Is Israel on the brink of war?

What the presenter, David Makovsky said, was that the US will veto any attempt by the Palestinians to get Security Council recognition, a necessary first step for full UN membership. He pointed out, however, that a vote of the General Assembly where the Palestinians can count on almost automatic majority, could give the Palestinians the status of non-member state (similar to The Vatican). This would give the Palestinians full access to the mechanisms of the UN, including the International Court.

The World Court recently put on hold a request filed by the Palestinians to define economic exploitation of occupied territories as a war crime, a move that would make every Israeli living in the West Bank a War Criminal in the eyes of international law. At the same time, when Abu Mazen was asked why he pursued the UN bid knowing that he faced a US veto, his answer included a comment to the effect that it will give Palestinians more ways to pursue their case under International law including the Court, and a member of his administration openly admitted that they filed the request with the International Court of Justice.

Regarding the US Veto, not all is good news anyway. While the Palestinians will not get accepted as a full member state if the US vetoes the move, that veto could spark violence in the planned Palestinians demonstrations leading up to 9/20. While Abbas and his people might want genuinely to avoid an escalation, the same doesn't apply to Hamas, which would be more than happy to extend the violence to the West Bank.

Makovsky admitted that at this point nobody really knows what will happen with a General Assembly vote because the Europeans are divided. There are also today a number of states that were admitted since 1988 who never had to vote on issues such as this regarding the Middle East. These new States are an unknown factor. Chances are, however, that the Palestinians will pull it off and get non member state status.

UN General Assembly recognition will also give the Palestinians a pretext to stay away from the negotiation table. Why negotiate with Israel about borders when they already got everything they want, including the Old City of Jerusalem? Nothing will change on the ground, but negotiations will be extremely more difficult (if that's possible) and Israel will be put on a very difficult diplomatic defensive position.

What was not mentioned during the call, is that other things affecting the Middle East did happen or will happen in September as well. The Egyptian elections will take place in September and most observers believe that the only party organized enough to win is the Muslim Brotherhood. Turkey just expelled the Israeli Ambassador, cut all military cooperation with Israel, staked a claim on Israeli gas findings in the Mediterranean and announced that Turkish warships will accompany the next Gaza flotilla. Hamas continues its bombardment of Israeli civilians with ever more sophysticated missiles, and of course Israel continues its retaliation against Hamas.

Another issue that was not sufficiently explored in my opinion, is the problem of Palestinian expectations. The opinion polls conducted among Palestinians focused exclusively on whether the US would veto (not surprisingly, most Palestinian believed it would) and whether anything would change on the ground (not surprisingly most said nothing will). In that context, it doesn't make sense that most Palestinians still believe that Abbas should pursue the UN option - unless you consider the possibility that they expect to be able to expel the Israelis with international support, or/and put every Israeli "settler" on trial as a war criminal. If they lose the vote, things are likely to get out of control and the quiet demonstrations planned by Abbas can turn into an angry mob with, of course, some help from Hamas. If they win the General Assembly vote. Abbas could form his Unity government with Hamas and he can succesfully make a point that it is the Palestinians' sovereign right. One way or another, we are faced with an even more radicalized Palestinian society.

But what if the angry mob attack Israelis? or jump on one or more checkpoints? what if the Turkish escort for the flotilla exchanges fire with the Israeli navy? what if parallel demonstrations are staged among Europe's Muslim population? In a word, things can get out of control just too easily. And in all that, how come Iran is silent?

If you attend services at whatever is your congregation this month (except on Shabbath), you probably listen to the sound of the Shofar, as we are in Elul and preparing for Rosh HaShanah. When you hear the Shofar, keep in mind that the dream and the hope that Israel brought to Jews all over the world is not a given and in the current redefined political landscape in the Middle East, Israel's survival cannot be taken for granted. We all need to step up - write to the papers, write to your legislators, talk with your non Jewish friends...become a soldier of Israel in the PR battle that is very likley to heat up after 9/20.

The Palestinians should have a state, and they have a way to get it: go back to the negotiation table without preconditions as Netanyahu has been asking; live up to the commitments signed by Arafat in 1993 regarding elimination of anti Israel chapters on the Palestinian Covenant; stop incitement on the Palestinian Media; eliminate from school curriculums the anti-Israel materials. All this was agreed in 1993. Israel fulfilled most of its obligations under the Declaration of Principles. Isn't it time that the Palestinians live up to some of their promises?

Remember that the fate of the Jewish people and the fate of Israel are intertwined. Wherever Israel goes, we will follow.


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