The Palestinians’ United Nations statehood ploy has drawn an array of responses around the world, from enthusiasm in Turkey to anxiety to Washington and panic in Jerusalem. And one prominent Israeli center-left politician, Isaac Herzog, proposes a counter-intuitive Israeli gambit of voting for the statehood bid—under certain conditions (as I’ll explain below).
Nothing, however, quite matches the sublime pragmatism of the American Jewish Committee. The organization, once known for its patrician reserve, sent out an e-mail fund-raising pitch today urging readers to click on a link to donate money and save Israel from imminent disaster.
With only hours left until the start of the UN debate and our critical, round-the-clock diplomatic marathon, I’m hoping you’ll help with a generous gift today.
How will a gift to AJC stop the apocalypse? Simple:
Our team here at AJC is gearing up for 70 face-to-face meetings with high-ranking diplomats in the next 10 days. Our goal? Persuade countries to oppose Palestinian efforts to attain UN endorsement of a unilaterally declared state…
The Palestinian leadership, the letter explains,
has been charging relentlessly down this path. If they get their way, it could effectively end the peace process and instigate a new cycle of violence. AJC is leading the effort in calling for cooler heads to prevail and for charting a course to peace. We’re counting on you for your help. Please, don’t wait to make your gift.
A very different approach to empowering cooler heads came over the weekend from Isaac Herzog, a leader of the Israel Labor Party’s centrist wing. Writing on CNN.com’s Global Public Square blog , the former senior cabinet minister (in the Sharon, Olmert and Netanyahu governments, until Labor quit last January) offered the following proposal :
Israel should announce its support for the UN resolution on the condition that the Palestinians agree to return to the table as soon as possible and without preconditions, fully backed and supported by the international community, and to determine the final settlement through bilateral negotiations. The UN resolution must reflect this aspiration and include Israel’s perspective as well. In addition, the two parties must agree to a framework for an interim process that will allow for negotiations based on Israel’s recognition of a Palestinian state. This formula will defuse tensions and may prevent wide-scale violence from erupting. As part of these understandings, Israel should affirm the parameters that former U.S. President Bill Clinton set in 2000 and which President Barack Obama further developed in May 2011: a two-state solution that realizes both the right to self-determination for both Jews and Palestinians, ends all historic claims, and establishes a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with mutually agreed territorial swaps and security arrangements that meet Israel’s vital security needs. This will allow Israel to annex major settlement blocs and Jewish holy places - areas that most Israelis agree should remain part of their country. To begin the interim negotiating process, Israel should take several meaningful steps, such as transferring additional security responsibility in the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority, freezing settlement construction on the other side of the security fence, offering compensation to Israeli settlers who wish to move back to Israel proper, and releasing prisoners of Fatah held in Israeli jails. The Palestinians, meanwhile, must agree to continue security cooperation in the West Bank, refrain from launching an international legal campaign against Israel, and avoid a power-sharing arrangement with Hamas. Questions regarding the status of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees should be determined once both sides have taken these interim steps and begun negotiating borders and security.
His logic? The resolution will almost certainly pass, at least through the General Assembly. If Israel rejects it, as it has vowed to do, it could well lead to “violence on the ground.” If that happens,
Israel could be forced to respond to unrest in a way that deepens its international isolation and paves the way for increasing calls to boycott Israeli goods and companies and for countries to levy sanctions on Israel.
Even without an outbreak of violence,
The proposal put before the UN, for example, could claim the 1967 lines as its borders and East Jerusalem as its capital. Such a resolution would render any Israeli presence within these lines inherently illegal and consequently make it harder for Israel to retain control over Jewish holy sites, such as the Western Wall, and the major settlement blocs, which bolster Israeli security and are generally expected to remain a part of Israel in exchange for land swaps. Palestinians will subsequently have trouble compromising on such internationally endorsed positions, and Israelis will find it hard to negotiate under such one-sided terms of reference.
On the other hand,
If Israel manages to garner solid international support by backing the Palestinian UN resolution, it may induce the Palestinians to return to negotiations. This would improve Israel’s international status, give it more diplomatic space to maneuver through the chaos in the Middle East, and allow it to shore up its security needs.
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).