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September 9, 2011 2:50 pm

Cotler: Palestinian State Bid Could Lead to Third Intifada

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Canadian parliamentarian Professor Irwin Cotler. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

The International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians, in cooperation with the World Jewish Congress and the Israeli Knesset, promotes dialogue, the principles of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Its membership includes legislators from across the globe, acting to support Israel and promote “enduring peace in the Middle East.” To foster its Jerusalem originated resolution to bring international attention, “express concerns” and mobilize public awareness regarding dangers of the Palestinian Authority’s anticipated attempt to seek a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), ICJP members are meeting with leaders of the international diplomatic community in New York and Washington, DC, to discuss the issue and emphasize the importance of, and need for, direct negotiations to create “Two States for Two Peoples.”

“It is” Canadian legislator Professor Irwin Cotler told the Algemeiner, ” urgently necessary to oppose the UDI –  which will serve only to undermine the peace process and is an assault on international law, the United Nations, the Palestinian people and Israel. Bringing such a resolution to the UN prejudices Palestinian rights.”

“President Obama has registered opposition to the UDI,” says Cotler, and has said “a negotiated solution is the only responsible path.  The UDI is dangerous, and is opposed by Steven Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister, the Secretary General of the Arab League, and even the Hamas leadership, each of whom have referred to the proposal as a ‘shame.'”

The unwillingness of Mahmud Abbas to enter direct negotiations with Israel appears to indicate that the (currently) unelected president of the Palestinian Authority does not want to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state within any borders, says Cotler. His move towards the UDI is “an end run away from any obligations to try to get the UN to do what the PA cannot. Further, the UDI “would end up being in violation of existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinian people, as well as with both the members of the Quartet and the EU.”

Cotler pointed out that there are more than 40 existing agreements in areas of security, commerce, and civil administration.  “The PA would not only not secure an independent state, but it will put all existing agreements in jeopardy. Nothing good will come of it – just a lot of negative outcome, including the possibility of a third intifada, as a result of the artificial raising of expectations that cannot be realized.”

Asked by the Algemeiner how the efforts of the ICJP could affect the possible UN vote, Cotler spoke of the opportunity to have an exchange of views and correct misrepresentations promulgated by the PA. “European countries almost obliged to oppose the terms and conditions of the UDI that have been sent out. The PA does not have a democratically elected government, there is no rule of law or human rights established,” said the Canadian. Cotler says that the PA has “not exhibited conditions for statehood and has no effective lay leadership able to control terrorists.” Hamas does not recognize Israel – and is sworn to its destruction. Such an entity does not deserve entry and representation at the United Nations, noting that there have been no elections and no legitimate authority for 2 years.

The Canadian position is clear, he says:  two states for two peoples, a status to be achieved only through direct negotiations.  This position has been publically stated and conveyed directly to the Palestinian Authority. Canada has engaged with countries in Europe and Latin America to mobilize support for the two state solution and stand actively against UDI.

Also in New York for the ICJP meetings is Fiamma Nirstein, a member of the Italian Parliament.  The Italian position, she says, is identical to that of Canada, reminding that Italy was the first European nation to declare against UDI.  In recent meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Italian PM Berlusconi declared “You can count on us!”   Nirenstein reminds that Italy has always taken a very special position vis a vis Israel among the members of the EU, having pulled out of “Durban II” and voted against the now discredited Goldstone Report. Italy, says Nirstein “is the best European friend of Israel.”

The work of the ICJP involves lobbying on Israel’s behalf and significantly more, including open discussion of issues and attempts to achieve consensus. It has encouraged several countries, including Russia, to move towards what Nirenstein termed a “better positive.”  She lists Holland, Poland, and several eastern European states among those nations she anticipates will take a “good position” towards Israel, noting that the stance Britain may take remains in question.

