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In response to Palestinian statehood bid, government issues empty threats

Foreign Minister Lieberman may offer the Palestinians a ‘temporary state’ with no borders, which actually translates to no state at all.

The Israeli government is so threatened by the Palestinian Authority’s bid to go to the UN in order to achieve non-member observer state status, that it has gone through a series of moves in recent weeks that began with threats, and has now transitioned into what is being called an “offer” by the Foreign Ministry.

According to a report in Haaretz on Wednesday,  Foreign Minister Lieberman is considering offering the Palestinians recognition of statehood within “provisional borders” in exchange for them dropping their UN bid. What are these borders? According to the document, the borders would be:

…based in Area A of the West Bank, where Palestinians would have control over security and civilian matters, and Area B, where Palestinians would have control over civilian issues alone.

Um, that isn’t an offer. It is simply reinforcing the status quo of the Oslo Accords, which is precisely the break down of pseudo-sovereignty in Areas A and B. This, while Area C – 60 percent of the West Bank – would remain, as it is now under full Israeli control, governed by a clear policy of Palestinian transfer.

So essentially, the Israeli government is mulling an “offer” in which the Palestinians would forfeit the chance at international recognition (albeit symbolic) of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 borders in order to get what? More of the same.

What’s worse, Israel claims its primary motivations are to thwart unilateral action. This is to me the most enraging part. After all, everything the Israeli government does, on a daily basis, when it comes to its relations to Palestinians, to facts on the ground, and to its attitude towards the entire region (i.e. Iran) is unilateral. In fact, Israel’s government constantly boasts and insists on its sovereign right to do as it pleases in order to defend itself and its interests as the independent Jewish state. So why don’t the Palestinians have that right?

The Israeli government is apparently very scared of the Palestinian Authority getting this UN status, since it will then allow Abbas to to take Israel to the International Criminal Court and further expose and delegitimize Israeli policies on the world stage. Israel wants to look strong, but right now, it looks weak, and scared and ridiculous.

This so-called offer comes just days after Israel’s government threatened to withhold the transfer of PA tax money if it did not drop its UN bid – something a parent would do to a child. It then decided on Tuesday to threaten to annul the Oslo Accords, which is outrageous considering that Oslo is precisely what institutionalized the occupation and formalized the government’s power over Palestinians in the West Bank without having to deal with any of the responsibility, as Noam Sheizaf has already written about here.

The Israeli government went from one threat to the next, and is now considering a supposed “offer” which is cynical, disingenuous and totally unrealistic – and thus it cannot be seen as anything but another empty threat.

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    1. aristeides

      This is going to expose the foolishness of those who’ve been claiming for years that once B Obama is reelected, he will begin to support Palestinian rights.

      Wait for the UN veto. Again.

      Reply to Comment
      • Jack

        US dont have veto-power in the General Assembly?

        Reply to Comment
    2. Jonny

      This is a vote in the General Assembly so the US does not have a veto. Expect some strong arm pressure on states that rely on US Aid perhaps but no veto. It only needs a majority so hopefuly it will pass.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Kolumn9

      I think you are misrepresenting the process. The Foreign Ministry’s document presents this ‘diplomatic compromise’ as the carrot with the harsh threats as the stick. The threats are very explicitly still there.

      I also think you have a somewhat confused definition of empty threats. First, this is an offer and not a threat, so while it can be an empty idea, it can not be an empty threat. Second, the threat to withhold the transfer of money can’t be considered an ’empty threat’ because it wouldn’t be the first time Israel carried such an action out. Third, the threat to cancel all or parts of the Oslo Accords is entirely credible considering that the whole purpose of the Accords was to create a legal framework to separate the Palestinians from Israelis and the Palestinian unilateral declaration of the State of Palestine at the UN will provide a perfectly decent legal framework to sustain the same policy. The Palestinian resort to unilateral measures at the UN (the application itself is unilateral) give the Israeli government an excellent justification to cancel and refashion the practical arrangements of the Oslo accords as it sees fit.

      If you want to look for empty threats you should look at the Palestinian threats to prosecute Israeli leaders at the ICC. Even after Palestine is recognized as a non-member state at the UN the borders of this state will be legally questionable regardless of what the UN resolution says on this topic. There will be a protracted court case on the matter at the end of which the ICC will likely declare the 1967 lines as borders. This would allow the Palestinians to bring Israeli leaders to trial at the ICC for ‘crimes’ carried out on ‘Palestinian territory’, but that in itself will not do much because the ICC can not try anyone in absentia. So, at that point after at least a decade of legal lawfare the net result would be some small number of Israeli leaders that will be forced to skip their European vacations, while the situation on the ground remains unchanged (well, aside from whatever red-roofed changes are carried out by Israel). On the other hand it becomes very difficult for the Palestinian leadership to negotiate with Israeli leaders they are accusing of war crimes, so it makes it very difficult to restart any negotiations.

      The Israeli government is rightfully concerned about a transition to this new situation, but I really fail to see any fundamental benefits to the Palestinians. For all the emotional weight that the supporters of the Palestinians place on symbolic steps, how does this practically help the Palestinians get anywhere good? No changes on the ground (for the better), likely damage to both the Palestinian leadership and Palestinian residents, and additional stumbling blocks on the way to negotiations. In return for what? The remote possibility that an Israeli leader might be forced to skip his European vacation?

      Reply to Comment