Sept 22 2011
The Director’s Cut to an Article I submitted here:
The Palestinian UN Bid; The Danger and Folly
The world in large part, with very important exceptions, seems to be backing the PLO Chairman and PNA President Mahmoud Abbas’s UN bid for full or partial membership of a Palestinian State. On the face it, I am sure the world citizen is tempted to ask: “And why not?” Of course to many who are avowed enemies of Israel, this is quite a positive development. But to many well meaning people in many well meaning countries, who in fact wish Israel no harm, it appears so as well. After all, “We”, believers of freedom, self-determination, human dignity and peace should support a people trying to achieve those goals. Beyond that, one may make the easy assumption that this bid for statehood is a watershed moment for ending the bitter, wretched, conflict that has been plaguing both the people of the Levant and the world.
The aforementioned perspective is reasonable in light of the typical global media coverage of the conflict. Would all the above be true, it would be extremely difficult to find the Israeli citizen opposed. But like most other truths, this one too is more complex than and lies far beyond 8 second clips and nice sounding slogans. And therein lies the danger.
The truth and reality confront this wishful thinking. . The historical realities and the current facts on the ground paint a much different picture.
If we only but scratch the surface, disturbing facts begin to unravel the narrative. For example, to begin with, the proposed Palestinian State must be ethnically cleansed of all Jews by forced transfer (to avoid them being murdered) instead of the Palestinian state being required to give and protect equal rights for all minorities[i]. Furthermore, the man leading the charge to the UN (Mahmud Abbas) is better known among his followers as Abu Mazen, his nome de guerre obtained from his time as a leader in the terrorist organizations Fatah and the PLO. Abu Mazen is known to have help fund and organize the infamous terrorist attack during the Munich Olympics ending in the slaughter of most of the Israeli team. As Abu Daoud’s memoirs, written in 1999 before Abu Mazen had risen to PA leadership and worldwide fame, admit[ii] , the infamous “Black September” was created to take the blame and inevitable Israeli retaliation while keeping the true leaders, Abbas and Arafat safe from retribution. Israel vowed to hunt down all those involved, a fate Abbas seems to have easily escaped. Abu Mazen’s thesis under a KGB operative’s tutelage, is a confusing text denying the Holocaust while accusing the Zionists of cooperation with the Nazis.
Today’s Abu Mazen, though a sophisticated statesman, continues to hold power without elections even though his constitutional term ended in 2009. The Palestinian opposition does not even recognize his position as President and instead claims the speaker of the council as the legitimate president according to their constitution in the absence of a democratically elected President. While embracing Abbas, the Western world today is actively supporting rebellions, protests and even wars against other Arab leaders who also refuse to step down and yield to democracy; even though the other leaders do not to share Abbas’ terrorist past.
Now of course, the very democratic government that was last chosen by the Palestinian people is a Hamas government. Hamas is a violent terrorist organization who openly calls for Israel’s complete destruction and supports a Palestinian state only if it includes all the territory that is now Israel. Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah (who differ only in tactics and the wisdom of openly declaring to the world such unpopular goals[iii]) have violently battled for control over the PA the last few years with Hamas maintaining full control of Gaza, while Abbas controls the West Bank.
Recently, Hamas and Abbas reached an agreement and formed a unity government, though each is still physically controlling its territory independently; apparently in an attempt to provide a united front at the UN. A unity government with Hamas who refuses to renounce terror or their stated goal of Israel’s destruction (not to mention regular barrages of missiles from Gaza to Israeli population centers), is itself a breach of all prior agreements and grounds for Israel to react accordingly.
While the fact that the “elder statesman” is actually a long time terrorist, and a current dictator certainly is an interesting point to consider, it is not the crux of the matter. The reason he is a dictator is because he is ruling unconstitutionally against the will of his own people (though of course the UN bid is largely designed to give him a boost in support and it appears so far to be working). The will that he is forcefully opposing is far worse and that is is real issue: Hamas. Israelis feel many in the Western World equate “democracy” with “ally”, and that they refuse to face the reality of a people actually being an enemy of another people. Our modern Western values do not permit us to consider a people in general to be an enemy, but we blind ourselves at our peril to assume everyone shares those values.