Italy has made its position on Hamas clear. Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, has said that the Gaza based organization’s kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit “breached all international rules and shows the terrorist nature of Hamas,” continuing “EU countries cannot consider (Hamas) as a political interlocutor.” Despite Italy’s long standing relationship with the PA, (including the provision of significant financial support)  in only two days’ time, 150 of the 600 members of the Italian Parliament, from across the political spectrum, signed on to a letter against UDI. This action, says Nirenstein shows that Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi “is in favor of a peace process, two states for two people, and no relationship with Hamas.”

Nirenstein voiced strong criticism of the PA, noting that it continues to honor terrorists by the “naming of squares” and teaching children to glorify their actions “not compatible with any civilized attitude.” The MP suggested that hate speech should be more seriously regarded, and “international laws, statements and conditions should be established.”

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  • a herzberg

    A lot of people are suffering from a case of mass denial if they think that the status quo can be retained indefinitely. One way or other the Palestinians will be getting their state.

    And all your piety and wit will not change that fact. History proceeds forward and will not be denied.

    • Degel

      Respectful “a herzberg”
      As mature as you sound, nevertheless, you fail with simple math and couldn’t get the point:
      Do you know how many times in history different governors of different states tried to invent a week that would contain other than 7 days, they shorted it to 5 days or prolonged it up to 10, 11 days and what? Where are all their innovations? As different as all calendars are, can you name a country that has other than 7 days in a week? Week’s anomalies had very short life. LA MA?(Why?) Because 7 days of the week was in G-d’s design when he created the world. Nothing that is against his design can exist long.
      Whom did G-d give the land of Israel?
      He gave it to Jews.
      Had this land been organized into any other independent state since Israel was destroyed?
      And if more than 2000 years nobody could do it except Jews, you truly believe any resolution of UN can work against G-d’s will?
      UN thinks from there they can change the world order?
      In Psychiatric it calls “Delirium of Grandiosity.”
      As dramatic, G-d forbid, as the scenario may be…, it’s only to show and demonstrate in front of each and every person in the world WHO IS THE BOSS.
      So, I strongly recommend you to leave your panegyrics for the opposite side.

  • Degel

    Dear Elie oren(cute nickname),
    You deserve to learn that:
    “Wind is blowing whereas dog is barking”

  • Elie oren

    By Thomas Woodley, Special to the Gazette September 9, 2011 Comment 1 Irwin Cotler says the time isn’t right for Palestinian statehood (“The time isn’t right for statehood bid” Opinion, Sept. 8).

    If not now, when?

    The Palestinian territories satisfy all of the requirements for statehood under international law. The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Union have each stated that the territories are ready for statehood. Certainly a state of Palestine is at least as ready as the most recent state to be admitted to the United Nations – South Sudan.

    Cotler repeatedly condemns the statehood bid at the UN as a “unilateral move” by the Palestinians. What he does not mention is that the UN in fact already approved the creation of a Palestinian state – in 1947. At that time, the General Assembly voted to create two states on what had been British Mandate Palestine: one majority Jewish, the other majority Arab. The first was quickly established, the second never was.

    Speaking of unilateralism, Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and other territories is a unilateral undertaking in place since 1967, and repeatedly condemned by the UN ever since. Israel’s separation wall, dividing communities and confiscating Palestinian land, is a unilateral activity by Israel declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004.

    Cotler cites Oslo II, noting its imperative that “neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the Permanent Status negotiations.” Yet most objective minds would presume that Israeli activities inevitably change the status of the territory.

    Cotler also suggests that Palestinian membership at the UN would be an affront to Resolution 242, among others. Yet Resolution 242 dictates that a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be based on the 1967 borders, something Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to entertain in “talks about talks” this past summer.

    Cotler argues that the Palestinian bid for statehood will undermine peace negotiations. Yet he ignores the obvious fact: there are no peace negotiations. They collapsed because of Israeli refusal to stop building in the West Bank, indicating loudly and clearly that the Netanyahu administration had no interest in negotiations. The demand for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state” (despite its large Arab population) and the more recent Israeli refusal to negotiate with the Palestinian Unity government go to confirm this position.

    In a nutshell, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has finally refused to debate how to split a pizza as long as Israel insists on eating it in front of him.

