Now that most Latin American and Caribbean countries have announced that they will join Islamic nations in voting for the creation of a Palestine state along the 1967 borders at the United Nations General Assembly later this month, the proposed motion is almost certain to pass by a comfortable majority of at least 120 votes.
With the exception of Mexico, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Guatemala, whose votes have not yet been announced, Latin American countries — led by Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela — have come out strongly in support of the Palestinian motion.
So what’s wrong with the U.N. voting for creation of a Palestinian state, I asked Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon in a recent interview.
Ayalon responded that creation of a Palestinian state should be the result of negotiations between Israel and Palestinians, and not imposed by the outside world. That’s the way South Sudan was created recently, and the way former Soviet states were created in the 1990’s: first reaching agreements with their neighbors, then going to the United Nations for recognition, he said.
“The only solution can come through negotiations between the two parties,” Ayalon said. “You cannot turn things on its head.”
Palestinian leaders say they have no alternative because Israel is not willing to negotiate, I noted. Furthermore, they argue that getting a U.N. resolution does preclude them negotiating later, I added.
“It’s an oxmymoron,” Ayalon responded. “It’s a resolution that they will dictate because they have an automatic majority at the U.N. It will set the terms (of the issues in dispute) according to their own capricious wills. It will lock the Palestinians into an intransigent position, and they will not negotiate.”
But what other option do they have, if Israel doesn’t make concessions? I asked.
“We have been doing a lot, and we are willing to do more,” he said, citing the fact that since negotiations started in 1992, Israel helped create the Palestinian Authority, supported it economically, and returned 42 percent of the West Bank, and 100 percent of the Gaza strip.“Everybody is asking what Israel is willing to do, but nobody is asking what the Palestinians are willing to do.”
What should they do? I asked.
“They should give up what they call ‘the right of return’ of Palestinian refugees to Israel. Refugees should go back to their own state. Why are we creating for the first time in history a Palestinian state? So they have a state for the Palestinians,” he responded.
Second, Palestinians should reach an agreement with Israel on borders so that Israel is not attacked anymore, he said. Third, the two sides should reach an agreement on Jerusalem, he said.
“Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years,” Ayalon said. “Jerusalem is mentioned in our Judeo-Christian Bible 700 times, and not one single time in the Quran.”
I suggested to Ayalon that a U.N. General Assembly resolution would be largely symbolic, because only U.N. Security Council resolutions are binding, and the Obama administration has already said it would veto it at the Council. So what’s the big deal? I asked.
“The big deal is that by bridging agreements — the Oslo agreements — that we will not go to the United Nations, but solve our problems through bilateral negotiations, they are choosing conflict and friction over cooperation and negotiation,” Ayalon said.
My Opinion: Ayalon conveniently plays down the fact that Israel’s hard-line government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is making negotiations harder by continuing to expand settlements in Arab territories.
But Ayalon is right in saying that a U.N. proposal to create a Palestinian state along the Palestinian terms — which would allow 4.5 million Palestinians, most of them descendants of 1940’s refugees, to move back to Israel’s territory — would be an indirect way of destroying Israel as a Jewish state.
If the U.N. General Assembly votes for a resolution supporting the general concept of creating a Palestinian state, so that Palestinians can have their much-deserved homeland, it should be supported by everybody. But if it doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, and includes the Palestinian demands for “the right of return” of refugees, it will amount to supporting the slow-motion destruction of the state of Israel, and should not be supported by any country.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Andres Oppenheimer is a Miami Herald syndicated columnist and a member of The Miami Herald team that won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize. He also won the 1999 Maria Moors Cabot Award, the 2001 King of Spain prize, and the 2005 Emmy Suncoast award. He is the author of Castro's Final Hour; Bordering on Chaos, on Mexico's crisis; Cronicas de heroes y bandidos, Ojos vendados, Cuentos Chinos and most recently of Saving the Americas. E-mail Andres at firstname.lastname@example.org. Live chat with Oppenheimer every Thursday at 1 p.m. at The Miami Herald.