The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) reportedly intends to submit a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) aimed at demanding a full and unconditional Israeli withdrawal to the armistice line that separated Israel from Jordan between 1949 and 1967. Rather than lobbying the United States to veto the PLO resolution, and rather than trying to convince France to drop its own supposedly more benign draft, Israel should submit its own resolution to the UNSC.
The Israeli resolution would demand a Palestinian renunciation of the so-called “right of return” and a UN commitment to dismantle the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) within two years. This way, UNSC members would have to vote on two resolutions: one that demands an unconditional and total Israeli withdrawal (the PLO proposal), and one that demands an unconditional and total end to the cynical perpetuation of the Palestinian refugee problem (the Israeli proposal). UNSC members that claim to support the two-state solution will then have to explain why they are willing to impose one ingredient of that solution (i.e. ending Israel’s partial control of the West Bank) but not the other (i.e. ending the Palestinian claim, clearly incompatible with the two-state solution, that six million Arab “refugees” should be granted the option of becoming residents and citizens of Israel).
The PLO’s refusal to end all claims against Israel (including the claim that the descendants of the 1948 refugees should have a “right of return” to Israel) is the reason Yasser Arafat rejected the December 2000 Clinton proposal (which would have granted the Palestinian state 96% of the West Bank) and the reason Abbas rejected the September 2008 Olmert proposal (which would have granted the Palestinian state 99% of the West Bank, after land swaps). Abbas admittedly has said that he does not intend to return to his hometown of Safed, but he also insists that he can only renounce his own “right” but not that of six million “refugees.” He confirmed this two weeks ago (on 30 November) in an interview with the Egyptian newspaper Akhbar Al-Youm. “We cannot close the door to those who wish to return,” Abbas insisted.
The Israeli proposal would thus send the following message to UNSC members: if you want to impose a settlement instead of encouraging a negotiated one, then it has to go both ways. You cannot just ignore one of the main sources of the ongoing stalemate and let the Palestinians get away with a fanciful demand that is incompatible with the two-state solution.
For what the Palestinians are trying to do is to undo UNSC Resolution 242 by getting rid of the parts they don’t like. Resolution 242 was adopted after the 1967 Six-Day war, and it is still in force. It is the relevant and binding UN decision that sets the principles for negotiated peace agreements between Israel and its neighbors. There is no reason to change it, but there is a reason the Palestinians want it repealed.
Resolution 242 does not demand an unconditional and total withdrawal of Israel from the territories it conquered in June 1967. The condition for Israel’s withdrawal is, inter alia, the “termination of all claims or states of belligerency.” This means that Israel is only expected to withdraw in exchange for peace (as it did after signing a peace agreement with Egypt). Such withdrawal, moreover, is expected to be “from territories” (and not “from the territories”). In other words, 242 makes Israel’s withdrawal conditional and partial. This is precisely what the Palestinians want to change: they want an unconditional (i.e. without peace) Israeli withdrawal, and a total one (as opposed to the partial one stipulated by 242).
There is an additional part of Resolution 242 that the Palestinians want to erase. The resolution calls for “achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem.” Arthur Goldberg, the US ambassador to the UN in 1967, is on record as explaining that the resolution “refers both to Arab and Jewish refugees, for about an equal number of each abandoned their homes as a result of the several wars.” Resolution 242 does not recognize a “right of return” for the descendants of the 1948 refugees, nor does it say that only the Arab refugees, but not the Jewish ones, are entitled to a “just settlement” (which cannot possibly mean granting to six million Arabs the option of becoming Israeli residents and citizens).
Adopting the Arab or French resolution drafts would, in effect, annul Resolution 242 by replacing the “territories for peace” principle with “territories without peace” and by perpetuating the cynical and corrupt use of the refugee issue.
Submitting a counter Israeli proposal to the UNSC would expose the true intentions of the Palestinians and the irresponsibility of their backers.