The only road to statehood

Last week, a plan of action “to mobilize international support for the Palestinian bid” for United Nations recognition of the state of Palestine was approved at the Arab League meeting in Doha, Qatar.  The Palestinians will formally submit their request for U.N. membership on September 20.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat recently announced a “massive” diplomatic campaign to gain U.N. recognition, with visits by Palestinian officials to China, India, Vietnam, Australia, Canada, Russia, Norway, Spain and many other countries.

So instead of sitting down at the negotiating table to work out a durable agreement with Israel, the Palestinians are extending their diplomatic efforts into every part of the globe—except Israel.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ main argument is that a model for achieving statehood via the U.N. already exists, and that the time has come for the international community to give Palestinian Arabs no less than what the Jews of Palestine received more than 60 years ago.

If that model is followed to its logical conclusion and the U.N. General Assembly passes a resolution to establish Palestinian statehood, Abbas could repeat history, reject the offer and opt for war.  That is what happened in 1947 when the U.N. issued a partition plan calling for a two-state solution in the former mandate of Palestine, one for Jews and one for Palestinian Arabs.

Minutes after Israel’s formation, however, six Arab armies invaded the nascent Jewish state in 1948.  The rejection of a Jewish state by the Arabs, Israel’s victory in that war, and Israel’s acceptance in the U.N. all require that the Palestinians deal with Israel to gain full statehood.  It is ironic – and unfortunate – that the Palestinians desire statehood now through an approach they spurned then.

Some argue that this is ancient history – but this was a seminal event. President Abbas obviously believes the 1947 model is relevant today, and he counts on the anti-historical and memory-free approach of others.

World leaders should tell Abbas that the issue of statehood for Palestinians was resolved in 1947, when the Jews of Palestine accepted the partition plan, and that Israeli prime ministers from Ben-Gurion to Netanyahu have agreed with that concept.  The question today is how to achieve a genuine state in a way that produces lasting peace, security and prosperity for both sides.

It is this vision of the future, with a practical explanation of how to get from here to there, which is missing.  There have been recent efforts, of course—notably in 2000 and early 2001 between Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat, and in 2008 between Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas. Both ended the same way as 1947: Israel saying “yes,” and the Palestinians saying “no.”

President Abbas should offer his own comprehensive peace plan and bring it to the negotiating table, rather than demand that the UN and the international community agree to an idea everyone already endorsed more than 60 years ago.  That would make history.

Congressman Sherman, a California Democrat, is the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.