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Israeli-Palestinian Uncharted Territory

PM Binyamin Netanyahu: 'The Palestinian Attempt To Bypass Direct Negotiations And Seek Recognition As UN Member Will Fail'

U.S. Conducting Urgent Contacts In New York For Solution To Jump-start Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks & Prevent Clash In Security Council

West Bank Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas Determined To Pursue Security Council Vote While Gaza Palestinian Leader Ismail Haniya Opposes UN Move Declaring Palestinians Will Never Recognize Israel Or Give Up An Inch Of Their Territory

Mahmoud Abbas

West Bank Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniya, the Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza, have again crossed swords - this time over the attempt by Abbas to seek UN recognition of a Palestinian state, based on the lines of June 4th,1967. This implies Abbas's recognition of Israel in the remaining territory. However in Gaza, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, who represents at least half of the Palestinian population has categorically rejected the Abbas move declaring: 'The Palestinians will never recognize Israel or give up an inch of their land!' Hamas, an ally of Iran, also subscribes to Tehran's vow to wipe Israel 'off the map'. In effect, Mahmoud Abbas will be calling on the UN to recognize a Palestinian state that also declares its intention to annihilate another UN member state.

Israel and the Palestinians will enter uncharted territory when the Palestinians officially seek UN recognition 0f a Palestinian state on the lines of 1967. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has contended the Palestinians have rejected direct negotiations and that such a unilateral step is in flagrant violation of the Oslo Accords that stipulated that only direct talks could establish a Palestinian state. Before leaving Jerusalem for New York, Netanyahu told the cabinet that the Palestinian attempt in the Security Council for recognition as a members state would fail. That was his first goal as well as to present Israel's truth to the General Assembly and to call on the Palestinians to return to direct peace talks. If the Palestinian persist in the Security Council gambit, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has warned of 'harsh consequences' and some governmental sources have hinted this might include the annexation of the settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria.) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has declared that he will call on the UN Security Council to vote for full recognition of 'Palestine' as a UN member state. However, the U.S. has indicated it will veto the step because it will hamper, rather than help, the peace process with Israel. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared: 'The only way of getting a lasting solution is through direct negotiations between the parties, and the route to that lies in Jerusalem and Ramallah, not in New York'. Although events are still enveloped by a diplomatic fog at the UN, the Palestinians can count on getting a massive majority in the General Assembly for conferring 'observer status'. Some experts believe this would grant the Palestinians the right to act within the UN's various agencies as as well as in the International Court of Justice. It will also be a shot in the arm of the campaign to delegitimize Israel that is being waged by the Palestinians and their supporters.

Could there be an eleventh hour gambit to forestall what is gearing up to be a clash between Israel and the Palestinians in the wake of the UN developments? So far all efforts have failed but President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu are due to meet in New York before the UN showdown and the international 'quartet' will also convene to try and forestall a potentially dangerous chain of events. Massive celebrations are expected in every Palestinian town and village on the West Bank after the UN vote, but will the jubilation explode into fireworks with thousands of Palestinian civilians marching on Israeli settlements? Abbas and his officials say 'absolutely not' - they have pledged that their security forces will prevent any violence. But after the UN vote the air would be filled with volatile fumes and an isolated incident could spark a conflagration. In light of this, IDF reinforcements have already been deployed in Judea and Samaria with special non-lethal riot gear. Jewish residents in Judea and Samaria will also go on special alerts. Will the UN vote turn the Israeli-Palestinian landscape into a minefield? No one on either side knows for certain. What is clear is that down in Gaza, Hamas will try to ignite the flames by accusing Mahmoud Abbas of going too far in accepting the two state solution. Hamas agents will also try to stir the pot on the West Bank. Last week, Israel's Shabak security service disclosed that it had cracked a Hamas suicide bombing plot on the West Bank that targeted a Jerusalem suburb.

