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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.

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Future negotiations will also be negatively impinged upon by UN action. Existing Palestinian-Israeli bilateral peace agreements, most notable the Interim Agreement, expressly prohibit unilateral action by either side to change the status of the West Bank or Gaza prior to a negotiated peace accord. Israel cannot be expected to trust future agreements with the Palestinians when they so flagrantly violate existing accords.

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Moreover, the UN should not allow itself to be exploited to violate these agreements, nor the accepted international frameworks for Mideast peace. UN Security Council Resolutions 242, 338, and 1850, as well as statements by the Middle East Quartet – of which the UN is a member – all call for a mutually negotiated resolution of the conflict and all reject unilateral actions.

Then there is the matter of expected events in the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority is encouraging mass demonstrations in support of their UN actions. One need only look at the situation in the Middle East over the past few months to see how easy it is for demonstrations in this region to slip into violence. The strong possibility of bloodshed is strengthened by the disappointment that will follow any UN declaration when it becomes clear that nothing has changed in the lives of the average Palestinian.

Unilateral measures at the UN will not bring about a Palestinian state. Indeed, a unilateral declaration of independence will drive hopes for a real Palestinian state farther away. The reality in this part of the Middle East will not change, only the political situation – and that for the worse. Negotiations will be postponed yet again, and the peace Israel so desires will be more of a dream than a reality. Those who support peace and support the idea of two states for two peoples should reject unilateral actions at the UN and instead call on the Palestinians to finally return to the negotiating table.

The annual assembly of the United Nations will eventually come to a close, and after it has ended, both Israel and the Palestinians will need to move forward – together – to finally achieve a real, lasting peace. This peace cannot begin with unilateral action in New York. It must begin by both sides simply sitting down and talking – then continuing the conversation in Jerusalem and Ramallah. Israel has clearly and distinctly called upon the Palestinian Authority to return to direct peace talks immediately. Instead of standing alone in the United Nations, Israel invites the Palestinians to pull up a chair and talk.

Shai Bazak is Consul General of Israel to New England.

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