Countdown to September: Israel, the Palestinians, and the UN General Assembly
by Dore Gold
*The public debate in Israel over the Palestinian plan to seek UN support for statehood in September is based on a fundamental misconception: the UN General Assembly cannot by itself establish or recognize a Palestinian state. It can admit new members to the UN only after they have been nominated first by the UN Security Council, where any of the five permanent members could veto the nomination.
*The current Palestinian effort at the UN, moreover, seems redundant. The UN General Assembly already recommended the creation of a Palestinian state on December 15, 1988, and has even insisted on the 1967 lines. The 1988 resolution was backed by 104 countries; only the U.S. and Israel opposed it. But this and other past resolutions (including one as recently as December 18, 2008) did not create a new legal reality, nor did they change anything on the ground.
*In 1998, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was confronted with a plan by Yasser Arafat to declare a state in 1999, the Israeli government warned that such a move would constitute "a substantive and fundamental violation of the Interim Agreement" between Israel and the Palestinians (the Oslo II agreement). It issued a formal statement saying that if such a violation occurred, then Israel would be entitled to take all necessary steps, including the application of Israeli law to settlement blocs and security zones in the West Bank.
*Oslo II clearly established that "Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the Permanent Status negotiations" (Article 31). The European Union actually signed Oslo II as a witness. Can EU countries then become active participants in changing the status of the territories whose fate is supposed to be determined only by negotiations?
*Israel must firmly oppose the September initiative in the General Assembly, even if the Palestinians already have the votes. It must make absolutely clear that this move is no less than a material breach of a core commitment in the Oslo Agreements, as the Israeli government asserted in 1998. Only a strong Israeli response will deter Abbas from going further down the road of unilateralism.
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