    For the Palestinians to ask for membership at the UN, delayed for 64 years, is nothing more than their simple right, which they have come to realize is something they may never get from the Israelis. “Freedom,” said Martin Luther King Jr., “is never voluntarily given by the oppressors; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

    Yet to the demise of the Palestinians, the status quo plays very well for Israel from a geopolitical standpoint. It enables Israel to deepen its occupation: confiscating more land from Palestinians, creating industrial zones to exploit cheap Palestinian labour, offering cheap housing to Israelis. Were an independent Palestinian state established in an area that Israel is occupying and colonizing, it could be quite an international inconvenience.

    Israel and its allies are working furiously behind the scenes to prevent a favourable vote at the UN. This is because Israel is sorely afraid of the consequences of Palestinian membership at the UN. Palestinians would be able to request formal protections accorded to a member country by the UN. If Israel were to persist in occupying Palestinian land after an independent Palestinian state became a UN member, Israel would be violating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of a recognized UN member state.

    Sovereign states have the right to use reasonable force to defend their territorial integrity and citizens, and other UN members can assist them in their efforts. The UN can impose sanctions and take other actions if one member violates another’s rights. Israel would have no choice but to negotiate seriously and in good faith with a fellow UN member.

    Cotler cites several outside voices – U.S. President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, etc. – who “oppose” Palestinian membership in the UN or consider it “dangerous.” Yet the Palestinians themselves – like every other people in the world – aspire to statehood.

    Harper, Obama, and other fair-minded individuals who oppose the move for UN membership by the Palestinians would be wise to consider the words of William Gladstone: “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

    • Robin

      Ellie, well written, but your assertion that Palestinians want statehood is naive. They also want their “land back” and the destruction of Israel.

      • a herzberg


        The Daily Beast — in Newsweek magazine Sept. 11, 2011 11:00 AM

        Is Israel Over? By Benny Morris
        No longer the liberal, democratic, egalitarian society it once was, Israel is fighting the Arabs – and itself.
        Israel is under assault. On Sept. 20 the Palestinian Authority plans to unilaterally declare statehood and go to the United Nations for recognition. This is a rejection of all efforts for a peaceful compromise. In its wake will come waves of Palestinian violence. And yet this is just the latest manifestation of an embattled Israel that is being threatened from the outside—by Muslim Arab states and societies, Egyptians storming the Israeli Embassy.

        A nuclear-arming Iran (with its local sidekicks, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Hizbullah in Lebanon), and a besieged President Bashar al-Assad in Syria—and from the inside by domestic upheaval that led to the largest mass protests
        in the country’s history.

        More than 50 years ago, Israel’s leaders, headed by David Ben-Gurion, believed and hoped that they were creating
        a social democracy, with all the requisite egalitarian accoutrements (socialized national health care, progressive income tax, child benefits, subsidized cheap housing). Ben-Gurion, who owned almost nothing and retired to a primitive hut in the Negev Desert, typified the austere lifestyle, and greatness, of the state’s founders.

        This is no longer Israel. A profound, internal, existential crisis has arrived. It stems in part from the changing nature
        of the country, more right wing, more restrictive, far less liberal, and far less egalitarian. Many moderate Israelis fear the country is heading for ruin. Indeed, the country’s ruling class, including Benjamin Netanyahu and his predecessors Ehud Olmert (now on trial for corruption) and Ehud Barak (a former head of the Labor Party and current defense minister), live in opulence, and the feeling is that they are out of touch with reality. In Tel Aviv, where some 350,000 gathered in protest, a widespread chant, set to a popular children’s ditty, was “Bibi has three apartments, which is why we have none.”
        Tent cities popped up as the demonstrators—20 – to 45-year-olds, with a healthy contingent of older people – rallied against nonprogressive taxation, low wages, and the high cost of housing and consumer goods, which have made it nigh impossible for families to make ends meet. A full 20% of Israelis (and 15% of Israeli Jews) live under the poverty line, and the top decile of Israel’s population earns 31% of the country’s total net income. The lowest decile earns a mere 1.6%. Last year Israel was elected to membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Develop-ment, a group of the world’s 32 most-developed countries. Among them, Israel ranks as one of the worst (alongside Mexico and the United States) in terms of wealth polarization.

