UNILATERAL PALESTINIAN DEMAND FOR RECOGNITION OF STATEHOOD VIOLATES PAST AGREEMENTS, DELIVERS BLOW TO HOPES FOR PEACE
In the fall of 2010, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas refused to resume direct peace negotiations with Israel. Instead, he is actively trying to abandon negotiations altogether. He has asked the international community to immediately recognize an independent Palestinian state with borders on the pre-1967 armistice lines. This January, he asked the UN Security Council to condemn all Israeli building in settlements. It is not clear when or if the resolution will be submitted to a vote.
A handful of South American countries, including Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, and Ecuador, complied and recognized a Palestinian state in December.Other states may follow their lead. In stark contrast, the EU rejected the Palestinian request, declaring that it would recognize a Palestinian state only “when appropriate” and would not condone any changes to “the pre-1967 borders...other than those agreed by the parties” through “negotiations.”  U.S. officials and Congress denounced the Palestinian effort in even stronger terms. In a unanimously approved resolution, the U.S. House of Representatives underscored that "true and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties” and urged other nations to reject the Palestinians’ appeal.  U.S. officials also oppose the Palestinian appeal to the UN Security Council. "We're working to keep the focus where we think it needs to be [direct negotiations] and that is not in New York," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on January 19th.
While Israelis and many Palestinians long for a peaceful, two-state solution, this latest effort by Palestinian leaders is a crushing blow to hopes for peace and should be firmly rejected.
Unilateral Palestinian action directly violates past PLO-Israel agreements. After painstaking diplomatic efforts, Israel and the PLO signed the Oslo Accords in 1993 and in 1995, both times under U.S. supervision. The Accords specifically called for a negotiated resolution to the permanent status of the West Bank, including the issues of borders, Jerusalem, and Palestinian statehood. The Accords explicitly forbid either side from taking unilateral steps that would prejudge the final status of the disputed territory. Yet, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), is now trying to take unilateral steps.
Neither Israel nor the PA has ever renounced their commitment to these agreements. If the PA now violates them, the whole edifice of peacemaking will be undermined, including the legitimacy of the PA that was established through the Accords.
· Recognizing a state on the pre-1967 lines directly violates UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. Both resolutions call for negotiated land-for-peace agreements that will lead to “secure and recognized boundaries.” The pre-1967 line separating Israel and the West Bank was an armistice line delineated at the conclusion of the Arab states’ war to destroy Israel in 1948. It was never recognized as an international border, and the UN Resolutions did not regard it as a secure border for Israel. The PA and nations that comply with the PA unilateral declaration of statehood on the pre-1967 line are in defiance of the UN resolutions.
· Unilateral Palestinian action does not address the major obstacle to peace: terrorism. Hamas, which remains in an active state of war against Israel and dedicated to Israel’s “obliteration,” seized control of Gaza after Israel’s withdrawal in 2005. It has thousands of rockets aimed at Israeli towns and farms, is smuggling in higher-grade weapons, and preaching for Israel’s destruction in its mosques and media. Hamas is also trying to take over the West Bank where Fatah is weak. A unilateral declaration ignores the grave threat that Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups would pose to Israelis along their eastern border, which is only a few kilometers away from their demographic heartland.
· The Palestinians’ unilateral declaration of statehood is a ploy to bypass negotiations and to avoid making the concessions that are prerequisites to peace. Palestinians must renounce terrorism, accept the Jewish state’s right to exist within secure boundaries, honor past PLO-Israel agreements, renounce claims to Israel, and negotiate mutually agreed-upon solutions for other outstanding issues.
· Supporting the Palestinians’ unilateral declaration of statehood is a recipe for war. None of the outstanding issues would be resolved, such as refugees and Jerusalem. Instead, the Palestinians would feel empowered to continue making maximum demands, even by force of arms and terrorism as Hamas is doing. This will not lead to the peaceful coexistence sought by Israel and moderates in the region.
· Unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state sets a dangerous precedent that undermines international diplomacy and the principles of conflict resolution. Diplomatic processes lose their value when one party can simply walk out on them and achieve its own ends without considering the basic needs of the others—and gain international recognition anyway. The South American countries set a dangerous precedent despite their hollow claims that their recognition does not contradict their commitment to negotiations.[iv]
· Supporting the Palestinian unilateral declaration of statehood is a crushing setback for peace. The UN Security Council resolution should be vetoed, and all efforts should be directed at getting Palestinians back to the negotiating table, not supporting their brazen campaign to avoid or bypass the peace process.