The Palestinian unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) refers to the strategic effort by the Palestinian Authority leadership to officially request that the United Nations recognize Palestine as a full member at the United Nations General Assembly. Months of discussion built to a crescendo when Palestinian leaders presented their request for official recognition to the UN Secretary-General on September 23rd, 2011.
Although the application is still awaiting deliberation at the Security Council, a multitude of voices have mobilized to express their concerns about this unilateral move by the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian Authority has continued to move into other UN agencies. Most recently, UNESCO voted to admit Palestine as a member state. Commentators on all sides of the political spectrum have reiterated that international recognition will not alter the reality on the ground nor move Israelis and Palestinians any closer towards resolving their long-standing conflict. History has shown that the peace treaties between Israel and its neighbors were the result of negotiations between the parties themselves. In this case as well, peace will only be achieved in direct negotiations, whereas UDI will likely drive a deeper wedge between the two parties.
IAN activities around UDI efforts in September 2011 included:
- IAN and JCRC-NY gathered over 107,000 supporters for an online petition to oppose UDI at the U.N. which was presented to the UN. Click here for more information on the presentation, click here to see pictures of the petition presentation.
- With the United Nations in the background, IAN and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY) hosted a press conference with U.S. elected officials and North American Jewish leaders to oppose UDI. Bipartisan speakers led by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand took to the podium to urge for a return to bilateral, direct negotiations toward two states for two peoples. Read More.
- Peace needs two partners. To drive this home, IAN released a ‘Peace Needs Partners’ YouTube Video. Click here to view the video.
- IAN hosted three UDI-related conference calls for community leaders and activists around North America, including:
- Michael Oren – 9/15/11 (Israel’s Ambassador to the United States)
- David Makovsky – 9/9/11 (Ziegler Distinguished Fellow and Director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at The Washington Institute)
- Danny Ayalon – 8/17/11 (Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister)
IAN UDI FAQ and Talking Points:
What is the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI)?
- UDI refers to the expected attempt by the Palestinian Authority leadership to officially request that the United Nations recognize Palestine as a full member at the United Nations General Assembly that starts September 20th 2011. It is anticipated that such a resolution would call for a Palestinian state based upon on the 1967 borders (i.e. the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem).
Why is UDI problematic?
- International recognition will not alter the reality on the ground nor move Israelis and Palestinians any closer towards resolving their long-standing conflict. History has shown that the peace treaties between Israel and its neighbors were the result of negotiations between the parties themselves. In this case as well, peace will only be achieved in direct negotiations, whereas UDI will likely drive a deeper wedge between the two parties.
- UDI repudiates a core principle of the peace process – that the solution to the conflict can only come as a result of direct and bilateral negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Unilateral actions harden the positions of extremists on both sides, reducing the chances of future peace.
- UDI undermines previous agreements, particularly violating the Interim Agreement of 1995 (“Oslo II”) that specifically rejected unilateral moves that would change the status of the West Bank and Gaza.
- UDI leaves unresolved all final status and core issues of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including: Jerusalem, refugees, water, borders and settlements.
- The Palestinian UN maneuvers may have implications for the situation on the ground. Reports indicate that the Palestinians are planning demonstrations to coincide with UDI and the likely disappointment from the lack of changed conditions could spark violent confrontations.
How does this process work at the United Nations?
- The U.N. does not grant statehood, but rather grants membership into the U.N. For full membership status, the Palestinian resolution needs to be first passed by the U.N. Security Council. Were this to be approved, the resolution would be sent to the General Assembly, where it would require a two-thirds majority for approval. In this case, the American government has indicated that they will veto any Security Council resolution make full membership impossible.
- Instead, to bypass the Security Council and enhance their status, the Palestinian leadership has said they are considering using United Nations General Assembly Resolution 377 to which would allow the General Assembly to pass a non-binding recommendation that would result in enhanced observer status for Palestine, which would allow participation in UN bodies and potentially provide jurisdiction in international tribunals. As 112 UN member states already recognize a Palestinian state, it is probable the Palestinians would gain the 128 votes needed to pass such a recommendation.
- It is important to note that at the current time, the Palestinian Authority does not satisfy the basic criteria for statehood: it lacks effective governance, a permanent population, defined borders, and the ability to recognize and enter into relations with other states—most importantly, Israel.
- In the past, there was no legal ‘right’ to self-determination for any people. The UN General Assembly pronounced itself qualified to bestow this ‘right’, even as prospective states threaten the sovereignty of their neighbors and have not shown practical, tangible, or sustainable displays of ‘statehood’.
What is the position of the American government on UDI?
- There has been a consistent and unequivocal rejection of UDI at all levels of the American government, including in official statements from the Obama Administration, and from both houses of Congress and the State Department.
- President Obama stated in regard to UDI, “We’ve seen a lot of these sort of symbolic efforts before. They’re not something that the United States is going to be particularly sympathetic towards, simply because we think it avoids the real problems…” In his State Department speech on May 19th, 2011, President Obama reinforced that “symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state.”
- Secretary of State Hilary Clinton also stated, “Neither Israel’s future as a Jewish democratic state nor the legitimate aspirations of Palestinians can be secured without a negotiated two-state solution.”
What is the position of the Israeli government on UDI?
- The government and people of Israel have both expressed consistent support for creating a Palestinian state through negotiations and a willingness to discuss all outstanding issues, without preconditions. Prime Minister Netanyahu has declared that with a peace agreement, “Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as the new member of the United Nations. It will be the first to do so.”
- Successive Israeli governments have been dedicated to a “two states for two peoples” solution, with independent Jewish and Palestinian states living side by side in peace and security.(/li>
- Israel remains committed to the quest for peace and has a long proven track record of making strategic concessions for that goal. Over the past decades, it has proved its willingness to negotiate land transfers, leaving Sinai for peace with Egypt and leaving Gaza and Southern Lebanon.
- Israel is ready to engage in bilateral negotiations to resolve the conflict. UDI would attempts to avoid direct negotiations with Israel in preference for an attempt to impose a solution through international pressure. It simply distracts from and creates more obstructions the engaging a genuine process for peace.
- Israel has called upon the Palestinian leadership to return to the negotiating table without preconditions, so that a genuine and lasting resolution can be found.
For additional UDI-related information and assistance on developing strategies for mobilizing your community, contact an IAN representative.