Today as Westerners, we seem to need Bin Ladens, Saddam Husseins, Talibans, or any other “Dr. Evil” to justify our self defense. Iraq and Afghanistan can be “liberated” but not attacked or invaded and “regimes” can be enemies but never the people who live under them or support them. The Israelis are often surprised at how the protesters throughout the Arab Spring are always portrayed by the media as peaceful freedom protesters yearning for democracy regardless of how many “Death to America” and “Death to the Jews” signs they hold up, regardless of how many flags they burn and how many embassies they destroy. Not even the well known footage of thousands of Palestinians dancing and celebrating in the streets after 911 can impact our well meaning western values. Freedom of Religion is another Western value (which Israel’s enemies ironically do not share) that also make it impossible for the West to name its enemy.
If a people in general being an enemy sounds too unpalatable to the modern Westerner, one could suggest to think in terms of ideas. Even if Germans were not the Allies’ enemy during WWII, Nazism certainly was, and if the Russians were not (Cold War) then for sure Communism was. Likewise, the West must realize there is a clash of values, ideology and civilizations at work in the world today. Terror is a tactic, and we can be at war with it no more than at war with Tanks or Ak-47s or scissors[iv]. We are at war with people who happen to often chose terror as a tactic.
Though it takes two willing sides to have peace, it only takes one side to not have it.
To the Israeli, the realities of the Middle East are unfortunately all too familiar. The problem is always intent. While Israel simply wants to exist in peace, the vast majority of the Arab World want to destroy it. They never have accepted its existence, nor its victories over them in their attempts at destroying it.
I for one, do not judge their goals. They have deep seeded beliefs in owning all of this land, and if simply the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia was enough to send people like Bin Laden on Jihad, then obviously the presence of a Jewish state (no matter how tiny and invisible on a world map), in the middle of the Muslim World is unacceptable to a great many. I do not hold against them their desire to have the land (though we should most definitely condemn their methods, namely terror). Israel too, wants the land, and this is an unbridgeable gap between the two sides. What would be beneficial for Israel and the Western World, is to not blind themselves from that fact.
Given these realities, Israel can simply not survive the creation of this Palestinian State. The Israeli public has been promised endlessly: peace and no further withdrawals, if they only accept “this” painful concession in order to make it the last. Because of Israelis huge desire for peace, it has accepted time and again. Israelis were promised peace if they only pulled out of Lebanon, which was immediately followed by Hezbollah’s rise to power and bombardment by thousands of missiles and mortars of Israel’s north and a subsequent war. The same was said of a withdrawal from Gaza (along with the forced removal of 10,000 Jews from their homes) which was immediately thanked by missiles and shelling from Gaza which continues to date.
The prevailing wisdom in Israel is that A withdrawal from the West Bank, leaves Israel a coastal strip less than 10 km wide in (7 km at the narrowest point) and a demographic impossibility of remaining a Jewish state. While the PA is promised this archaic concept of a “Jewish-free” State that the IDF must provide by physical transfer of its own people, Israel continues to count with near 2 million Arab citizens with full rights and liberties. This along with the loss of the Judea, Judaism’s most holy sites, Jerusalem and the subsequent need to withdraw from the Golan Heights would be the final blow as they are a strategic necessity for Israel’s security. The entire remaining land mass would be within reach of rocket and mortar fire that would undoubtedly commence immediately.
A Palestinian State is simply incompatible with Israel’s survival, and the Arab World is all too aware of this. If a Palestinian state threatens the very existence of Israel, then what about their “right” to a state?
Without getting into the endless complexities about the conflict, a quick overview will shake some of the very premises many assume as fact.
The original partition plan ratified by the UN in 1947 dividing “Palestine” called for a Jewish state (much smaller than today’s Israel) and an Arab State. The term “Palestine” itself is a Latin European name for a large region (including much of today’s Lebanon, Syria and Jordan). It is a foreign term of no meaning to both Arabs and Jews (originally applied to the area by the Romans when they conquered Ancient Israel, who also changed Jerusalem’s name to Aelia Capitolina though that, unlike Palestine did not stick). Though during the British Mandate some Jews started calling themselves Palestinian (as recent European immigrants they were more used to the name and Israel did not exist yet), the Arabs did not use the term at all. In fact, Arabic has no letter “P” and Arabic speakers tend to replace “P”s with a “b” or an “f” and hence their present pronunciation of “Falestin”.
