Dear Foreign Minister,
Longstanding European Union policy has fully supported direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians as the path to a resolution of the conflict and the establishment of a Palestinian state. When you meet with your colleagues in Poland this week, we respectfully urge you to advocate for a common EU position against unilateral Palestinian actions, such as the upgrade of the Palestinian representation at the United Nations to that of either a member state or an observer state.
We firmly believe that conferral of either status will be detrimental to the search for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, a goal that your government and ADL hold in common and put great effort towards. We share as well the conviction that peace will be achieved only through bilateral, direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on all final status issues. We hope you will take under consideration the numerous and serious obstacles to a resumption of negotiations that will be created by any manner of UN acceptance of Palestinian statehood at this time.
In his May 24 speech to the U.S. Congress, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, "I want to make this clear: Israel is prepared to sit down today and negotiate peace with the Palestinian Authority." President Abbas must be convinced to accept this long-standing Israeli offer to resume negotiations immediately and without conditions. Whatever the reasons for his disinclination to resume negotiations, he is likely to continue to avoid negotiations as long as other options to pursue Palestinian goals appear available, including initiatives at the United Nations and other multilateral forums.
President Abbas himself stated such intentions in his New York Times article of May 16: "Palestine's admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice."
Those whose opinions matter in the Middle East Peace Process should adamantly oppose all such diplomatic initiatives and convey to President Abbas that he will have support for only one course of action: resuming negotiations with Israel. We urge your government and the European Union to adopt such a zero-tolerance policy for any Palestinian diplomatic initiatives other than resuming negotiations.
If the UN General Assembly were to grant "observer state" status, the Palestinian people would have their expectations raised and then disappointed following their realization that the change in status affects only the Palestinians at their Permanent Missions to the UN and not Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. That dynamic could increase the chances of an outbreak of violence, harming the Palestinians themselves, the economic gains they have made, and further eroding Israeli confidence that they have a partner for negotiations.
Commentators have raised other complications. Some cite the harm that would be done to international law on state recognition. The requirement of a government controlling a permanent population in a defined territory clearly cannot be met for a Palestinian state that claims the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, while the Palestinian Authority controls the West Bank, Hamas controls Gaza, and Israel controls East Jerusalem. Others cite the legal limbo that would result for the Palestinian political institutions: the PLO, the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian National Council. We are less concerned about these issues than the clear and imminent danger to the search for peace that the Palestinian UN initiative represents. Nevertheless, they indicate the variety of consequences – some anticipated and others not – that could derive from this Palestinian unilateral action.
While the UN General Assembly may eventually adopt a resolution relating to Palestinian statehood, opposition by your government and the European Union as a whole would make clear that the only diplomatic move worthy of truly international support is a return to negotiations with Israel. By contrast, failure to oppose it will send a strong signal to the Palestinians that negotiations are not the only avenue they can pursue to further their interests.
We look to you to send the right message to President Abbas at this critical moment and to use your influence within and beyond the European Union to amplify it.