The Palestinian Authority’s Bid for Statehood at the UN

CIJA supports the creation of a prosperous, independent, democratic Palestinian state established on the basis of a peace agreement with Israel. CIJA further affirms that Israeli and Palestinian aspirations – for security and independence respectively – are compatible and bound together under international law as a singular agenda for resolving the conflict. This concept is central to the two-state solution, in which a Jewish homeland and a Palestinian homeland exist side-by-side in peace and security.

CIJA recognizes that establishment of two states will require difficult, even painful, compromises by both Israelis and Palestinians. It is therefore essential that the Palestinian leadership end its policy of placing preconditions on negotiations with Israel and, instead, return to direct talks in order to arrive at a comprehensive peace agreement upon which a Palestinian state will be founded.

Efforts by the Palestinian leadership to achieve a unilateral declaration of independence, particularly through symbolic statehood recognition at the UN and other international bodies, sever the objectives of peace and Palestinian statehood. In so doing, the Palestinian Authority is attempting to avoid its responsibility not only to negotiate a peace agreement but also to accept the Jewish state’s very legitimacy.

This new tactic on the part of the Palestinian leadership is an effort to bypass the established peace process – and is extremely reckless in three ways:

1. It avoids direct negotiations.

  • Israel has repeatedly stated that it is prepared to negotiate without precondition for the express purpose of creating an independent Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel.
  • The Palestinian Authority has regularly called for preconditions to Israeli talks, including agreement on the borders of a future Palestinian state even prior to negotiations.
  • Canada, the United States and a number of European countries (including Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands) opposed the Palestinian bid for statehood recognition at the UN, considering it counterproductive for both peace-building and eventual Palestinian statehood. The Government of Canada’s rejection of the Palestinian initiative has received cross-party support at the federal level.
  • As President Obama stated in response to this issue: “Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.” (May 19, 2011)
  • Israel has taken great risks for the cause of peace, signing agreements with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. In both cases, Israel gave up land for peace, most notably when Israel handed over the entire Sinai Peninsula to Egypt, an area three times the size of Israel.
  • In 2000, Israel proposed a Palestinian state on the entire Gaza Strip and 95% of the West Bank, including compensating land swaps and shared sovereignty in Jerusalem. The Palestinian leadership refused, made no counter-offer, and incited a wave of suicide bombings that killed more than 1,000 Israelis. In 2008, Israel offered a similar statehood proposal to the Palestinians in top-level behind-the-scenes talks. The Palestinian leadership rejected it.

2. It contravenes international law and violates signed agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

  • UN Security Council Resolution 242 (1967) is the only internationally accepted path to Israeli-Palestinian peace, offering a framework for resolving the conflict and creating the conditions for a Palestinian state to emerge. Under Resolution 242, Israeli withdrawal from territories is only required once the Arab (and Palestinian) leadership provides Israel with full recognition, security guarantees, and lasting peace.
  • Reaffirming UNSC Resolution 242, UN Security Council Resolution 338 (1973) calls for direct talks between both parties as the only solution to the conflict.
  • The Government of Canada has supported UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338 for decades as well as international law in this matter, and it has upheld the principle that Palestinian statehood and genuine peace cannot be divided from one another.
  • Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority (then the PLO) pledged to uphold this approach upon signing the Oslo Accords in 1993 with both sides declaring their support for a peaceful resolution to the conflict only through direct negotiations, as per 242 and 338.
  • Any efforts on the part of the Palestinian leadership to obtain statehood without negotiating peace are in violation of the Oslo Accords. It is only via direct talks and a comprehensive peace accord between the two parties that the goal of two states for two peoples can be realized.

3. Efforts by Palestinian leadership are aimed at creating a state without peace with Israel – and are, therefore, a prescription for permanent conflict.

  • In principle, the symbolic acceptance of a Palestinian state without peace would remove every incentive for the Palestinian leadership to negotiate a peace agreement at all – condemning future generations of both Israeli and Palestinian children to further violence.
  • In practice, even as organizations recognize a symbolic Palestinian state, actual statehood will fail absent a final peace agreement.
  • If moderate Palestinian leaders refuse to crack down on extremists and return to direct talks with Israel, there is little hope that Hamas and their affiliates will cease their violent campaign against Israeli civilians. The Palestinian people deserve leaders who will make peace and build a prosperous state rather than two factions committed to endless conflict with Israel.

Additional Reading

Symbolic Palestinian Statehood is not a Path to Peace” by David Koschitzky, Chair of CIJA (The Toronto Sun)

Bid for UN Statehood won’t bring Peace” by Shimon Fogel, CEO of CIJA (The Toronto Star)

The Time Isn’t Right for Statehood Bid” by Irwin Cotler, Member of Parliament (The Montreal Gazette)

Canada will not Support U.N. Statehood Bid by Palestinians” (The JTA)

Minister Baird Disappointed at UNESCO Approval of Palestinian Membership” (Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada)

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