        Israel suffers from a steady brain drain, with tens of thousands of university graduates and wannabe academics moving abroad for lack of adequate positions or pay. Berlin has a community of more than 10,000 young Israelis, many of them working in the arts, who found creativity in Israel impossible. In a recent interview, one film director said that in Israel her energies were spent on making commercials and fashion trivia in order to subsist; Berlin
        enabled her to pursue her passion. In Tel Aviv, kindergartens charge $700 to $1,000 per child per month; in Berlin, the cost is $120; a kilo of cucumbers costs $1 in Tel Aviv, half that in Berlin.

        Thousands gather to protest the cost of living in Israel at a protest in Jerusalem on Sept. 3, 2011., Sebastian Scheiner / AP

        In the 1950s, Israel was an under-developed country filled with ideologically motivated Zionists willing to sacrifice for the collective good. Today’s Israel has a burgeoning economy, driven by sophisticated and internationally competitive high-tech industries, and a population driven mainly by individuals who want the good life. They see that too much of the national pie goes both to the West Bank settlers (who tend to be religious and ultranationalist) and to the ultra-Orthodox (who contribute almost nothing to the economy and avoid mandatory military service).

        Worse, this hard-core contingent is making babies at a rapid clip; they tend to have five to eight children per family, versus two to three children in secular homes. This gives them disproportionate clout in Parliament.
        And that translates into political power—and economic benefits. (Paradoxically, the ultra-Orthodox remain the poorest sector in Israeli Jewish society, mainly because most of them don’t work.)

        The other side of the coin: Israel’s own Arab minority is emerging as a potential major problem, too. The Israeli Arab landscape is increasingly dominated by minarets and veiled women; and its leaders, identifying with their Palestinian cousins outside, vociferously call for Israel to shed its character as a “Jewish state” and give its Arab citizens collective minority rights and perhaps some form of autonomy.

        Israel is a deeply troubled democracy. A democracy it still is, for its citizens – both Jewish and Arab. But Israel is no democracy when it comes to the semi-occupied 2.5 million Arabs of the West Bank and the 1.5 million semi-besieged Arabs of the Gaza Strip. And all this is now congealing.

        Since the West Bank and Gaza were conquered in 1967, successive Israeli governments have failed to fully withdraw from them, either unilaterally or with a peace deal. The Arabs may have been largely at fault – in 2000 Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat turned down an Israeli offer to withdraw from 95% of the West Bank and 100% of the Gaza Strip – but Israel retains its stranglehold over these people and continues to expand its
        settlement enterprise.

        Now there looms the even greater threat of resurgent Islam, not just within Israel’s borders or the Palestinian territories, but across the region, where it is spreading like a brushfire. Many in the West have taken heart from the so-called Arab Spring, viewing the upheavals as heralds of democratic transformation. Israelis are less optimistic. The Islamist message that is coming out of Ankara, and moving to center stage in Cairo, includes a hard core of anti-Zionism usually accompanied by anti-Semitic overtones. (Egypt’s deposed president Hosni Mubarak is now denounced as a “stooge of the Zionists.” A photo of Netanyahu, dressed in an SS uniform, with a Hitler mustache, making the Nazi salute, appeared on the cover of the popular Egyptian weekly October on Aug. 28. Inside, the journal carried an article called “The New Nazis” – and it isn’t even an Islamist publication.)

        Netanyahu is creating a series of bureaucratic salves for the country’s economic ills. But they will be swamped, and rendered irrelevant, in the tide of Palestinian activism and anti-Zionism that will be set off by the Palestinian statehood bid. It will then trigger shock waves around the Arab and Islamic worlds. Months ago, Ehud Barak predicted that Israel will face a “political tsunami.” Here it comes.