On Monday, October 17, 2011, Partners for Progressive Israel (Meretz USA) President Dina B. Charnin, Chair Theodore Bikel, and Executive Director Ron Skolnik issued the following statement on behalf of the organization:
On September 23, 2011, Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, submitted an application for full membership in the United Nations for the State of Palestine. After carefully reviewing its text, Partners for Progressive Israel (Meretz USA) is encouraged to find that the Palestinian application contains four positive elements, which, if embraced by the government of Israel, could provide new momentum for the negotiating process. In our statement of September 18, we urged President Abbas to incorporate these elements in the Palestinian application to the UN, and we are pleased by their inclusion in the documents submitted.
We wish to highlight these positive elements, particularly in light of the unfortunate decision of many American Jewish organizations to characterize the Palestinian application as an attack on Israel and an effort to avoid a two-state resolution of the conflict:
1. Non-violence: The Palestinian application contains clear reference to the need for resolving the conflict through non-violent means. The application includes a reaffirmation of the PLO’s commitment to Prime Minister Rabin in September 1993 to reach, “a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the two sides,” with all issues to be, “resolved through negotiations,” while, “renounc[ing] the use of terrorism and other acts of violence.” The application also mentions several times the acceptance of the obligations contained in the UN Charter, which includes CHAPTER VI: PACIFIC SETTLEMENT OF DISPUTES. Furthermore, as we noted in our statement of September 18, the Palestinian move at the UN is a diplomatic campaign, which itself serves to reinforce the theme of non-violent means.
2. Two-state solution reinforced: The application calls for a two-state solution, including an explicit reference to a, “just, lasting and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the vision of two States living side by side in peace and security.” Additionally, by referring to the June 4, 1967 lines as the basis of recognition for the state of Palestine, the Palestinian application reinforces the concept of the two-state solution, and weakens the idea, promoted by each side’s extreme elements, that one side or the other should dominate the entire area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
3. Recognition of Jewish rights to statehood: The Palestinian application incorporates repeated references to UN General Assembly resolution 181 of 1947 as a foundation of their right to statehood. Because resolution 181 is also the international diplomatic basis for Israel’s creation as an “independent Jewish state,” in the UN’s language, the Palestinian application implicitly recognizes the Jewish people’s right to national self-determination and statehood.
4. The 1967 lines will not be the final borders: The Palestinian application indicates that the pre-war 1967 lines will be the “basis”, and not the final borders, of the future Palestinian state. Furthermore, the application contains a commitment to, “resume negotiations on all final status issues,” including, “Jerusalem, … settlements, borders, [and] security.” The implication of this wording is that all these issues are negotiable, and that the June 4, 1967 borders will be adjusted in subsequent talks with Israel to take into account Israel’s security needs and some of the demographic results of its settlement policy.
The Palestinian decision to advance their statehood drive via the UN, while a significant tactical change, cannot be seen as a negation of a negotiation process with Israel, and is clearly not a call to violence, nor a rejection of the two-state solution; it even constitutes a step towards accommodating Prime Minister Netanyahu’s demand that Israel be recognized as the expression of Jewish nationhood.
We urge Prime Minister Netanyahu not to waste time, to affirm these principles himself, and to engage with President Abbas on the basis of them. Clearly, the Palestinian application to the UN, even if ratified, will not bring peace or end the occupation on its own. But with a supportive response from Israel’s government – one that goes beyond the fruitless mantra of “negotiations without preconditions” – it can serve as the basis for a reenergized and revamped diplomatic process, with the potential for resolving the conflict on a bilateral basis.