The Jews accepted the plan, while the Arab world rejected it. They would accept no Jewish state, no matter how small. On the day of Israel’s declaration of Independence in 1948, 14 Arab countries declared war on the new state along with the local Arab population. In the consequent War of Independence, Israel gained victory and further territory, up to the now forgotten “purple line”. Between 1949 and 1967 (the six day war), the Arab world largely no longer publicly called for Israel’s complete destruction, but rather a return to the previous lines they had rejected to begin with.
In 1967, though Syria held the Golan Heights, Jordan the West Bank, and Egypt the Gaza Strip, they again prepared to destroy the young state. At this point, the Jordanians of the West Bank, the Syrians of the Golan, and the Egyptians of the Gaza Strip, had no idea they were in fact “Palestinian”. In one of the most impressive military victories in modern history, Israel again defeated the combined Arab armies and seized more territory including the entire Sinai Peninsula (which was returned to Egypt for peace), the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights The West Bank is ancient Judea and Samaria, the Biblical Homeland of the Jews (not Tel-Aviv) and of course includes Jerusalem and many holy Jewish and Christian sites.
Israel immediately offered to allow the Arab citizens back across the armistice lines to their respective countries, as it had and has no intention of ruling over any population by force, and the Arab States refused. It did not simply return all the land for obvious reasons, the deep and ancient connection to Biblical Israel that Israelis felt was now liberated after 2000 years, and the realization that these wars attempting to annihilate Israel are not a game. Countries cannot simply expect to invade Israel in order to destroy it, fail after much blood is shed on both sides, lose territory and then say “ok game over, restart”. Actions such as wars of course have and should have consequences.
We now get to the famous “Green Line”. The Arab World now no longer even asked for a return to the “Purple Line” but now simply the “Green Line”. If that territory was their only requirement for peace, then there would have been peace to begin with as it previously was in their hands.
In recent decades, as Israel has repeatedly moved backwards, pulled out and given land and concessions, the pattern is reversed… the old line that was forgotten is now suddenly remembered and demanded. Neither the withdrawal from the Sinai, Gaza, Lebanon, nor large parts of the West Bank, were subsequently accepted by Israel’s enemies as complete though each was ratified by the UN. This trend will not stop until there is nothing left of Israel.
One must address the legitimacy and sincerity of the Palestinian bid for Statehood. As there are dozens of Arab countries and many more Muslim ones, calling for another independent one inside the borders of the only and tiny Jewish one is not very “marketable”.
However, a call for an independent “Palestine” sounds much better as it seems like it does not exist and should. The Arab population of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) are well aware of this, and though they have a deep rooted identity and culture as Arabs, Muslims and members of their specific tribes and clans, they know the foreign word “Palestine” is needed for CNN interviews and UN sessions. So where does that leave this UN Bid? Well on its own, it is actually not as historical or important as it is being made out to be. Arafat famously declared Independence long ago in 1988 (when he also disingenuously renounced terrorism), and this was ratified by the UN as well If the US is, as it appears, willing to veto a security council vote, then full membership is not a possibility and Abbas may turn to the general assembly for a Non-Voting Membership or other “softer” recognition. Already, the unexpected and staunch opposition by Obama (which Israelis very much appreciated) seems to have given Abbas second thoughts and the political maneuvering continues to develop minute by minute.
The reason we feel the bid is so dangerous is because it seems to come, almost as if synchronized, in concurrence with other ominous events. Israel does not feel this is coincidental. The US, as leader of the free world sets a tone around the globe, and there is an inescapable feeling that the Obama’s administration early gestures and policy changes were a green light for the current situation.
Waves of unrest and extremism are moving across the Middle East, the remaining Dictators, with their support crumbling and economies in dire straits, are eager for a common cause and enemy to rally their people together. Israel’s supposed long time ally, Turkey, has been leading and forging a coalition of Muslim States against Israel and threatening intervention in the Mediterranean (challenging Cyprus’s rights to oil and gas exploration) and threatening to break the blockade on gaza. This picture of a Nasser-like Pan Arabism seems all too familiar in Israel… and the formal UN recognition seems the perfect spark to ignite the turmoil. Turkey, along with Iran and others may use the UN recognition as proof that Israel’s blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza is illegal, and send warships to break it. Israel would be put in the extremely difficult position of either losing all deterrence if it does not act or starting military action against a NATO country to protect what apparently the UN deems an illegal blockade.
