Beware of good intentions over Palestinian statehood
November 28th, 2012
05:48 PM ET

Beware of good intentions over Palestinian statehood

By Einat Wilf, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Einat Wilf is a member of the Israeli Knesset and its Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. The views expressed are the author’s own.

When well-meaning people send destructive messages, even if unintentionally, it is worse than when those of ill will do. When Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas formally requests the U.N. General Assembly to pass tomorrow a resolution recognizing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, with its capital in east Jerusalem, he will be counting on the support of more than one hundred member states. Most of those will be continuing their well-established tradition of voting against Israel, towards which their ill will is known, well documented and expected.

But some countries will be voting Yay, or sympathetically abstaining, in the hope that recognizing a state of Palestine would keep the two-state solution alive as the path to peace. Yet doing half the job is worse than doing nothing at all. In their vote, those countries of goodwill, will be sending a dangerous message that would undermine, rather than increase, the chances for peace by privileging one aspect of the conflict while ignoring others.

For one, they will recognize east Jerusalem, home to the holiest sites to the Jewish people, as Arab Palestine, while glaringly omitting any parallel recognition of boringly residential west Jerusalem as Israel, even though both parts were deemed in the original partition resolution to be a “Corpus Separatum” that belongs neither to the Jewish nor the Arab state.

But the greater omission that would send a clear message that this vote in the United Nations is neither about peace nor a two-state solution is the issue of refugees. For 65 years, conferring refugee status on descendants of refugees from what became Israel following partition has been used as a tool of war. It has not only harmed the “refugees” themselves, who were encouraged to live their lives in the vain hope that one day they will be relocated to Israel, but was used to deny Israel legitimacy and peace. It was the means by which the Arab world expressed its rejection of the historic connection between the Jewish people and Israel, as well as the equal and legitimate right of the Jewish people to self-determination in the only land in which they were ever sovereign.

More from CNN: Palestinians take issue back to U.N.

Well-meaning countries that truly care about peace cannot stoke the flames of conflict. They cannot seriously support a two-state solution at the same time that they condone, and even financially support, the perpetuation of hereditary refugee status for Palestinians. To argue that five million Palestinians, who were never born in Israel, have the right to relocate there is incompatible with the survival of Israel, and an honest two-state solution. Especially after a Palestinian state is recognized, there is no logical or legal basis for maintaining the refugee status of Palestinians. A refugee, after all, is a person who cannot return to his country – not someone who is a citizen of one country but insists on being relocated to another. Nowhere in the world is refugee status conferred on a person who is a citizen of the country in which he resides.

If well meaning countries truly seek to turn the U.N. resolution into a tool of promoting peace, they need to address the conflict in its entirety. This means that Palestinians born and living in their own state, as well as those who have settled and have citizenship elsewhere, will no longer be accorded the status of refugees. It should be clear that not a dime be taken away from supporting those who have this status today and are in need, so that financial considerations are not used to excuse rejecting this proposal.

This would truly turn the resolution in the U.N. General Assembly into an instrument of hope and peace. It would send a clear message to the Palestinians that recognizing their state means also recognizing that the Jewish people have a full and equal right to theirs. After all, this was the original spirit of the General Assembly resolution of November 29, 1947, which Abbas wishes to revive. If the Arabs truly want to erase the mistake they made 65 years ago in rejecting that resolution, they should accept a proposal that seriously addresses the conflict in its entirety. If they finally do so, peace-loving Israelis and honest people everywhere would be able to believe again that peace is possible – and that would be an immensely powerful message of hope.

soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Thinker23

    I strongly believe that the UN, the US and Israel should recognize the Palestinian state... and then watch Abbas and other Palestinian leaders REFUSING to recognize it.

    November 28, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Reply
  2. deep blue

    Those evil refugees, plotting to make Israel look bad by complaining about their families being uprooted by war. Shame on them and their descendants.
    Seriously? "If the Arabs truly want to erase the mistake they made 65 years ago ..." – so we hold Arabs accountable for decisions made half a century ago, but how dare the children of those displaced by war pretend to be refugees?

    November 28, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Reply
    • deep blue

      Argue the merits of the borders discussed. Concerns that writing up the borders, including splitting Jerusalem, before a two state deal has been brokered are significant. Concerns that classifying the children of those displaced by war as refugees is an Arab conspiracy to destroy the state of Israel are absurd.

      November 28, 2012 at 9:33 pm | Reply
    • Amit Waisberg

      deep blue, those arabs never called themselves 'palastinians' until the 1960's, most of the arabs living today in Israel originate from Jordan, some from Egypt. yasser arafat the arch-terrorist is actually Tunisian. most of the arabs came to israel as work immigrants when the first zionists came from russia and europe in the early 1900's. know your history. the land of israel including the parts you call 'territories' are full of archeological proofs and artifacts of rich ancient Jewish history. the arab world uses them as pawns and call them 'palastinians' to create an artificial 'underdog' once they saw they couldn't defeat Israel millitarilly or win world simpathy in their efforts to destroy Israel. there is no place more Jewish and holy to the Jewish people than Jerusalem. arabs pray towards Mecca. their lust for Jerusalem is for political and strategical reasons, not religious ones.
      in the battle of civilizations, islam will never tollerate anything but complete domination of islamic rule' worldwide. that is the real factor in mideast conflict. check out the maps in that area – if God himself wasn't for the Jews, there is absolutely no chance they would survive 5 big wars there, all started guesed right, those belong to the 'religion of piece'...! wake up!

