The Proposed U.N Vote On Palestine Lacks Strategic Focus and Demonstrates Failed Leadership

Most of us now have the same basic end goal for the Israelis and Palestinians — a two state solution based on 1967 borders with appropriate land swaps.

That border mantra is really the easy part. The real fun begins when it gets to negotiating  the period of  time for settler “unsettlement,” refugee compensation, what minimum
number of refugees get to go back to Israel, water rights, security, the control of neighborhoods and holy sites in East and West Jerusalem, and then putting all of this to a vote.

That’s why the proposed U.N. vote on a resolution granting Palestinian statehood  ultimately lacks strategic purpose.  The resolution doesn’t resolve or help to push to resolve longstanding issues that will only get resolved (and legitimized) through negotiations led and endorsed by Israeli and Palestinian leaders, that will then be followed by a clear expression of support from the Arab League and America and a vote by the Israeli and Palestinian people.

Thomas Friedman echoes these thoughts in his June 26  New York Times editorial: “When did the Middle East make us happiest in the last few decades? That’s easy: 1) when Anwar el-Sadat made his breakthrough visit to Jerusalem; 2) when the Sunni uprising in Iraq against the pro-Al Qaedaforces turned the tide there; 3) when the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was routed in 2001 by Afghan rebels, backed only by U.S. air power and a few hundred U.S. special forces; 4) when Israelis and Palestinians drafted a secret peace accord in Oslo; 5) when the Green Revolution happened in Iran; 6) when the Cedar Revolution erupted in Lebanon; 7) when the democracy uprisings in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Egypt emerged; 8) when Israel unilaterally withdrew from South Lebanon and Gaza.”

“And what do they all have in common? America had nothing to do with almost all of them. They were self-propelled by the people themselves; we did not see them coming; and most of them didn’t cost us a dime. And what does that tell you? The most important truth about the Middle East: It only puts a smile on your face when it starts with them. If it doesn’t start with them, if they don’t have ownership of a new peace initiative….no amount of cajoling or doling out money can make it work…..When people own an initiative….as the Egyptian and Israeli peacemakers did — they will be self-propelled and U.S. help can be an effective multiplier.”

“When they don’t want to own it…or when they think we want some outcome more than they do, they will be happy to hold our coats, shake us down and sell us the same carpet over and over.”

Several readers have emailed me to disagree.  They believe pro-Israel supporters should work to amend the resolution so that a positive vote could finally help lead to peace negotiation progress. These are sincere people who fervently hope only the best for Israel.   But they are deeply frustrated.  They worry about Israel’s “pariah” status throughout the world, and what the long-term economic and political consequences of that might be — to Israel, America and Diaspora Jewry.

They fear that the Palestinian and Israeli stalemate is causing Israel to slowly drift away from its Diaspora support base. They want progress — any progress — and a broadly worded U.N. resolution is at least something tangible that might actually help, if Israel can get good wording: Maybe the resolution can require the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Maybe the resolution is only triggered if certain security parameters critical to Israel are met. At least that’s better than the two sides arguing about what each must do before they can even start talking, isn’t it?

Maybe. But probably not.

Shaping a  resolution outline that Palestinian and Israeli leaders will later fill in is not a strategic victory.  At best,  a resolution recognizing Palestine, one that sets out broad parameters and has little detail, and  one that is certain to be vetoed by America and probably Canada and  several European countries, will only allow Israel and the Palestinians to continue to tread water. At worst, random violence and terrorism will return as “day after” Palestinian expectations lead to frustrations when they see their daily lives largely unchanged.

The basic problem with spending so much time attacking or “wordsmithing” a potential U.N. resolution is that this shifts the  focus  away from  the real peace process impediment: the absence of vision and leadership on both sides of  the “didactic polemicists” divide.

An agreement still will have to be negotiated, approved and implemented, and it will be impossible to negotiate, approve or implement it with a current Israeli government that includes key leaders like a proudly racist, obstructionist Foreign Minister and his ultra-nationalist party, and a disjointed Hamas and Fatah leadership structure. It just won’t happen. It can’t happen. This isn’t Nixon going to China; it’s Nixon flying on a plane operating with no route guidance or final destination.

It would be easier to agree with all of  the political and organizational focus on a UN resolution (that is merely another in a long series of feckless maneuvers, albeit a more serious one)  if there was also a thoughtful and much stronger focus  on the type of strategic leadership changes that must  occur before a real peace process can ever begin.

