling roadblocks, reducing checkpoints and easing freedom of movement to help the PA toward an estimated 10-percent-plus growth in gross domestic product over the past 12 months. But some in the prime minister’s inner circle nonetheless have profound reservations about Fayyad’s strategy.
It is noted, for instance, that the “Program of the Thirteenth Government” issued by Fayyad last August, and entitled “Palestine: Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State,” contains no direct, unambiguous reference to making peace with Israel.
At the same time, it describes the establishment of a Palestinian state within two years as “not only possible,” but “essential.”
The fact that the PA refused to resume direct talks with Israel after Netanyahu took office last year, and sought to impose preconditions that contributed to the repeated postponement of even the indirect “proximity” talks, has reinforced the sense of many senior figures in the Netanyahu government that the PA is not urgently seeking progress via the negotiating process, and instead intends to take the UN route.
According to international law expert Ruth Lapidot, recognition of statehood is usually done by fellow states, but the Security Council could recommend that member states recognize a new state of Palestine. Lapidot said Thursday it was unclear if a veto power would apply in such a case; this would depend on the whether the issue were deemed to be of a procedural nature or a substantive nature.
In the case of Kosovo, Lapidot noted, the Security Council recommended establishing the state, but it did not impose that solution.
The council’s mandate says that it can solve disputes, but does not define the exact powers. To date, said Lapidot, the Security Council has not established the borders of any state. Still, she elaborated, in the case of Kuwait after the first Gulf War, it established an arbitration commission, which then set the borders of the state.
Regarding the issue of admittance to the UN, Lapidot said, the Palestinians would need the approval of both the Security Council and the General Assembly. For this kind of resolution, veto power would apply, she said.
On a related matter, meanwhile, it is understood that the prime minister and some of those closest to him firmly oppose the notion, reported in parts of the Hebrew media earlier this month, of negotiating with the Palestinians for a state with temporary borders – an idea that Abbas has also rejected.
Support for such an idea is said to come from more dovish elements in the coalition, who believe that once the Palestinians have a state of some kind, even if its borders are not finalized, the international tide of delegitimization of Israel will turn.
Figures closer to Netanyahu, however, note that even an agreement on a state with temporary borders would require Abbas to address such critical issues as demilitarization and Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
If Abbas were capable of taking viable positions on those issues, runs the argument, it would be far better to have him do so in the cause of a permanent rather than a temporary accord.