Benyamin Netanyahu

The contours of Israeli-Palestinian peace making, or lack thereof, are now destined to enter a different paradigm after each side accused the other of failing to live up to its Oslo commitments. Abbas has steadfastly refused to negotiate with Netanyahu charging the Israelis have never been serious about making peace. What does the record show? Eighteen years ago, the Oslo Agreement was signed on the White House lawn by Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat, under the aegis of President Bill Clinton. It launched the Israeli-Palestinian peace process that stipulated five years of good neighbourly relations leading eventually to a Palestinian state, although this was not stated in so many words. But bear in mind that Rabin's ruling Labor Party had actually won the 1992 election, running on a platform that 'did not rule out the establishment of a Palestinian state'. In effect, Israel had accepted the formula of 'territory for peace' with the Palestinians administering densely populated towns and areas of the West Bank, although overall security remained in Israeli hands. The game plan was that Oslo would encourage the Palestinians to give up terror and agree to live in peaceful co-existence with the Jewish state. But the Palestinian terror continued unabated leading to Rabin's famous statement: 'We'll negotiate as if there's no terror and fight terror as if there is no negotiations'. In the period between Oslo and Rabin's assassination on November 4th, 1995 over one hundred and fifty Israelis, mainly civilians, were murdered and hundreds more were maimed by Palestinian terrorists. It became increasingly apparent, that Arafat was utilizing terrorism as an instrument of his policy-'raising the flames' whenever he did not get what he wanted from Israel. (Zakaria Zubeidi, a former commander of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade on the West Bank, later disclosed that he knew exactly when Arafat 'with the wink of the eye' wanted him to launch an attack. In any event, Yigal Amir, Rabin's assassin obviously believed the Israeli Prime Minister was serious about his peace making.)

And is there any doubt about Rabin's successor, super-dove Shimon Peres' resolve to advance peace with the Palestinians. However, the Palestinians welcomed Peres into office by an unprecedented wave of suicide attacks and it was only shortly before the next Israeli election that Arafat bowed to U.S. pressure and reined in the terrorists. By then it was too late, the suicide attackers had literally bombed Peres out of the PM's office. Israeli voters, disillusioned over hopes for peace, turned to Netanyahu for a tougher stance against terrorism. But the public's quest for a viable peace process emerged again when Labour's Ehud Barak won the election of 1999. Barak, with Bill Clinton's collaboration, engineered Camp David II with Arafat. Again an Israeli leader, as verified by Dennis Ross, was ready for the historic compromise of a two state solution based on the lines of 1967 with land swaps, but Arafat walked away from the table and flew home to launch Intifada II. Back in Jerusalem, Barak had to face the music with even the Left castigating him for going too far and offering Arafat too much. But not only was Barak left a political wreck after Arafat's rejection of his peace plan, the Labour party itself, lost all credibility by its seeming willingness to 'give away the store'. Labor has never recovered from that political loss of grace until the current 'social justice' protest movement. But not only Labor, Barak's successor Ariel Sharon accepted the 'Roadmap' of President George W. Bush, who in effect signaled the Palestinians 'halt the terrorism and I guarantee a Palestinian state, leave the Israelis to me". But genocidal Hamas and the other radical groups wanted no part of that deal - they also had Iran's backing for 'wiping Israel off the map'. Fast forward to 2005, when the new Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas himself could have jumped on the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza by exploiting it to enforce a total halt to terrorism. Such a period of quiet would have created the environment for later demanding a negotiated withdrawal of Israel from the West Bank and the establishment of a Palestinian state. Think again.

Abass's Palestinian brethren in Gaza converted the adage of 'territory for peace' to 'territory for more terrorism' by firing a cascade of rockets against Israeli civilians. After winning the Palestinian parliamentary elecyion, Hamas later expelled President Abbas from Gaza because he and Fatah movement were too 'soft' on Israel. And on it goes. Enter the next Israeli PM Ehud Olmert, who again offered Abbas an even more generous peace plan than did Barak at Camp David. Alas, Abbas was still tongue tied about saying one word, Yes! Is it any wonder Israeli voters had turned sour on Leftist peace makers who continually ran into a Palestinian brick wall of rejection. So with Hamas launching salvos of Qassams from Gaza, while another of Iran's surrogates Hizballah did the same from south Lebanon, most Israelis no longer believed in the slogan 'peace brings security', proffered usually by those who do not live here. Experience has taught that if anything 'security brings peace'. That by the way was the principle adopted by Menahem Begin who agreed to return all of Sinai to Egypt but only on condition that it be demilitarized.

