Despite efforts to revive the peace process, the Palestinians are once again making their way through the U.N. machinery to demonize, delegitimize and undermine Israel. From the U.N. Human Rights Council, to the World Health Organization, to UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) the Palestinians seem to be returning to their time-worn way of avoiding the opportunity to negotiate.
Even as the Obama administration, through Secretary of State John Kerry, has revitalized its efforts in the region, the Palestinians continue to press at the world body for the castigation of Israel. Kerry has met with both sides in order to pave a path back to direct negotiations—the vital element for peace to have a chance at succeeding.
The U.S. secretary of state has concluded his fifth trip to the region in four months. Yet while Israel has offered its cooperation with these efforts, for the Palestinians it’s business as usual. They continue to dip into the U.N. tool box for any possible means to forestall going to the negotiating table, notwithstanding reported efforts to dissuade them from internationalizing the conflict.
Each time the Palestinians use the United Nations to avoid direct negotiations by ratcheting up pressure on Israel, it’s a direct repudiation of the new effort to get the process moving. Each time they turn to the U.N. to make their case, they’re renouncing any real chance of meaningful peace talks.
On June 19, in a statement that seemed directed at Kerry’s efforts, an advisor for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Fatah “affirmed its rejection of the pressures on Abbas and the leadership.” Those are not the words of willing negotiating partners.
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The United Nations has proven to be a handy megaphone for Palestinians to broadcast their distorted worldview of Israel. Why negotiate when you can use various U.N. agencies to make a case for you?
By exploiting the United Nations system instead of sitting down to negotiate with Israel without preconditions, the Palestinians have consistently sought to find aid and comfort with their willing friends in the international community. Bringing complaints and charges against Israel at every turn and in every U.N. venue allows the Palestinians to send a message that they can get their way without sitting down at the table with Israel. As the Palestinians become ever more adept at exploiting the United Nations for their own gain, they move further and further from the prospect of peace.
On Nov. 29, 2012, the United Nations General Assembly voted to grant non-member observer “state” status to the Palestinians. This new designation affords the Palestinians expanded access to the complex U.N. structure to launch complaint after complaint against Israel.
This new status has unleashed Palestinian enthusiasm to go to the U.N. wishing well to get their way. It seems to be working.
The very act of seeking the upgraded status was a clear rejection of all efforts aimed at convincing the Palestinians that real progress can only be made through negotiations between the parties. Israel has long been a victim of systemic abuse at the world body. The Palestinians are once again defying efforts to resolve the conflict by pursuing punitive actions against Israel.
At the World Health Organization assembly in May, Israel was specifically singled out on its agenda, with opprobrium aimed at health conditions in the “occupied” territories. Instead of focusing on such global health issues as influenza control, the World Health Organization capitulated to a political agenda pushed by the Palestinians.
The Palestinians have also made productive use of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s anti-Israel bias. The council already maintains a permanent agenda item aimed at criticizing Israel and the majority of its condemnations—nearly 40 percent—are directed at Israel. Now the council notes that Israel could be tried for war crimes at the International Criminal Court, a U.N. body the Palestinians repeatedly threaten to use against Israel.
The Palestinians have made several attempts to use the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO to deny the historic link of the Jewish people to the land of Israel. In late June at the World Heritage Committee annual session in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, a Palestinian-led effort once again questioned Israel’s bond to Jerusalem. There is no acknowledgment of Israel’s ongoing, successful commitment to ensuring free access to all religions to holy sites in Jerusalem.
The Palestinians, as usual, are speaking in two languages. While they sit with Kerry, who is seeking a two-state solution, they exploit the U.N. system to avoid talking to Israel and to avoid taking concrete steps to bring about peace.
The new peace initiative is presumed to be based on confidence building measures. But recent Palestinian actions at the U.N. don’t inspire any confidence that they are committed to a real and lasting peace.
Daniel S. Mariaschin is Executive Vice President of B'nai B'rith International.