Recently, the UN General Assembly — by a vote of 138 in favor, 41 abstentions, and nine opposed — upgraded Palestine to non-member observer status. Last year, when the Palestinians applied for full membership to the Security Council, it was turned down by sufficient numbers that the United States was not required to exercise a veto. Some of those nations which voted against Palestinian membership last year either voted for this year’s resolution (France) or abstained (Great Britain).
This year, Israel was joined by the United States, Canada, and other major powers such as the Marshall Islands, Palau, Micronesia, and a few others. Why the difference? Why the loss of support? Resolutions hostile to Israel will always achieve a majority in the UN. The combination of Arabs and Muslims and their third world allies will always assure an anti-Israel majority. However, there are more important nations in Europe, South America, and Asia who are not part of the anti-Israel majority who denied Israel support this year. Why?
Last year’s Security Council resolution insisted that Israel and the Palestinian Authority negotiate a solution. In fact they did meet once or twice. At one meeting, the PA asked Israel to submit a map including the boundaries it would like to see in a peace treaty. The Palestinian demands are well known, including a return to the 1949 boundaries. Israel refused to submit its own proposals, giving the impression that it is not really interested in meaningful negotiations. Hence, when the PA applied to the UN General Assembly asking for non-member observer status and Israel countered that this should be left to face-to-face negotiations, many nations, friendly to Israel but desiring an end to the conflict, either supported the Palestinian request or abstained.
The UN resolution that the Israeli government wishes to use as a litmus test for support is not all that hostile to Israel. As J.J. Goldberg pointed out in The Forward, the proposed Palestinian state would be based on the 1967 borders with final borders determined by negotiations to the conflict. Sound familiar? This has always been the position of the United States, and was the position of every Israeli government prior to the current one. Netanyahu has said that he is interested in the deeds of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, not his words. It is fair to put the same test to Netanyahu: What are his deeds? Putting up new settlements?
Israel’s response to the resolution has been to plan new settlements in E1, the area between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim, and suspend payments of customs duties it collects on behalf of the Palestinians and apply them to an outstanding electricity bill. If E1 were to be developed, it would divide the West Bank into two and make it impossible to have a contiguous state. Holding off on payments makes the PA weaker and Hamas, which claimed victory in the recent fighting, stronger. Is this Israel’s intention? Would the Netanyahu government prefer to have Hamas, which denies Israel’s legitimacy, as the Palestinian representative?
Last week Germany’s Angela Merkel told Netanyahu face-to-face that his policies are an impediment to peace. Netanyahu’s response was that he would agree to disagree. These policies give support to Israel’s enemies while alienating its friends.
Those of us who have devoted so much of lives to promoting, defending, and building the Jewish state can only look with deep sadness at how this current government is fulfilling the non-Jewish biblical prophet Balaam’s description as an “am l’vadad yishkon,” a people that dwells apart. This was not the dream of the early Zionist thinkers or the leaders of Israel reborn. It should not be ours either.