The bid, weather successful or not, will serve as an immense source of incitement in the Palestinian street, at best reincarnating the well known footage of Arab youth throwing rocks at tanks and armed IDF soldiers who are at a loss about how to respond and leading to waves of suicide bombers across Israel’s schools, cafes, buses and restaurants at worse. Weather any of these violent scenarios develop, what is clear to Abbas, Iran’s Ahmadinejad, and Turkey’s Erdogan is that they are increasing Israel’s isolation and hoping to pressure it into mistakes, concessions and eventually defeat.
A cornerstone of the peace process has been that Israel will not tolerate unilateral steps. It is willing to negotiate a peace and proven that it will concede much as long as its security and safety are addressed. Though many Israelis disagree with the position, the government has indicated it is even willing to accept a Palestinian State that does not threaten Israel’s ability to defend itself or to continue to exist as a democratic Jewish state. To this end it recognized and spoke to formerly banned terror groups (Arafat’s Fatah and PLO, etc), but with the implicit understanding that the peace process would be resolved only by negotiation. Every agreement has made clear that the abandonment of negotiations and unilateral steps by the PA, would result in Israel no longer being bound by the agreements and responding unilaterally in kind. This has been a cornerstone to Israel’s security and a major factor keeping the sides in talks.
In essence, Abu Mazen, together with Hamas, unilaterally calling for full UN membership and asserting their independence is a break with every agreement since Oslo and namely an act of war. Again, Israel is likely to not react forcefully (as it probably should), disband the PA, cancel Oslo, arrest Abu Mazen etc, and thus lose even any remaining deterrence and the leverage of implied threat of force, which can lead to complete chaos. Alternatively, it can use force during this very complicated and dangerous time which also is fraught with danger.
These are only a couple of the unpredictable scenarios that can occur if the world backs this unilateral abandonment of negations by the Palestinians, and in the 11th hour Israelis have felt great appreciation that many leading Western Nations have begun to see this reality and began to back away from supporting the bid[v].Even so the feeling of a noose tightening is everywhere in Israel, as though in spite of their best efforts at yearning for peace, being a full and open democracy, an unshakable ally to the US and the West, they are being isolated and abandoned.
I would warn those who would tighten the Noose, that they corner Israel and the IDF at their peril, as History has proven, but all of us seem too blind to the lessons of History. Israel does not wish another smashing victory and to break its enemies, though it will if it must, but rather only to live in peace. The nice sounding calls for a Palestinian state are only the disguised calls for the end of Israel, and another victory for the Muslim World in this clash of civilizations which we refuse to face exists.
[i] Historically, all Jews are forcibly removed by Israel when land is given over to Arab governments. This was the case in the withdrawal from Sinai, as was the case in the more recent “Disengagement” from Gush Katif and parts of Samaria. Even non-Jewish Christian Arabs working in the SLA had to be absorbed by Israel after its pullout from Southern Lebanon to avoid them being massacred by rival factions. Abbas declared in 2009 “I will never allow a single Israeli to live among us on Palestinian land”.
[ii] Abu Daoud’s memoirs published in French as “Palestine: From Jerusalem to Munich” were a relatively candid account of the Fatah’s terrorist past. Daoud believed in the Oslo Accord’s full Amnesty for all previous Terror Acts for PLO members and naively believed admitting any past act would have no consequence. Though Israel did not track him down as it promised to do to all associated with the Munich Massacre, it did revoke his PLO VIP status and denied him re-entry into the West Bank.
[iii] Fatah leaders are well known to say one thing in Arabic for domestic consumption, and quite another in English for International consumption. Hamas leaders tend to say the same message more consistently for any audience. The majority of the top Fatah, PA and PLO leadership were active terrorists pre-Oslo Accords and many were implicated in terror attacks post-Oslo right up to the last Intifada. The official map of “Palestine” of the PA, continues to include the entire territory that is now Israel. It is clear that both organizations share the same goals, but differ in methodology, where Fatah can be said to be much ore successful in terms of international recognition, legitimacy and obtaining concessions from Israel.
[iv] Donald Rumsfeld expressed a similar idea recently in his newly published book.
[v] Australia, Canada, the UK, New Zeland, Mexico, Italy, Germany, and many other smaller nations along with the US have expressed deep reservations about the bid.