Ever since 1977, the United Nations has sponsored the “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” to mark November 29th, the date in 1947 when the UN General Assembly approved its partition resolution. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called November 29th a “day of mourning and a day of grief.” It takes place every year at UN headquarters in New York and at the UN Offices at Geneva and Vienna and elsewhere. This year it was observed on November 30th since the 29th was a Sunday.
In honor of this year’s “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People,” Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a special “Message” stating that sixty-two years ago, “the General Assembly, resolution 181, put forth a vision of two States.” He said that the “State of Israel exists” but the “State of Palestine does not.”
I asked the Secretary General’s spokesperson at the press briefing at UN headquarters on that day if Ban Ki-moon has a position on whether the two-state solution should include specific protection of Israel as a Jewish state. After all, the whole purpose of establishing the state of Israel in the first place was to create a Jewish homeland where Jews would no longer be a persecuted minority who were told that they do not belong in the country in which they happened to reside. The international community at the time passed the partition resolution knowing full well that its vision of two states included a Jewish state living side by side with a Palestinian state. But the Arab states rejected the UN partition resolution – the original two-state solution. The Jewish state accepted it.
Fast forward sixty-two years. President Obama, when he addressed the General Assembly in September, talked about a Jewish state of Israel living side-by-side in peace with a Palestinian sovereign state. But in a press briefing at UN headquarters on September 22nd, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayad rejected the idea of a Jewish state. He said it “was not part of the Palestinian Authority’s recognition of Israel’s right to exist in peace and security.”
My question to the Secretary General’s spokesperson was meant to elicit whether Ban Ki-moon had the courage to reaffirm the UN General Assembly’s original vision - a Jewish state of Israel and a Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security. The answer was, No.
“We don’t have a position on that,” said Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson. “We have said it over and over again. What we do recognize is the need for the existence of two States, living side-by-side. We don’t actually want to venture into determining what each State will be like. I think it’s for the people of those States to determine what those States will be. What I would say is that, for us, it is important that the two-State solution be carried through.”
Every November the United Nations makes a public spectacle of mourning what it had recommended as a peaceful solution to the Arab-Jewish dispute over the Palestine Mandate territory sixty-two years ago. The UN is effectively repudiating its own original two-state solution, spurned by all of the Arab countries back in 1947 but accepted by Israel and backed back then by the international community.
The Palestinians continue to insist on their own state, to be governed as they wish – very likely under Islamic law. The UN is rallying to their cause and blaming Israel for defending itself against unremitting terrorist attacks. And gone is the clear international recognition of the reason that Israel was established in the first place.
The Palestinians will not even come to the negotiating table until they get their way completely on certain pre-conditions, such as a total freeze of all settlement activity. But negotiations, if they ever start in earnest, are doomed to fail if the Palestinians and their enablers refuse to recognize Israel’s right of self-determination to live in peace and security as a Jewish state.