Rebuttal of Yonaton Touval’s Haaretz Article

As any reader of this blog knows I like to spend my time reading lots of articles that I disagree with. I will not go into the reasons why. Every now and again I get it in my head that I should create a blog piece about an article and let people see the inaccuracies or flawed logic these authors put into their pieces. Today’s piece comes from Haaretz, which is Israel’s most influential paper, although not most read paper. I shall proceed with my usual of going paragraph by relevant paragraph to refute the main points. It is by Yonatan Touval as he tries, in vain, to discuss the Palestinian declaration of statehood in the UN in September. Mr. Touval starts by saying:

“First, the UN will not vote on recognition of a Palestinian state. The reason is simple: It can’t. According to international law, only states can recognize other states. The UN, by contrast, is an international organization and is therefore not mandated to grant official recognition to states.”

I could not think of a more flawed opening paragraph, which just sets the bar of accuracy so low. The UN is an organization of states that decide on matters, hence the UN is the perfect place to get state recognition. Does our author forget how Israel was established? It was by a declaration of independence and recognition in the UN. By September of 2011, the Palestinians might have as many countries recognizing it as recognize Israel, which is double the amount that recognize Kosovo. The fact that states VOTE on recognition proves the UN is mandated to do such an act. Next he says:

“Second, the Palestinians are unlikely to declare their independence any time soon. The Palestinians have flatly, if not always loudly, stated they have no intention of declaring a state absent a final-status agreement. Here is what Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Al Jazeera in January: “There is no option to declare a Palestinian state.” Pressed to explain his position, Abbas added: “A Palestinian state will be established only with an agreement from Israel.

(The Palestinian reluctance to declare a state absent a comprehensive agreement with Israel is long established, and stems from the concern that, once such a state is established, all issues that remain unresolved would lose their moral and political urgency. )”

The Palestinian declared independence in 1988. Mr. Touval, clearly uneducated on the subject, is confusing declaring independence and recognition. His argument is that the Palestinian Authority (not a representative government) said they will not declare a state without final status negotiations. Does that mean they are suddenly bound to this? The Palestinian Authority was meant to dissolve in 1999 but it is still around. Israel was supposed to evacuate and not create/expand more settlements but yet settlement populations have doubled. Abbas’ point of doing this move is to get Israel back to the negotiating table. Just as a pretext, I am against the move of UN recognition on many grounds. The most important to me is that the PA is not a legitimate ruling party and is not genuine about the move. Abbas and Fatah wants to be in negotiations with the Israelis to keep himself relevant and the beneficiary of US/EU money. The reason why Abbas does not actually want to declare statehood is he knows he will lose all his privileges in addition to guaranteeing veto after veto from the United States to have the UN take care of the issues such as Jerusalem, refugees, borders, and settlements. Abbas has no track record for being a martyr for the Palestinians and he is not going to start now by giving away all his power.

“Third, while it is possible for the Palestinians to seek full membership in the UN, it is hard to see how they could do so without first declaring, implicitly or explicitly, statehood (which, as noted, they are loathe to do ). This is because while states need not necessarily be members of the UN – classic examples are Taiwan today or Switzerland until 2002 – only states can become full members of the organization. This is because for the UN to admit a state, the Security Council would have to make such recommendation to the General Assembly, and the United States would most probably exercise its veto power to prevent the Security Council from doing that. .”

Again to reiterate, the Palestinians have already declared independence and have recognition by many states, over 110 the last I checked. There is no need to declare independence twice. The Palestinians (again assuming full benevolence, which there is not) are seeking full UN membership which would entitle them to protections and rights under international law. Hence if a majority of states vote in favor, they are de facto recognizing Palestine as a sovereign entity in certain borders, and since the UN is full of STATES, the Palestinians will have their mandate. Hence the United States it would see is being the obstructionist, yet the author does not find the problem with it. A majority of states, and an overwhelming majority of the people of the world are in favor of Palestine being a state with full rights. To this author, it must seem then that the United States is doing what is necessary or right. This is not any different, every year the United Nations passes a resolution calling for a division of Jerusalem,  evacuation of settlements, evacuation of Israeli troops from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and a just resolution to the refugee question. Every year this passes 160+ to around 2-7 which consists of the Untied States, Israel, Palau, Nauru, Marshall Islands, and sometimes Australia or Canada. Since the US votes against it, it is as if it never existed. This is what the author is essentially calling for, going against the international community again for Israel’s benefit. To further show his own ignorance on anything pertaining to the article Touval continues:

“To recap: It’s impossible for the UN to recognize Palestinian statehood; it’s possible yet improbable that the Palestinians will declare their independence; it’s impossible for the UN to admit Palestine as a full member without the Palestinians first declaring their independence; and it’s possible yet improbable that Palestine will be admitted to the UN even if the Palestinians do declare a state. Adding to the confusion is the fact that already, back in November 1988, the Palestine Liberation Organization proclaimed “the establishment of the State of Palestine on our Palestinian territory with its capital Jerusalem.” Yet the current campaign for UN recognition does not derive its legitimacy from that resolution, and the exact form the Palestinian UN initiative will take, or what it will be designed to achieve, therefore, remains far from obvious. This is, not surprisingly, the reason that a growing number of Palestinian figures, including Salam Fayyad, are beginning to voice their discomfort about the whole idea.”

1988 seems to be a bad year for this man considering his completely ignorance or omitting of the declaration of independence that occurred then and has stemmed from it since. Salaam Fayyad has explicitly said here that the current UN bid is directly connected to the declaration of independence back in 1988. Next he says

“Several possibilities have recently been floated, including a General Assembly resolution to revise resolution 181 (the historic partition plan of November 1947 that called for the establishment of two states – one Jewish, one Arab – in British Mandatory Palestine ), and a Security Council resolution to replace resolution 242 as the reference point for any future settlement with a detailed and concrete plan that reflects the progress that has been made in various peace-making efforts since 1967.”

Touval seems to confuse Thomas Friedman’s poor op-ed piece I rebutted two weeks ago with the words “several possibilities.” No one in the international community or UN is thinking of going back to 1947 which I wrote in detail about. It seems that most people have not even read UN resolution 181, especially Thomas Friedman and this author. The main framing of the conflict and how to resolve it is already in the UN, it simply just needs its members to follow it and stop being obstructionist. UN resolution 242 is more than explicit about Israel’s necessities in achieving peace, of which it has systematically failed to do so. Next Touval says:

“To this end, the Quartet should take the lead when it meets in Washington this Monday by beginning work on a UN resolution that would lay out the parameters for a permanent settlement of the conflict; set a time limit – say, of one year – to the conclusion of negotiations; outline a series of actions that the international community will take upon itself to support the process (including the formation of a multinational force that will be part of any peace deal, and the establishment of an international fund for compensating the Palestinian refugees ); and finally, spell out what the international community will be ready to do should the parties fail to reach an agreement within the specified period.”

The Quartet has tried to get the Israelis to abide by international law but failed. I do not disagree that the initial conflict could be over in a year, but not through the way this author seems to think it will. Oslo had a 5 year time frame to get it resolved and we had more settlements and expansion of existing settlements. Somehow the Quartet is going to solve it in a year without Israel following the international consensus? This thinking is just pure lunacy. If Israel followed the international consensus tomorrow, the vast majority of the conflict would be over.

To read the original article by Mr. Touval click here.

Photos from haaretz and wikipedia


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