On 20th September, the Palestinian Authority will go to the United Nations and request UN membership and international recognition of an independent state of Palestine based on the 1967 borders. The United States of America have announced that they will use their veto against any motion of this kind at the Security Council, meaning that the PA will most likely then turn to the General Assembly to ask for its status to be upgraded from ‘UN Observer’ to a ‘Non-Member State.’ This will require a two-thirds majority to pass but it is felt that there is a strong possibility that this will be achieved. As nothing will change ‘on the ground’, this move by the PA is seen as an attempt to isolate Israel on the international stage and detract from their refusal to negotiate directly with Israel to come to a peaceful resolution to the long running issue.
“Unilateral actions taken by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations, and will not be recognized by the international community.”
Joint statement by the United States, European Union, Russian Federation and United Nations, 26th June 2009
Why is it Wrong?
Any unilateral act is in direct contravention of the Oslo Accords of both 1993 and 1995 which specifically called for a negotiated resolution to the permanent status of Palestinian statehood. The Accords, signed by the PLO on behalf of the PA, explicitly forbids either side from acting in the manner that the Palestinians are now threatening. If the PA violates these agreements the whole premise of future negotiations will be undermined and even the legitimacy of the PA itself will be called into question.
“A final agreement has to be precisely final and that is why it must be reached by negotiation between the parties. Anything else will be a dangerous mirage for the Palestinians.”
Former Spanish PM Jose Maria Aznar, 6th September 2011
Is It Legal?
The Palestinian’s actions are also a direct violation of UN Resolutions 242 and 338, the main resolutions pertaining to the 1967 borders, as they both call for negotiated agreements leading to ‘secure and recognized boundaries’. The 1967 lines was also never seen as an international border, rather an armistice line from 1948, and thus a PA unilateral declaration of statehood based on the 1967 lines is in defiance of these UN Resolutions.
If this motion was to pass the UN General Assembly, it is widely accepted that future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians become significantly more difficult and complicated as it makes it harder for the Palestinians to compromise on their positions. The Palestinians will also have less incentive to achieve a negotiated settlement while continuing to attempt to isolate Israel in the international arena.
“A unilateral declaration of statehood by the Palestinians at the United Nations can lead to a stalemate between the sides especially when a peace agreement can be achieved through direct negotiations.”
Israel President Shimon Peres, 4th September 2011
What are the Consequences?
It is feared that the UN motion will lead to violence as expectations of statehood on the Palestinian streets will not be met. Expectations of ‘changes on the ground’ that turn out to be clearly false are likely to lead to anger and demonstrations with the real threat of another Intifada.
“It is not going to be a dramatic result and I do not believe it will be right to continue, for there to be preoccupation about something dramatic happening.”
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, 29th June 2011
What is the Alternative?
Israel regularly and openly calls for a resumption of faced to face negotiations between the two sides and that Israel has two main principals that must be agreed for any deal to be made. Firstly, Israel’s security needs must be met and these include a more defensible border than the 1967 lines and a non-militarisation of a Palestinian state. Secondly, Palestinian acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state alongside a Palestinian state, with the implication that there can be no Palestinian ‘right of return’ to Israel as this would end the Jewish majority in the state.
“Now is the time for the international community to tell the Palestinian leadership what it refuses to tell its own people: there are no shortcuts to statehood. They will have to get off the bandwagon of unilateralism and back to the hard work of direct peacemaking.”
Israel Ambassador Ron Prosor Speaking to the UN Security Council, 11th June 2011
What can you do?
The United Kingdom has yet to decide which way it will vote in the United Nations Assembly so there is still time for you to help.
Please write to your local MP urging them to support peaceful negotiations and reject unilateral UN resolutions. Take the time to write, encourage your friends and family to write. Write to your local newspaper or national newspapers making the case for the UK to support peaceful negotiations and reject unilateral UN resolutions.
With thanks to Beyond Images, The Jerusalem Post and BICOM for information in this document