Palestinians and Israelis getting  back into negotiations isn’t the end game.  The  ultimate goal is a  real process  led by Palestinian and Israeli leaders that can also envison how to get to an end of the negotiations, then sell the agreement to their people and   move the process forward to a vote and through the critically important implementation stage.

If major Jewish organizations want to make more of a strategic difference, then while they engage  in supporting Israel in its many and varied tactical defensive battles against flotillas, U.N. resolutions, Goldstone-type reports, delegitimization campaigns, terrorism, unfair media treatment, poor public relations or whatever the latest battle is against —  it is unfortunately a long and growing list — they need to also  join with key Israelis in supporting a change in Netanyahu’s coalition. Netanyahu’s Likud party and Livni’s Kadima party must unite in a new coalition structure that drops Yisrael Beiteinu and possibly some or all of the religious parties.

Of course, this change won’t guarantee that we’ll have peace tomorrow or even next year. Netanyahu would still be the coalition leader.  But a Livni for Lieberman  trade would substitute a strategic thinker who supports a peace process for someone whose strategy seems to lean more to obstructing any peace process. And anyone that chooses to  realistically view the current coalition structure can’t possibly conclude that a true peace process is possible unless we have some addition and subtraction.  ( Certain Israeli politicians and media members have also suggested a coalition change, and Livni and Netanyahu have had discussions, but apparently not any serious ones.)

Whether Jewish organizations encourage  a coalition change  publicly or privately— few, if any, will want to be seen as acting against the current government —  is less critical than whether the effort begins to happen. The coalition change push is, and must be positioned as, another way, a more strategic way, to better defend and support  Israel: Unless Israel gets a new coalition government that includes more
visionary leadership, then, unfortunately, Jewish organizations will continue to have (in the decades to come) many more issues and resolutions to utilize as tools to raise contributions to fight other issues and resolutions. And the inanity will march hopelessly on, until many in the Jewish Diaspora won’t identify with Israel anymore, or care.

Another important pro-peace process strategic action would be to support the emergence of a Palestinian unity government headed by Salam Fayyad. Yes, Hamas would be part of a unity government and that  is deeply problematic. But, as some Israeli government officials will say “off the record,” Israel’s own pre-1948 militant groups were able to make the “militant” break once they were in power, and that would be the expectation here. Since any final agreement will be phased in, subject to the fulfillment of agreed security parameters, there will be built in incentives for Hamas to moderate and for Palestinian and Arab League pressure to apply to better control Hamas’s behavior.

Thomas Friedman’s basic premise that real progress comes through the efforts of  strong and committed  local leaders is hard to dispute.  However, that’s exactly what’s been absent in the Palestinian and Israeli off and on — mostly off — discussions.  Each side regularly shares their history lessons, but neither side is currently  well structured to actually design and then implement an agreement.

Unless and until we get that leadership in place, nothing substantive can or will occur. That’s why  much more strategic focus needs to be on the leaders  of the Israeli and Palestinian teams than on the tactical plays they call.

Jeff Pozmantier
Jeff Pozmantier is the developer of www.bumpspot.com, a unique website that features nuanced analysis of “in the news” issues primarily related to the Jewish people, Israel and the Middle East PLUS leading Arab, Jewish, Palestinian and Israeli web resources. The goal of bumpspot is to foster a better understanding of each other’s views thus encouraging more productive dialogue and actions.
  • http://m022u2@earthlink.net PissedOffAmerican

    Israel actively derails ANY Palestinian efforts at unity. If Hamas was not the excuse, they would dream up another one. Palestinian division and inter-rivalries work to Israel’s advantage, and past history demonstrates that Israel is not shy about false flag operations designed to demonize one faction or another. This division is nurtured by the Israelis, and I’m sure they celebrate the kind of divisive and disjointed disagreements that we often see here, authored by the regular contributors.

    Granted, this particular Pozmantier essay is fluffier, more long winded in its circular route to arrive at the status quo. As a result, its a slighty more entertaining flight of fancy than his last one. But make no mistake, its no less absurd. Israel has no intention of good faith negotiations, and all the think tank blather and journalistic circle jerks in the world are not going to change that simple fact.

    Jeff, if you are actually going to advance ideas and opinions that advance the peace process, a good place to start would be by recognizing reality.

