United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon rang in the New Year on Thursday by launching the “International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.” The move may seem like an attempt to kick-start the long-stalled Middle East peace process, but instead it’s one certain to push back the prospect of regional peace further still.
Why? Because the Palestinian Authority (PA) will seize the latest UN folly as another excuse not to engage seriously in peacemaking, and because that same putatively moderate government-in-waiting has done little in recent years to make itself or its constituents worthy of international “solidarity.”
As a rule, PA media and schools portray Israel as a diabolical creature destined to disappear. The New York Times recently reported on the Facebook pages of Palestinian schools quoting Hitler and its TV channel broadcasting young girls describing Jews as “barbaric monkeys, wretched pigs” and the murderers of Islam’s prophet Muhammad (the Palestinian Media Watch monitoring group maintains a YouTube channel of such regular, incendiary content).
It’s not just that the PA is failing to prepare its people for peace – it is that it is unwilling to change the fundamental Palestinian narrative of violent “struggle” against Israel in favor of one of peaceful coexistence. Having nurtured a militant culture of “resistance,” PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas rightly fears that if he signs a peace deal with Israel, his fate will be the same as that of Egypt’s Anwar Sadat — the first Arab leader to make peace with Israel — who paid for it with his life.
The PA has time and again failed to respond to peace offers from successive Israeli governments. In 2000 at Camp David, Israel offered to dismantle more than 60 settlements, withdraw from 92 percent of the West Bank and all of Gaza, share the most contentious areas of Jerusalem’s Old City including the Temple Mount and grant the Palestinians a capital in the city’s eastern portions. Some 100,000 Palestinian refugees and their descendants would have been allowed to move within Israel’s borders.
Rather than negotiate, the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat walked away without making a counteroffer, leading then-President Clinton to put the summit’s failure squarely on Palestinian shoulders. Arafat then planned the so-called Second Intifada, in which Palestinian terror groups, including from his own Fatah movement, killed more than 1,000 Israelis — three-quarters of them civilians and most within Israel’s internationally recognized, pre-1967 boundaries.
Fast forward to 2008, and Israel made Arafat’s successor Abbas a still-more generous offer – some 95 percent of the West Bank, with swaps of land in Israel bringing the exchange to exactly 100 percent — and a fund set up for Palestinian refugees and their descendants. Abbas too walked away. Ehud Olmert, Israel’s premier at the time, lamented last year that he is “still waiting for a phone call” from the Palestinian leader.
Meanwhile, Hamas – a designated terror group by the United States, Canada and the European Union that rejects Israel’s legitimacy in any form – controls the Gaza Strip, one of the Palestinians’ two hoped-for territories for a future state. The UN’s “Year of Solidarity” blithely elides over its intended method for bringing about reconciliation between the PA – which controls Palestinian areas in the West Bank – and Hamas, let alone how it will reconcile the latter to Israel’s existence.
For decades, undemocratic regimes have exploited the democracy of the UN General Assembly (where Norway and North Korea wield identical voting power) to deflect attention from their own abuses. On no subject is this more apparent than Israel: In November a UNGA interpreter was caught on a hot mic observing that its nine anti-Israel resolutions in a single day – and none on any other country — were “a bit much.”
Israel is the only country to have a dedicated agenda item at every session of the UNGA’s Human Rights Council, which has included Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya among its members and played host to leaders of Hamas. The council’s special rapporteur on the Palestinians is a 9/11 Truther who has blamed the Boston Marathon bombings on America’s “global domination project” and “Tel Aviv.”
The very first words of the UN charter list its primary purpose as “To maintain international peace and security.” If the global body were acting in the true spirit of its founding, it could have declared 2014 the “Year of Middle East peace.” Instead, it has once again given the Palestinians an excuse to avoid the hard work of genuine peacemaking.
Oren Kessler is a Middle East research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based think tank.