Let me start by saying that while this Haaretz story is interesting and provocative, it’s premature to accept the contentions by the reporters who wrote it. But let’s lay it out. PA prime minister Salaam Fayyad several months ago announced that the PA was preparing for eventual Palestinian statehood. Since the statement was quite vague and even the Israeli government made supportive noises about it I immediately dismissed it as window-dressing.
Today’s unsourced report claims that the Fayyad statehood plan had secret codicils that were far more robust than the public version:
[Which advance] the possibility of a unilateral Palestinian declaration of independence within the 1967 borders, a move which could potentially be recognized by the United Nations Security Council…
The reports indicated that Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has reached a secret understanding with the Obama administration over U.S. recognition of an independent Palestinian state. Such recognition would likely transform any Israeli presence across the Green Line, even in Jerusalem, into an illegal incursion to which the Palestinians would be entitled to engage in measures of self-defense.
…But some Israeli officials told Haaretz that alongside the clauses reported in the media – which are similar to elements of Netanyahu’s call for “economic peace” between Israel and the Palestinians – Fayyad’s plan also contains a classified, unreleased portion stipulating a unilateral declaration of independence.
The plan specifies that at the end of a designated period for bolstering national institutions the PA, in conjunction with the Arab League, would file a “claim of sovereignty” to the UN Security Council and General Assembly over the borders of June 4, 1967 (before the outbreak of the Six-Day War, during which Israel took control of the West Bank and Gaza).
Fayyad is also seeking a new Security Council resolution to replace Resolutions 242 and 338 in the hope of winning the international community’s support for the borders of a Palestinian state and applying stronger pressure on Israel to withdraw from the West Bank.
Though this development, if true, alarms the Netanyahu government for obvious reasons, it sounds like music to the ears of progressives who have been looking for any possible silver linings after the failure of previous Obama initiatives like the settlement freeze. If pursued energetically and supported by the Palestinians, EU and possibly the U.S., this could be precisely the sort of innovative proposal that could begin to break the Israeli government’s stranglehold on the peace process.
The reporters state that the Israeli government has already begged the U.S. to tell them that the Fayyad secret plan is not true and that the Obama administration would veto it if it ever came before the UN. Obama would be a fool if he acquiesced since it potentially gives him some leverage over Bibi. The Israeli prime minister will meet Obama Monday and this could be one of the subjects that comes up for discussion.
But let’s be realistic about the likelihood of this report being accurate. The two reporters writing this story are known as megaphones for the Israeli powers-that-be. At one point, they even make the following far-fetched claim:
Several Israeli officials told Haaretz that Fayyad had spoken to them of positive responses he had received over the plan from prominent EU member states…
Knowing that Israeli officials would hate the supposedly secret provisions of his plan, why would Fayyad tell them about it? This doesn’t make sense to me unless Fayyad was trying to use it to warn those officials that his plan was what they had in store unless the Netanyahu government was more forthcoming now.
Part of one’s job in reading the Israeli press, not always known for journalistic reliability, is precisely this sort of reading between the lines. In truth, there is a certain percentage of “static” even in a paper like Haaretz. This forces you to pull your punches when you’re writing about stories like this, which could be the result of a well-placed leak from an anonymous source to a reporter known to serve as dutiful water-carrier for those in power.
But now that I’ve done my duty in expressing skepticism, let me say that this plan, if true, is a bold stroke. Even if the U.S. abstained from such a Security Council resolution, it would be a terrific blow for the Netanyahu government to absorb. For the UN to pass a Security Council resolution recognizing Palestine within 1967 borders would allow the Palestinians to leverage even greater international pressure against Israel for continuing the Occupation, settlement building, and land expropriations.
It would provide cover for any government (like the U.S.) seeking to exert greater pressure against Israel for its violations of Palestinian sovereignty. It would embolden international institutions like the World Court to more energetically pursue claims against Israel. It would enable bodies like the Security Council, which have not had a major role in Israeli-Arab affairs, to insert themselves more boldly into the political process.
Israel, which is allergic to international activism around the issue, would be further isolated and further angered. But ratcheting up such pressure could turn out to be precisely the bucket of cold water needed to bring Israel (or at least the significant pragmatic segment within Israeli society) to its senses. The governing principle here is that it must get worse before it gets better.