Partners for Progressive Israel endorses the application to make Palestine a Non-member Observer State in the United Nations

November 27, 2012

Partners for Progressive Israel strongly endorses the application of Palestine to be accorded Non-Member Observer State status at the United Nations and calls on Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to do so as well.

As a longstanding member of the American Zionist movement and as an organization that traces its roots to the days of Israel’s creation, we regard the Palestinian application as a vital step forward towards a durable, just, comprehensive, negotiated two-state peace, which is the only way to secure Israel’s existence as a democratic, Jewish-majority state.

The recent violence between Israel and Hamas-led Gaza has underscored that any attempt to ignore the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and any effort to indefinitely maintain the status quo of ‘manageable Occupation’ and ‘low-intensity conflict’ – as Israel’s current government seems inclined – is dangerous folly that is certain to exact a growing price in suffering and death on both sides.

Two Palestinian groups are vying for dominance of the Palestinian national movement: The Islamist Hamas, which controls Gaza, condones the targeting of civilians, and does not accept Israel’s fundamental legitimacy.  And the Fatah-led PLO, the internationally recognized representative of the Palestinian people, whose leader, Mahmoud Abbas, has endorsed the two-state solution, rejected violence and terrorism, rejected efforts to delegitimize Israel, and is preparing his people for the difficult, but necessary, concessions that a peace agreement will entail. 

At this crucial juncture, it is the obligation of the international community, including Israel’s greatest ally, the United States of America, to make sure that the strategy of coexistence and moderation is rewarded, and that the Palestinian people are offered a horizon in which they are able to realize a viable, contiguous, independent state alongside Israel not through guns and bombs, but via the tools of statecraft and diplomacy. 

Far from being an act of “diplomatic terror” against Israel (in the words of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman), the Palestinian application for Observer State status is entirely consistent with the two-state approach supported by the international community and by a majority of Israel’s citizens, and nominally endorsed by Israel’s current government.  In particular, we note that the application:

  • Prominently refers to UN Resolution 181 (II) of November 1947, which clearly endorses the existence of an independent “Jewish state” as part of the partition of Mandatory Palestine.  This reference constitutes an important step towards accommodating Prime Minister Netanyahu's demand that Israel be recognized as the expression of Jewish nationhood.
     
  • Affirms the State of Palestine’s desire to live, “side by side in peace and security with Israel”.
     
  • Acknowledges that the occupation began in 1967, rather than at the time of Israel’s creation.
     
  • Emphasizes that the Observer State application is in no way a substitute for final-status negotiations with Israel, whose “urgent resumption and acceleration” is called for.
     
  • Indicates that mutually agreed adjustments will be made to the 1967 borders in negotiations between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine.

On November 29, 1947, the Jews of Mandatory Palestine, the yishuv, rightly celebrated in the streets when the UN General Assembly approved the partition plan and endorsed the principle of the self-determination of the Jewish people.  Sixty-five years later, we believe it is time for the UN to fulfill its two-state vision and recognize a state of Palestine alongside Israel.  

We are deeply disturbed by reports of a threatened US cutoff of funds to Mr. Abbas’ government should he follow through with the application, as they suggest an American unwillingness to stand by the Palestinian proponents of a two-state solution.  We call on President Obama to swiftly renew his administration’s serious efforts for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

We are similarly dismayed by reports of threatened Israeli punitive measures – including a withholding of Palestinian tax revenue, massive settlement construction, annexation of parts of the West Bank, and even the toppling of the Palestinian Authority. 

Israel cannot decide who will lead the Palestinian people.  But it can and does pursue policies that add legitimacy and validation to one side or the other.  For four years, Israel’s current government has taken steps that have strengthened Hamas at the expense of Palestinian moderates, negotiating with, and making concessions to, Gaza’s hard-line rulers over prisoner releases and ceasefire terms, while at the same time spurning meaningful peace talks with Mr. Abbas and undermining his standing among his people by building thousands of housing units in West Bank settlements.

We call on Mr. Netanyahu at this critical hour to reverse this tragically misguided policy.  We call on Mr. Netanyahu to publicly acknowledge that President Abbas is a worthy partner; to engage constructively with Mr. Abbas in order to achieve a two-state peace based on the 1967 borders, with agreed, equitable territorial exchanges; and to lead the chorus of nations that says ‘Yes’ to a State of Palestine at the United Nations, and alongside the State of Israel.