Thursday, September 22, 2011

Call Me Naïve but…

I have been reluctant to express my views about the upcoming push by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to unilaterally declare the State of Palestine at the United Nations. The reason for that is that my view on this subject is not the conventional wisdom. I’m sure that more than a few people will disagree - perhaps strongly. I can only imagine some of the responses. Nonetheless this is how I see things. I will be happy to be corrected.

Obviously I would prefer this not happen. I would prefer if Mr. Abbas would go to the UN and concede to every Israeli demand in exchange for a State. But this will not happen. If things stand as they are now - he is going to declare the State of Palestine at the UN tomorrow. And it will probably be voted upon affirmatively by the majority of the member states in the General Assembly.

I have to wonder what all the angst is about. There are several things to consider about this that make this entire event relatively benign.

First it should be noted that unilateral actions with respect to Palestinian autonomy were first undertaken by Israel. Gaza was given to them in its entirety. Whether that was a mistake or not is irrelevant to this action. Israel is not giving an inch of land of removing one West Bank resident because of this declaration.

Second a Palestinian state is not something that in principle Israel objects to. Every coalition government since Ariel Sharon has already agreed to a two state solution. Including the present one. It is only the unilateral declaration of it that is off. If I am not mistaken this new declaration does not even discusses the issues under dispute – like borders, Jerusalem, and Arab rights of return. I believe that with this resolution they just want world recognition that they are in some way shape or form a legitimate State – details to be worked out later. How does that change any of the facts on the ground? How does that really endanger us anymore than we already are? For most Palestinians world recognition will just give them national pride .

The truth is that if the world body votes to approve a new Palestinian State - it will really only be a symbolic victory for them. They will not be an official state because the United States will veto it in the Security Council. Without the Security Council any declaration by the General Assembly is basically meaningless.

There is some concern that even as an unofficial state - Palestinians will be able to take their case against Israel to the International Court in the Hague… or seek control of airspace and water rights currently under Israeli control… or maybe even be allowed to join the infamous UN Human Rights Council – eager to find fault in everything Israel does. But again… what legal jurisdiction or power do any of these organizations have over Israel? What credibility do they even have? And how would any such declaration enable Palestinians to wrest control from Israel of airspace or water rights?

And what will Palestinians really gain materially if they force the issue in the UN? They will very likely lose American financial support. If I understand correctly congress has indicated it would cut off financial aid to them if they unilaterally declare a State. That’s 600 million dollars annually they will lose.

Some – like Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein have called this an Eis Tzara – a time of trouble for the Jewish people. He fears that any kind of legitimization at all from the world body will embolden them to attack and destroy Israel which is their ultimate goal.

I’m not sure I agree. Or at least I don't see things as any worse off than before. Are they not motivated enough yet?! Have they not already shown their desire to do that?! This will not add anything to that desire. But even if it would, it will certainly not give them any more power to do it. If anything it will lessen their power if they stop getting aid from the US.

Nor should we be worried that the UN will take away legitimacy from Israel. If they wanted to vote Israel out of the United Nations they could have easily done so by now. What the world wants and Israel has already agreed to is a 2 state solution. No matter how anti Semitic any of the world governments might be, I doubt that the vast majority of them believe that Israel should be destroyed. It is only the Musilm Middle East states that believe that. Led by the likes of Iran with surrogates in Lebanon and Gaza. If they could do it, they would have done so by now. Declaring Palestine as a State will not give them one iota of additional power to accomplish that goal.

Another thing. Who really cares about the UN anyway? One of the noises always being made in congress by some of its members is to stop funding it. My guess is that this idea will gain momentum if this happens.

The UN a once noble idea about world unity has turned into a joke. It has no real power over any nation. Its voting structure is fundementally flawed. It is skewed to a minority view. Member states are given an equal vote regardless of population size. The US with its fifty States and 300 million people has one vote. So does Qatar with its 300 thousand people... and Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain with its similar numbers.

It is my view that even though most Palestinians would just as soon see a “Jew free Palestine” from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River; and from Lebanon to Eilat… they are not going to do anything about it. They realize that Israel is here to stay. So too do the rest of the nations of the world. As I said - no matter how anti Semitic they might be, outside of the Middle East none of them are so anti Semitic that they have called for the dismantling of the Jewish State. Most of the Arab States realize that it won't happen and no longer call for it either. (At least officially – I’m sure they wouldn’t mind it if they could accomplish it. But by now they realize that they can’t.)

It is therefore my considered opinion that with the exception of the radical elements like Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and a few others, the vast majority of the Arab world – even (and perhaps especially) Palestinians - would just as soon see the entire problem just go away so that they can get on with their lives - even as they express great joy when they see Jewish blood being spilled.

Of course Israel cannot simply ignore the radicals. They are the ones who are actively involved in the goal of cleaning out the Jews from ‘their land’ by whatever means necessary - and at their disposal. Declaring a state in the UN changes nothing in that regard. Israel will remain as vigilant as ever.

Will any such declaration lead to more violence as is feared by so many and articulated by Rabbi Adlerstein? I don’t know but I certainly hope not. And based on my analysis of the entire situation, I don’t think it will. Aside from giving Palestinians some national pride - life will go on. And who knows… maybe national pride will take the place of hatred and will actually lead to some sort of negotiated peace. Although I doubt it.

Rabbi Adlerstein has called for increased intensity in prayer. Does my analysis mean that we shouldn’t take his plea for prayer seriously? No. Of course we should continue to pray for the safety of our people. Prayer is as important now as it ever was. Now is no time to stop.