  • http://sami.jadallah@gmail.com Sami Jamil Jadallah

    I am not aware of any moment in recent history of the last 100 years when the Palestinian leadership has any strategic idea or thinking. The Palestinian people have to face not only a powerful Israel supported by the US, Western power and the powerful and resourceful international community with power and influence around the world but have to deal with an incompetent, corrupt, failed, criminally negligent leadership. The entire PLO and Hamas leadership should be put on trial for crimes committed against the people. Arafat & Company did so much damage to the Palestinian cause, equal to if not more damaging than the Balfour Declaration and the UN Partition. He and his cronies legitimized the continued Jewish Occupation and this entire maneuver of going to the UN is nothing but a big lie and fraud, buying time for the leadership to complete what it set out to do in Oslo, continuation and perpetual Jewish Occupation in exchange for management contract that keeps this leadership in business. The question is where are the Palestinian people inside or in the Diaspora from all of this?

  • http://if_i_had_a_voice@yahoo.com James Hovland

    There is more than one way to move forward, and plenty of issues to advance along the way. Waiting for permission to do so, or getting hung up because of one perceived impasse, is not exactly an expression of power worthy of bragging about.

    America can indeed veto UN membership, but not recognition of Palestine. Taking the issue before the UN provides an excellent platform for the Palestinians to address 192 nations at once.

    Not everyone has the ability to grasp real strategic value. The point is, Israel and America are not calling the shots anymore, and the Palestinians are moving forward with or without the Western world’s cooperation.

    The ever problematic status quo involved keeping Palestine’s hands tied while Israel continued to build settlements. That status quo has already been broken and laid to rest.

    People like Jeff can throw words like strategy around all they want, complaining that nobody has a plan. In the meantime the Palestinians are telling Israel it’s time to jump and Europe and America are right behind them snapping their fingers impatiently. It’s time to jump.

    So… Who’s calling the shots here?

  • http://m022u2@earthlink.net PissedOffAmerican

    “So… Who’s calling the shots here?”

    Israel, and the United States, still.

    Why???

    Because these two nation’s leaders are not hamstrung by morality, ethics, or concern for human rights. In short, they will do ANYTHING to buy time and block the formation of a Palestinian State. False flag attacks, massive propaganda campaigns, bribery and blackmail of politicians and diplomats, NONE of these options are discarded in the pursuit of maintaining the status quo.

    It is no coincidence that Israel is feigning “concessions” simultaneously with the flottilla brouhaha. Suposedly “letting in construction materials” and “rerouting the separation fence” (4 years after being ORDERED to by the Israeli courts).

    Note how these two sham “concessions” have enabled Clinton to cast Israel’s actions in a favorable light, as she warns the flottilla participants, and insinuates this peaceful act of protest is grounds for Israel to once again “defend itself”. The AIPAC website wasted no time in utilizing Clinton’s public comments to cast suspicion on the motives and intent of the flottilla participants.

    Yes, Israel still holds all the cards, in no small part because of the despicable complicity of our bribed and cowed body politik in Washington DC, and a media that is controlled lock, stock, and barrel by pro-israel money.

    As the proposed U.N. vote on a resolution approaches, the likelyhood of some sort of horrific “terrorist” attack on Israeli civilians becomes ever more probable. Blamed on Hamas, it will provide the fodder for the inevitable “see, we told you so” rhetoric from the United States State Department, and the racist Netanyahu regime. Never mind that such an act , performed by Hamas, would defy all logic and common sense, and could only be seen as self-destructive and counterproductive to their goals.

    You think Israel is above or beyond such tactics??? If so, you haven’t been paying very close attention these last 44 years.

  • http://jeffpozmantier@gmail.com jeff pozmantier

    Hopefully “Pissed off American” is not permanently so. My point was not to defend or support an unsustainable status quo or to gratuitously cast doubt about motives. I start with the premise that MOST people who want this resolved are sincere. However, 44 years later, it is no surprise that positions and beliefs have hardened and are quite difficult to change. It is also no surprise that there is anger. My belief though is that the leadership and supporters on both sides have become so wrapped up in their tactics that the tactics have now become the end goal and the vision of what needs to happen to actually negotiate, sell and implement an agreement has been lost. The current leadership on both sides can’t get there. That’s why I proposed a Likud and Kadima marriage and support for a Palestinian unity government backed by the Arab League and America.