I rather doubt that more than a few of those whose knees have jerked in opposition to the planned request by the PLO that its status at the United Nations be upgraded have actually read the resolution. Instead, they rely on Israel’s bitter opposition and on America’s predictable opposition. Israel has ludicrously announced that if the Palestinians go forward, it will regard the Oslo Accords as dead, the very Oslo Accords that both Israel and the Palestinians have long since effectively abandoned and which Benjamin Netanyahu vigorously opposed nearly 20 years ago. And America has so far chosen to discourage the Palestinians, a battle it is bound to lose.
The trouble with all this is that once you read the resolution, due to be presented on November 29th, the anniversary of Resolution 181, the original Partition Resolution of 1947, you learn that it is a perfectly statesmanlike proposal. It will come before the General Assembly, where it is certain to be endorsed by an overwhelming majority of the G.A. members.
The operative heart of the proposed resolution is the change from the Palestinian’s current UN status as the “Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine” to the enhanced status of a “Palestine Observer State.” But the remarkable aspect of the proposal is in its fifth operative paragraph, wherein the Palestinians “Affirm [their] determination to contribute to the achievement of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and the attainment of a peaceful settlement in the Middle East that ends the occupation that began in 1967 and fulfills the vision of two states, an independent, sovereign, democratic, contiguous and viable state of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors, on the basis of the pre-1967 borders, with delineation of borders to be determined in final status negotiations.”
And then, in the very next paragraph, the proposal “expresses the urgent need for the resumption and acceleration of negotiations … that resolve all outstanding core issues, namely the Palestine refugees, Jerusalem, settlements, borders, security, water and prisoners.”
In other words, the proposal is that negotiations be resumed. Even the vexing issue of borders is left to “final status negotiations.”
Whence, then, Israel’s opposition? Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister, has said that “Abbas’s appeal to the U.N. is pure political terror. We have made it clear to all parties concerned that this means breaking all the rules, and this act will have long term consequences” and he has instructed his diplomats to press their host countries to oppose the idea. Ha’aretz of November 15 reports that “Even today, the atmosphere in the Prime Minister’s Bureau is one of ‘this time, we’ll show them what’s what,’ said a former senior official who was involved in discussions on the matter between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his aides. ‘Likud ministers will pressure him, the polls will scare him. And from there it’s not far to a response that would bring about a violent conflagration or the collapse of the Palestinian Authority.’”
Alas, once again the Israelis are determined to prove that the Palestinians have no partner for peace. And if America goes along with the Israelis, rejecting even so temperate a proposal, and if indeed the Palestine Authority collapses, what then? Does that not strengthen Hamas? Does it not strengthen rejectionists in Egypt? Does it not poison America’s capacity to play a constructive role in the area? Does it not promote chaos in the West Bank?
Yes, the Palestinians rejected the Partition Resolution when it was approved by a vote of 33-13 in 1947. Now, evidently, they have come around to accepting it. True, it is late in the day, and many of the salient facts have changed. (In that connection, it is well to note that the Palestinians are not calling for a return to the cramped Israeli borders of 1947. That would be madness, and President Abbas is canny, not mad.)
Abba Eban, Israel’s late foreign minister, was fond of saying that the Partition Resolution was Israel’s birth certificate. My own experience with the resolution was considerably less august than Eban’s, but I remember the day vividly. Habonim, the Labor Zionist youth movement, had a three-story building on Eutaw Place in Baltimore. I was assigned to monitor the vote taking place in Lake Success, New York, and when the vote was tallied and the result announced, I raced down the stairs to inform my comrades. All of us immediately went out onto the street, as did very many people from what was then a largely Jewish neighborhood. And oh, did we sing and dance.
It will be a while, most likely the way things are going these days a long while, before the Palestinians get to sing and dance, as we should all hope they one day will. In the meantime, why oppose a proposal that will be formally put forward on the 65th anniversary of the Partition Resolution and that makes the commitments this proposal does?
Leonard Fein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org