      November 29, 2012 at 3:53 am | Reply
      • deep blue

        Displaced by war, they are called refugees by definition. Now, we can dispute their right to return, but if they were forced out of present day Israel or left because of war, they are refugees from Israel by definition. I don't mind their children claiming the same. The immigration status of these individuals before Israeli statehood is irrelevant. Thousand year old religious relics are likewise irrelevant. The issue at stake are the individuals forced out of their homes or who fled during war in the last half century. Don't be hating on the English dictionary.

        November 29, 2012 at 7:38 am |
      • deep blue

        I think that what you truly dispute is not that these individuals are refugees but rather the labeling of them as Palestinians. Do you dispute that they are refugees or that they are "Palestinians?" I view the two as entirely different questions.

        November 29, 2012 at 7:44 am |
  3. j. von hettlingen

    How about the Palestinians and their descendants in Lebanon, who make up as much as a tenth of the country's population? They are mostly housed in shanty towns and enjoy few legal rights. Their presence, status and actions have also been major sources of discord.

    November 29, 2012 at 5:19 am | Reply
  4. deep blue

    Thanks for your perspective Amit Waisberg. I think I understand the author's point a bit better now. I think the author's point was about ethnic heritage rather than refugee status. Geopolitically, I don't think ethnic heritage should matter, but obviously many disagree on both sides of this conflict, including the author. I could care less whether or not "Palestinian" is a true ethnicity or if there are already Palestinian states, so if that's the author's point, I won't bother argue. I care more about refugees from war than stupid ethnic disputes. If there is a God, he is on the refugees' side.

    November 29, 2012 at 7:56 am | Reply
  5. JAL

    The best way to help this area of the world is to adopt the mindset of/where lifting large groups of people out of poverty with legitimate and stable jobs growth is the best way to create an even stronger and even more vibrant global economy.

    November 29, 2012 at 8:35 am | Reply
  6. USN Ret.

    j. von hettlingen
    Why are they housed in shanty towns. People around the world has sent BILLIONs to the PLO, Hamas and other arab groups and they did nothing improve the peoples living standard they fattened their bank accounts and bough weapons. Very little went to help the people. Call their leadership to task on where the money went before giving them their state.
    As always follow the money. New Palestinian means state less money coming in. So Hamas has a problem become a state and held responsible for your action or not and keep getting away with all that money.

    November 29, 2012 at 10:36 am | Reply
    • deep blue

      Your either confused in literacy or geography. The Hamas are in control of the Gaza Strip. j. von hettlingen discussed a group in Lebanon. Are you perhaps confusing the Hamas in Gaza with the Hezbollah in Lebanon?

      November 29, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Reply
      • deep blue

        I'm obviously confused in grammar.

        November 29, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
  7. USN Ret.

    If you are setting on a bench on one side of a park eating a sandwich and someone throws a rock "rocket" and hits you. What is your response?
    (1) Laugh and say that’s ok the bleeding will stop soon and walk away.
    (2) Call the police "UN" and make a complaint and find that it was your fault for setting on the wrong bench.
    (3) Throw the rock back along with 2 or 3 more and be told that your response was excessive by the ones who hit you with the first rock.
    (4) Finley stop setting in the park and let those who like to throw rocks can move in and throw rocks at you house.
    Send little boys and girls with bomb vest doing a man's job. Then cry when the men who sent these children are held accountable.
    Don’t you just love the Middle East? Been killing each other for 5000 years and it is always someone else fault.

    November 29, 2012 at 10:56 am | Reply
  8. Feather

    Like many hard liners I think the best way to solve this problem would be for Israel to block out all the news media from the area then send in gunships (Puff the Magic Dragon from the SE Asia conflict or similar) and retake ALL the land. Just lay waste to it. Let all those residing in Gaza and the West Bank either leave or become a martyr.

    November 29, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Reply
  9. Feather

    The problem is Muslims are using the liberal media to prevent Israel from doing what should be done. If Israel does anything to protect itself they are labeled as baby killers by the media.

    November 29, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Reply
  10. USN Ret.

    Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria do not want one Palestinian on their soil and have done every thing they can to force them down Israel’s collective throat and keep them in the camps. But at the same time raise hell when anyone wants to send any their way.
    If I was in their place I would be just as mad with my so called Arab brothers.
    Look at Egypt today Christians are being killed in the name of Islam. In how many other countries are people of other religions being killed in the name of Islam? The two major faction of Islam are killing each other.
    I know the two major factions of Christianity have done the same and also for the same reasons (1ST)POLITICAL POWER AND (2ND)RELIGIOUS DOMANCE IN THAT ORDER.
    The difference is with a few minor exception Christianity has settled its differences. But that comes with maturity Christianity is a 1,000 years older and Judaism is 2,000 years older still give or take a couple 100 years than Islam.

    November 29, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Reply
    • Greg

      Who is Jordan? That sure is a pretty name. I don't see her position on here though.

      November 29, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Reply
  11. Crazy Lies

    The "2 State Solution" is the biggest lie fed to the world. There has already been a "2 State solution" it was the Jewish Palestine and Arab Palestine – Called the British Mandate and TransJordan. That didn't work our so hot, so now they want another "2 State Solution" forcing Israel to give up more of her land.

    November 29, 2012 at 9:53 pm | Reply
  12. Moncler Coats

    I agree with your point of view
    Moncler Coats

    November 28, 2013 at 2:24 am | Reply

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