December 11, 2012
Had Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu treated the UN General Assembly resolution rationally and coolly instead of waging a fruitless battle against it, he would have rushed to adopt it. After all, it was the organization’s most positive resolution in 65 years.
Netanyahu’s parents no doubt told him many times about the wave of rejoicing here on November 29, 1947, when a majority in the General Assembly passed Resolution 181 on partitioning the Land of Israel into two states. As an educated person aware of the effects of historic events, the prime minister no doubt recognizes the importance of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which the founding fathers, understanding history’s ramifications, crafted with a very close look toward the future.
According to the declaration: “On the 29th November, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel; the General Assembly required the inhabitants of Eretz-Israel to take such steps as were necessary on their part for the implementation of that resolution. This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable.”
That is, even Netanyahu knows that David Ben-Gurion and his colleagues realized that the 1947 General Assembly resolution gave Israel its political and moral legitimacy to exist as a Jewish state. The first prime minister understood the historic importance of the partition resolution and made sure to include it in the new state’s founding document, even though it recognized Israel’s sovereignty over only a relatively small part of the Land of Israel.
Netanyahu’s mistake regarding a Palestinian state is that he focused on the text alone and ignored what’s not written: The General Assembly has recognized a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders; that is, the organization has granted, by a vast majority, international legitimacy to the Jewish state in those borders. So for the first time since 1947, the two-state solution has received explicit international recognition, and this time Israel has much better borders – those shaped after the War of Independence. This should be the dream of anyone who has declared support for the two-state solution.
Netanyahu should have been among the first to support the General Assembly resolution and should have stressed its positive aspects. As a gifted “explainer” he should have used the resolution as a powerful tool to win international legitimacy in negotiations with the Palestinians.
He should have said that Israel – which finally has been recognized as a Jewish state in the June 4, 1967 borders – is willing to reach an agreement with the Palestinians on recognizing their independent state, even though 65 years ago it was they who rejected the partition resolution. He should have stated clearly that Israel is recognizing the Palestinians’ right to a state, as he declared in his Bar-Ilan speech; all that remains is to discuss the agreement’s details and end the conflict.
But Netanyahu doesn’t truly support the two-state solution, so he is frightened by the General Assembly resolution. He remembers what he was told about the rejoicing on November 29, 1947, and he knows that there is no way back. Just as at Lake Success the State of Israel was founded 65 years ago, so at the UN building in New York the Palestinian state was founded two weeks ago.