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Opinion

Palestinian statehood bid at UN drives hopes for a real state farther away

A peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians will only ever be reached through direct negotiations – not by UN fiat. A unilateral, premature declaration won’t resolve the key issues, but will derail the peace process. Now as ever, Israel invites the Palestinians back to the table.

By Shai Bazak / September 22, 2011



Boston

The truth is often a rare commodity in the Middle East. It can be hidden behind layers of mendacity and myths, distractions and deceptions. But some truths are so obvious that they cannot be ignored.

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One such reality exists regarding relations between Israel and the Palestinians: No peace agreement will ever be reached and no peace agreement will ever be upheld unless it is attained through direct negotiations between the two parties.

The relevant parties must negotiate to resolve their outstanding issues. No other method can ensure that the demands of both sides will be addressed, that an agreement can be achieved that is at least acceptable to both sides, even if it does not fulfill all their aspirations. Yet the Palestinians seem determined to undermine that truth in their quest for UN recognition of their unilateral declaration of independence.

It is not surprising that the Palestinians have chosen to go to the UN. When, in 2009, a new administration took power in the United States, the Palestinian leadership made no secret of their hopes that the US would pressure Israel into accepting all Palestinian claims. When that failed, they chose a new strategy, pressuring Israel through the UN. Both plans had one thing in common: the avoidance of direct negotiations. And in fact, the Palestinians have avoided serious negotiations with Israel for two and a half years. Just this week, once again, Israel has called for a return to direct negotiations without preconditions from – or on – either side.

History has taught us that no third party can dictate terms that will be tolerable to the two parties. Peace cannot be imposed. Yet by turning to the UN and asking for premature recognition of a Palestinian state, the Palestinians are trying to dictate their maximalist demands, bypassing the negotiating process that is the only hope for true peace.

Supporting the current Palestinian maneuvers at the UN will send a direct message to their leadership that negotiations are not important to peace. It will invalidate the need for compromise from the Palestinian side, when such compromises are required from both sides. Most disastrously, it will tell the Palestinians that they can bypass the peace process itself.

Israel has already made many of the concessions necessary for peace. The current government, following in the path of previous governments, has adopted the principle that the solution to the conflict will be found in two states for two peoples, living side-by-side in peace and security.

Contrary to popular belief, the current dispute at the UN is not over the establishment of a Palestinian state, but rather about the means to achieve that end. Should it be by UN fiat, or should it be by finding common ground between the parties?

It is clear that no UN declaration can resolve the important issues. The matter of Jerusalem, as well as security, borders, refugees, recognition, and water can only be determined by those whose futures will be affected by any decisions.

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