Mahmoud Abbas, Benyamin Netanyahu, Barack Obama(Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

To the more immediate present: after being clobbered by Hamas rockets from Gaza culminating in the IDF counter-terror operation of 'Cast Lead' in 2008, Israeli voters elected a Right wing coalition led by Netanyahu. The Likud leader is an ardent believer in the Land of Israel ideology that holds that all of the West Bank, Judea & Samaria, are what Begin used to call 'our patrimony'. Moreover, he views a Palestinian state on the West Bank as a strategic threat to Israel. Nonetheless, under pressure from Obama, Netanyahu has accepted the 'two- state solution' and agreed to enter direct negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas. But bearing in mind that Abbas had previously refused to accept Olmert's lavish offer, the Palestinian leader apparently assumed he would get far less from the more hawkish Netanyahu and simply decided to boycott any direct talks with the current Israeli government. Even when Netanyahu imposed a ten month freeze on settlement building, Abbas still refused to enter direct talks. The Israeli PM, under immense pressure from his Right wing coalition partners had no alternative but to resume, albeit very limited building, after the ten month moratorium expired last September. It is now evident that Abbas has parlayed this settlement issue, probably more than anything else, into a successful selling point for the Palestinian cause against the Jewish state. In spite of the fact that Abbas has remained steadfast in his refusal to negotiate, he has been winning friends and influencing UN members, some fearful of arousing the ire of the fifty-seven Islamic states at the UN.

So much for setting the record straight. At home, Netanyahu's supporters credit the PM with adopting a tough stance on security issues in light of the tectonic upheavals now rocking the Middle East. Just imagine if Israel had returned the Golan Heights to Syrian tyrant President Bashar Assad, who will apparently be ousted and possibly replaced by a regime of the Muslim Brotherhood in cahoots with Iran? And after Syria goes, what will be the fate of Jordan where Hashemite King Abdullah II rules over a majority of Palestinians. How secure could Israel be without control of the mountain ridges on the West Bank from a hostile Jordan or with Hamas terrorists deployed within rocket range of Ben Gurion International Airport. What UN member state, threatened by its neighbors, would agree to withdraw to within ten miles of the sea and relinquish its last vestige of strategic depth? The old 1967 line was some ten miles wide. And at present, Israel is turning over backwards to preserve the peace treaty with Egypt after the heralded 'Arab Spring' nearly lynched six Israeli security guards inside the devastated embassy in Cairo. To the north, Lebanon totters from day to day with Christians, Muslims and Druze, at daggers drawn, locked in a perpetual power struggle. And where Hizballah has acquired an arsenal of some forty-thousand rockets targeting the Jewish state, acquired under the noses of the very same UN's peace-monitors.

Then there's Iran apparently moving closer daily to its goal of acquiring nuclear missiles, as the rest of the world dilly dallies about what to do. Netanyahu can be expected to make these points when he addresses the General Assembly while asking the UN members how many of their countries are threatened with genocide if they lose even one war. Nonetheless, Israel and the Palestinians are now embroiled in a war of words in which past rights and wrongs are passe. Netanyahu will stress Israel's desire for peace and the world will be listening to hear how he intends to contribute to the peace process. Having already accepted the two-state solution, the PM could express his recognition of Palestine but as a state that is one part for peace while the other is genocidal. U.S. President Barack Obama intervened at the last moment to save the six Israelis in the besieged Cairo embassy, maybe the U.S. leader can again assist Israel as well as the Palestinians at the UN.

David Essing

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