Abbas’ U.N. fantasy
In Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” the heroine falls down a rabbit hole into a confusing fantasy world. Writing today, Carroll might have placed Alice in the 66th General Assembly of the United Nations, where Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas plans this week to seek U.N. recognition of statehood. If Alice was perplexed by the Mad Hatter or the Queen of Hearts, it would be interesting to see her reaction to a president whose mandate has long expired applying for statehood over territory, part of which he is too afraid to visit. Her confusion would be compounded on discovering that a majority of the world’s states were happy to indulge this fantasy.
The Palestinian Authority’s bid is likely to pass in the General Assembly, where voting dynamics effectively ensure that nearly every Palestinian whim is rubber-stamped. The truth is that the head of the Palestinian Authority has absolutely no authority in the Gaza Strip. Abbas has not set foot in Gaza since the Hamas terrorist organization carried out a bloody coup and took control of the area in 2007. It’s like New York City electing a mayor who is unable to travel to Brooklyn.
Every state recognized by the U.N. has the obligation to be willing and able to exert its authority over its own territory. Is Abbas willing and able to control Hamas? Perhaps the citizens of southern Israel, semi-permanent residents of bomb shelters, could offer an informed answer. The continued rain of Hamas rockets, mortar shells and missiles on Israeli homes, hospitals and schools provides a vivid illustration that the Palestinian Authority is both unwilling and unable to uphold this basic requirement.
In supporting this initiative, many in the international community seem willing to sweep issues of Palestinian terrorism, incitement and lack of coherent governance under the carpet. They are only indulging a march of folly. The General Assembly cannot create a Palestinian state — and a unilateral action would be bad for peace, bad for our region and, above all, bad for advancing the Palestinians’ aspirations for genuine statehood.
Many Palestinian leaders, including Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, have recognized as much. They understand that as a direct result of enhanced Israeli-Palestinian economic and security cooperation, the Palestinian economy experienced 10% growth in 2010. The only “bank” in the world to boast such figures is the West Bank. Those who comprehend the hard work necessary for a real state don’t wish to jeopardize this progress with a premature, fanciful declaration for an imaginary state.
What would a yes vote by the General Assembly do?
First, it would feed the fantasy that compromises reached in negotiations can be bypassed. John F. Kennedy once described the impossibility of working with those who say “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.” The basic premise of the Palestinians’ U.N. bid is this: Give us everything without negotiation, and then we will negotiate about the rest.
True friends of the Palestinians in the international community should urge them to return immediately to direct talks with Israel. No one but Israelis and Palestinians, on their own, at the table, can face the major challenges that must be addressed if peace is to be achieved. This unilateral action does the opposite, enabling the Palestinian Authority to sidestep negotiations, while standing in violation of every bilateral agreement between Palestinian leaders and Israel since the Oslo accords.
It also encourages reckless behavior in an already fragile region. Voting for this unilateral gambit is a recipe for instability, the breakdown of cooperation and, potentially, violence. Passing resolutions in the General Assembly requires no concessions, no leadership and no responsibility from the Palestinians. The inevitable talks with Israel will not be as easy. They will entail hard work, frustration and many sleepless nights, but negotiations remain the only way forward.
While Palestinians leaders are crying for unilateral recognition, those who support this measure may be soon crying about its consequences.
The pursuit of virtual statehood falls in the same realm of fantasy that Alice discovers in Wonderland, all white rabbits and red herrings. Only in the real world, in a direct dialogue filled with difficult truths and serious compromises, can Israelis and Palestinians forge a viable, secure and long-lasting peace.
Ron Prosor is Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations.
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