The September Plan: An even bigger ‘nuclear option’
Diplomats, politicians, pundits and voyeurs of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have a new-found obsession, the prospect of Palestine becoming the 193rd member state in the United Nations this September (a move referred to as the Palestinians’ “nuclear option”). While Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has yet to present an Israeli counter-proposal, peace plan or any effective measures to prevent the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state within pre-1967 borders, he might be well served to consider an outcome that fares even worse for Israel.
Late last year, Palestinian Authority negotiator and senior Fatah member Mohammed Shtayyeh told reporters that if the PA’s bid for statehood in the UN fails, that Palestinians have another option up their sleeve – to request UN custodianship of the Palestinian territories.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was completely justified last month when he coined the term, “diplomatic tsunami,” to describe the prospect of a unilaterally declared Palestinian state gaining recognition and membership in the United Nations. Not only would such a move alter the balance of power that has been heavily weighted in Israel’s direction for over 60 years, but it would likely act as a catalyst for ramped up international pressure against it that the Jewish state has thus far only gotten a small taste of.
However, if the prospect of a full-fledged Palestinian state with all the protections afforded by contemporary international law is frightening for Israel (and it is), then the idea of a United Nations custodianship should be mortifying.
UN custodianship would most likely look like something in between the already-existent UNRWA (the arm of the UN currently active in the territories) and the former British Mandate for Palestine. In the best case scenario international observers would simply monitor the Palestinians’ progress towards statehood by “taking over the occupation.” The worst case scenario could see the deployment of an international military peacekeeping force to protect the Palestinians from Israel. Needless to say, the attitude of such a custodian toward the Israeli occupation will undoubtedly be more hostile than Judge Richard Goldstone’s, both before and after his “moment of clarity.”
For the second time in as many months, a small group of Israeli leftists were set to demonstrate in front of the American Embassy on Tel Aviv’s beachfront on Wednesday, demanding that the US implement a no-fly zone over the Gaza Strip, as it has done in Libya. Such calls are not only ridiculous, but are paid scant attention to. If the Palestinians seek UN custodianship, however, such calls might be made by more serious and legitimate actors, the United Nations included.
So what is Israel’s plan? Does it have one?
Lamenting the Israeli prime minister’s lack of any serious initiative to block the “tsunami” headed towards Israel, sources close to Netanyahu’s office told Haaretz on Tuesday that “Netanyahu is opting for tactical solutions to what is essentially a strategic problem, and such steps will not suffice.”
There is one strategic option that has been publicly suggested before but never taken seriously: sponsoring the resolution to grant Palestinian statehood or at the very least, supporting it. As it looks today, there is no stopping the Palestinian “nuclear option” of seeking UN membership and statehood. But when avoiding an atom bomb means facing a hydrogen bomb, perhaps the entire paradigm of survival deserves a thorough re-evaluation.