The stage has been set for the coup de grace.
At his year-end press conference on December 17, 2010, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told reporters that he has "tried to be very objective and fair and balanced on all matters." (Given his use of the "fair and balanced" catchphrase that has become the hallmark of Fox News, maybe he is even watching the conservative news channel.)
However, the secretary general was anything but fair and balanced when it came to his remarks on the stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. He blamed the lack of any substantive progress solely on Israel's refusal to freeze all settlement building. And he did not discourage unilateral action by the Palestinians to obtain recognition of an independent state on their terms.
"Israel must meet its obligation to freeze all settlement activity, including in East Jerusalem," Ban Ki-moon said.
The Obama administration, which has taken a similar position for months, abandoned its own negotiations with Israel regarding Israel's renewal of a moratorium on West Bank settlement construction in exchange for an American letter of guarantees. Yet the issue is still being exploited to justify Palestinian intransigence.
The settlements issue was just another excuse used by the Palestinians to avoid any meaningful substantive negotiations. Indeed, they waited until virtually the end of the ten-month moratorium on West Bank settlements to even enter into direct talks with Israel. They then spent much of their time during the brief period of direct negotiations pressing Israel to extend the moratorium, without offering any concessions of their own.
The Palestinian strategy is evidently to run out the clock until they believe they have the infrastructure in place to unilaterally declare statehood on their own terms and have a critical mass of countries willing to recognize their state.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has declared a summer 2011 deadline for Palestinian statehood. This would be just in time for a likely summit meeting of world leaders at UN headquarters in New York next September. The occasion will be the so-called "Durban III" commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Israel-bashing UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance, which was held in Durban, South Africa. Durban III, which can be expected to portray the Palestinians as innocent victims of alleged Israeli apartheid, will coincide with the opening of next fall's General Assembly session.
The stage will be set for a General Assembly resolution recognizing the state of Palestine within the pre-1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.
The United Nations establishment appears to be on board with this strategy, which is intended to short-circuit Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and force Israel into further isolation as a pariah state if it doesn't accede to the "demands" of the international community immediately.
For example, the UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry told Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Fayyad that “All international players are now in agreement that the Palestinians are ready for statehood at any point in the near future. We are in the home stretch of your agenda to reach that point by August next year, and you have our full support.”
When asked whether he opposes or supports those countries who are now unilaterally recognizing the Palestinian state rather than waiting for the Palestinians and Israelis to work out their differences, Ban Ki-moon gave no direct answer. After making a pro forma reference to the UN's role in peace-making efforts as part of the Quartet on the Middle East (which also includes the United States, Russia and the European Union), he declared that the "Palestinians have an inalienable right for their independence and establishing such an independent state." He said nothing about Israeli civilians' inalienable right to live in peace and security.
If the Secretary General wanted to be truly "fair and balanced" as he professed to be, he would have to publicly acknowledge the fact that the Palestinians could have been living in an independent state of their own for more than sixty years. He would have to concede that the fault for their stateless condition today lies in large measure with the Palestinians themselves who, prodded on by their neighboring Arab countries, chose not to accept the UN's original two-state partition solution.
Jordan occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem for nearly the first twenty years following the creation of the state of Israel, and then participated in the 1967 Six Day War against Israel which Israel won. Israel had sent a message to Jordan’s leader King Hussein via the US State Department, the UN and the British Foreign Office, saying that, despite the outbreak of war, it would not attack the West Bank if Jordan maintained quiet on that front. Jordan ignored Israel’s appeal to avoid conflict.
Had Jordan heeded Israel's warning not to join Egypt and Syria in attacking Israel, Jordan would have been able to keep its West Bank territory. The Palestinians living in the West Bank could have worked out an arrangement with Jordan to create an independent state. But the Jordanians did not listen, leading to Israel's take-over of the territory and a lost opportunity for the Palestinians.
The Palestinians have displayed bad faith in their negotiations with Israel ever since that time. In 2000, for example, Israel offered the Palestinians a contiguous state in 97% of the territory of the West Bank plus Gaza. Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem and the Haram as Sharif (Temple Mount) would have been incorporated into Palestine. Arafat chose to reject the Israelis' offer, prompting the chief U.S. negotiator Dennis Ross to blame the Palestinians for the breakdown of the talks. Even Saudi Arabian ambassador Prince Bandar Ibn Sultan remarked that "if Arafat does not accept what is available now, it won't be a tragedy, it will be a crime."
The Palestinians had another chance to achieve a state of their own in the West Bank in 2008. This was after the Israelis had already withdrawn unilaterally from Gaza and turned over control to the Palestinian Authority, which was unable to meet their security obligations as the terrorist Hamas organization took over and used Gaza as a base for rocket attacks against innocent Israeli civilians.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert discussed with the Palestinians transferring to them 98.1 percent of the West Bank. Parts of East Jerusalem were included in the Israelis' offer. Olmert also agreed that some Palestinian refugees could return to Israel. However, it was a far lower number than Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was prepared to accept. Abbas rejected the proposed deal.
The Palestinians refuse to accept Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, even within the pre-1967 borders. Indeed, they deny that Jews have any historic connection to the land of Israel. The Palestinian Authority's information minister recently claimed that the Western Wall, Jews' holiest site, belongs to Muslims. In an attempt to de-legitimize Israel's Jewish history, the information minister's report asserts that there isn’t one stone in the wall that belongs to the era of King Solomon. “The Zionist occupation falsely and unjustly claims that it owns this wall, which it calls the Western Wall or Kotel,” he wrote in his report. "This wall was never part of the so-called Temple Mount, but Muslim tolerance allowed the Jews to stand in front of it and weep over its destruction.”
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon should know all this history. However, along with much of the international community, he refuses to acknowledge the Palestinians' hypocrisy and deceit staring him in the face. Israel is made into the bogeyman, while its Jewish roots are denied.
The stage has been set for the coup de grace. The Palestinians are looking to the international community for unilateral recognition of an independent Palestinian state and of East Jerusalem as their capital, with at least the tacit approval of the United Nations Secretary General. At this point, it is increasingly likely that they will get their way at the United Nations next September.
Joseph Klein is the author of a recent book entitled Lethal Engagement: Barack Hussein Obama, the United Nations and Radical Islam