Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How Israel must respond to the threat of a unilateral "Palestine"

From NYT:
The United Nations praised Palestinian Authority efforts at strengthening its institutions in a report on Tuesday, describing aspects of its governance as sufficient for an independent state.

In the six areas where the United Nations is most engaged — governance, rule of law and human rights; livelihoods; education and culture; health; social protection; and infrastructure and water — it said that the authority’s “functions are now sufficient for a functioning government of state.”

The report said that the Palestinian economy was helped by Israeli measures to facilitate movement and access, but that further steps were needed.

I believe Israel needs to roll back measures of occupation to match the PA’s achievements,” Robert Serry, the United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said in a statement. “I also stress the urgent need for Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations on a two-state solution to resume, if the state-building and political tracks are to come together by September.
The report itself also says:
[T]he institutional achievements of the Palestinian statebuilding agenda are approaching their limits within the political and physical space currently available, precisely at the time that it is approaching its target date for completion.
Notice that Serry's formulation is not that Israel should reward the PA for acting against incitement, or for negotiating in good faith, or for acting to ensure Israel's security needs are met. No, the UN holds that Israel should unilaterally give more and more to the PA so that they can screw Israel and hundreds of thousands of Israelis by unilaterally declaring a state.

Let's look at what Israel has done over the past year to help the PA.

In a report released today (available at the moment here, I received a copy via email,) the Government of Israel says in part:

In 2010, the Palestinian economy continued to grow at a quick pace, with economic growth reaching 9.3%, due to a very quick recovery of the Gaza economy (15%), accompanied by continued growth of the West Bank economy (8% 1). The PA's GDP in 2010 amounted to USD 5,728 million, and the GDP per capita increased by 6.1%, in comparison to the previous year.2 Israeli policy in the West Bank and Gaza contributed significantly to this growth. Increased Palestinian sales to Israel, a higher volume of commercial goods shipped from the West Bank via the land crossings to Israel and abroad, growing numbers of tourists visiting the West Bank, and increased construction, are all additional indications of the growth of the Palestinian economy.

Israel wishes to resume peace negotiations with the PA, with the aim of reaching a bilateral agreement for a two-state solution. Israel lent its support to efforts led by the international community to implement projects and build capacity and institutions in various fields.

...In 2010, Palestinian employment in Israel increased, and the average daily salary increased, due to an expansion of Palestinian employment by Israeli employers (legal employment only). In 2010, there was a 5.4% increase in the number of Palestinians employed by Israeli employers, compared to 2009.

...There have been intensive efforts to upgrade the facilities of the commercial crossings between Israel and the West Bank: in the framework of the biennial budget for 2011-2012, the GoI increased its investment in the Crossings Authority by NIS 120 million over two years. The budget of the Crossings Authority will stand at NIS 230 million in 2011 and a projected NIS 232 million in 2012, compared to NIS 167 million in 2009 22 . At present, the capacity of all .
commercial crossings is greater than actual demand, while the passage time through the crossings has been cut dramatically. No fees are charged for the passage of commercial goods, vehicles or passengers.23

...In 2010, movement in the West Bank became smoother and quicker, due to further Israeli measures in this area:

  • 98 roadblocks have been removed throughout the West Bank.
  • Roads have been opened, including a number of roads in the Hebron and Ramallah districts.
  • The 443 Highway was opened to Palestinian traffic.
  • The hours of operation at the land crossings and checkpoints were extended and infrastructure at the land crossings was upgraded.
  • A pilot to extend working hours at the Allenby Bridge was made permanent in 2010, contributing for an increased volume of traffic.
  • There are 16 checkpoints, most of them operating under "normally open" status.
Permits  were issued in 2010 to facilitate movement between Israel and the West Bank, including:
  • 651,734 permits were issued for entry into Israel, a 42% increase compared to 2009. This, in addition to extension of the permits' validity.
  • 200 VIP certificates were allocated to the PA in 2010.
  • More than 46,000 commercial permits were issued to merchants for entry into Israel. 
  • 511 cards were issued to ease the movement of public officials in the West Bank. 
  • Approximately 23,000 foreign nationals who were in the West Bank illegally received authorization to remain in the West Bank, for humanitarian reasons. 
It goes on and on, over 40 pages of specific things Israel has done to support a the autonomy of an eventual Palestinian Arab state. It details cooperation on electricity, water, telecommunications, private sector growth, agriculture, tax revenues and more.

Israel has been criminally silent on how much it has done to prop up the Palestinian Authority.

Now, the UN report doesn't discuss on the possibility that the PA might make unilateral moves to declare a state in September, as they have been threatening. Even though that goes against the entire peace process, the UN does not seem to be too concerned. Based on Serry's words, it appears almost as if the UN is supporting such a unilateral move by the PLO.

Israel's path is clear.

Israel must say that all of the concrete actions detailed above that have been done out of good faith in order to help the PA's economy and institution building will end immediately, until the PA goes back to the negotiating table. It is beyond belief that the PA can wantonly threaten to declare a unilateral state at Israel's expense at the exact same time that Israel is doing so much for the PA (despite Robert Serry's implications that Israel isn't doing nearly enough.)

Israel must stress that it continued to support Palestinian Arab state building even as the PA/PLO refused for well over a year to engage in any significant negotiations. That support must end, now, absent any indication of compromise on the PalArabs' part. If Israel doesn't cooperate with the PA, there will be no chance for a viable Palestinian Arab state no matter how much the world says they support it. Until the threat to declare a state in September is withdrawn, Israel cannot continue to do so much to facilitate a move that would cost Israel so much monetarily, defensively - and spiritually.

The PA economy is dependent on two external factors: billions of dollars in aid from the West and continued cooperation with Israel on jobs and trade. Israel can cut the strings without affecting her economy unduly, but the effect on the PA would be immediate and devastating. Unemployment would soar, its GDP would plummet and the EU and US would not be keen on picking up the slack.

If the PLO can act unilaterally, then they are forcing Israel to do the same.

If the UN complains, hey, Israel can just quote Robert Serry's own words that the existing efforts were not considered to be all that significant anyway.

(h/t David G)