I am writing this column from Dakar, Senegal, where I am attending a United Nations conference under the title “International Conference on the Question of Jerusalem.”
The conference is organized by the UN Division for the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, which was established by the international community in 1975. The State of Israel has boycotted the division and its many international meetings, but despite the fact that these meetings are more than difficult for Israelis to attend, each one without an official Israeli presence is a lost opportunity for Israel. There is an Israeli embassy in Dakar and the Israeli ambassador was not invited, which is also a missed opportunity for the conference, its organizers and the Palestinian officials who are here.
Despite some of the very harsh words from almost all of the official representatives of governments here against Israel’s policies and actions, there is an underlying foundation on which these international meetings are built, which is in full support of Israel’s right to exist, backed by international law and legitimacy. The fundamental agreement in the international community and especially in the UN is support for the two-state solution. The statements made by all in these meetings call for the establishment of a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 lines and as a result of a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian agreement.
This is, of course, based on UN Resolution 181 from November 29, 1947 calling for two states to be established – a Jewish state and an Arab state on the land between the River and the Sea.
As long as the international community remains loyal to these principles, Israel retains international support for its legitimate right to exist. This is not only the official position of the international community and the UN, but is also the official position of the government of the state of Palestine, which is recognized by the international community and the UN, yet is still waiting to be formally established through a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian agreement.
The international community and the UN do not believe that an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement can be imposed on the parties. Even with all of the rhetoric in these UN meetings, there is also a great deal of realpolitik.
This was expressed best by the speech to the conference by the ambassador of China to Senegal, who said that while Israel has to recognize the Palestinians’ right to a state of their own, the Palestinians must recognize Israel’s right to exist in recognized borders with security. In other words, the Chinese representative spoke of the obligation of the parties to adhere to the two-state solution.
Israel and Israelis have a great reluctance about recognizing the importance of the UN. Israel’s diplomatic community certainly does. It is easy to understand why so many Israelis feel such great reticence regarding the UN: there is an automatic majority against Israel in most UN bodies.
The UN Human Rights Council is headed by some of the greatest abusers of human rights in the world. UNESCO, another UN body, has recently demonstrated its own absurdity by essentially unrecognizing the Jewish connection to Judaism’s holiest city. Nonetheless, the most important body in the UN system, the Security Council, cannot and must not be ignored by Israel. UN Security Council resolutions serve as a benchmark for international political reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In those resolutions, Israel’s legitimacy is solidified in international law and legitimacy.
There is no escape for Israel from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The decision to ignore that reality does not make the conflict go away. Some recent Israeli plans to impose Israeli law on settlers or on settlements or in Area C of the West Bank or even over all of the West Bank will not push the Israeli-Palestinian conflict off the map or out of the consciousness of the international community.
Quite the opposite. The most important outcome of any international community meeting or from any future UN Security Council resolution is the continued anchoring of international policy and goals to the two-state solution. I would go so far as to say that these conferences and resolutions essentially legitimate Zionism’s basic goals. Those goals are implementing the right of the Jewish people to its nation-state – but those goals, supported by the international community, are not without boundaries. Quite the contrary – those boundaries are delineated along the basis of the armistice lines of 1949, also known as the June 4, 1967 lines. Those are the boundaries of Israel’s legitimacy – not beyond that. Or more accurately, not beyond that without an agreement with the Palestinians.
There is an opportunity now, prior to the exit of US President Barack Obama from the international stage, to bring forth a new UN Security Council resolution that will articulate what the two-state solution is, replacing antiquated Resolutions 242 and 338 which have been the benchmark in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations until now.
A new UN Security Council resolution with Obama-supported parameters for the two-state solution that would be a more explicit and an updated version of president Clinton’s parameters from December 2000 is what would be in Israel’s interests. The Clinton parameters were adopted by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Taba in January 2001.
The embodiment of these parameters in a Security Council resolution is perhaps the only way to save Israel from its own policies of creating and entrenching a binational reality. The two-state solution is the only positive way to liberate the Palestinians from Israel’s occupation and to liberate Israel from the continued promised disaster facing it as a result of that occupation.
President Obama and his team were not able to advance a negotiated agreement. Before leaving the White House, he and his administration can leave an indelible mark for future reference and for saving Israel as the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people and all of its citizens.
This is a pro-Israel position and the mode of combat by the Israeli government and AIPA C against such a resolution supported by Obama must not be understood as a defense of Israel. It is a position only defending the government of Israel, but is most definitely against the interests of Israel.
Obama’s legacy for Israel and Palestine should be fostered through the UN Security Council, which would cement Israel’s legitimacy despite the actions of its government which, until it finds a way to end the occupation, is delegitimizing Israel’s existence.
The author is co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit. His book Freeing Gilad: the Secret Back Channel has been published by Kinneret Zmora Bitan in Hebrew and as The Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from Hamas by The Toby Press.