To examine this question we look at strategic moves by key leaders at the UN in September 2011, a watershed month in the history of Israeli-Palestinian affairs.
On September 21, President Obama announced before the UN General Assembly that only negotiations, not declarations, could lead to a Palestinian state. Previously the US government had stated it would veto any Security Council effort to approve Palestinian Statehood apart from negotiations with Israel. Obama reiterated his support for a Palestinian state along the lines of the speech he gave in Washington in May, 2011. However, unlike in May, this time he was applauded by the masses in Israel. The main reason is the president inserted two new sentences: “The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition.” He also added that friends of Palestinians do them no favor by ignoring this truth. In these few words, Obama gave Israel something its government had long been asking for, namely, recognition as a Jewish state, while debunking Palestinian denial of Israel’s historic ties to its land. To keep this in context, however, we should bear in mind the UN legally recognized Israel as a Jewish state back in 1948. Obama’s declaration merely repeated historical facts that should never have been dismissed in the first place by the international community.
PA President Abbas
On September 23, Mahmoud Abbas presented his petition for statehood to the Secretary General of the UN. He followed this up by a speech before the General Assembly in which he reiterated his call for a Palestinian state on land Israel regained during the 1967 war, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and the “right of return” for 3-4 million so-called refugees. He stated that 20 years of negotiations had gotten nowhere and a new strategy was needed. He repeatedly blamed the lack of negotiations on the Israeli government and its policy of settlement construction. He reiterated his prior statements that negotiations would only begin after Israel stops construction and agrees to the 1967 borders as the basis for Palestine. (These two Palestinian pre-conditions to negotiations indisputably originated from President Obama.) Abbas’ emotional plea included recognizing Palestine as the land of Mohammed and Jesus, while failing to acknowledge any historic or spiritual Jewish connection at all. His speech, filled with many sad falsehoods, received a standing ovation. However it contained no new information or policy position.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu
About an hour later, Mr. Netanyahu delivered an articulate speech before a much smaller group of delegates, a majority having chosen to walk out and not hear him. He reminded the Assembly of the many unjust resolutions it has passed against Israel over the decades, including absurd actions it has taken that actually thwarted the peace process. He described how Israel had withdrawn from territory in the past in Southern Lebanon and Gaza in attempts to forge peace, only to experience an increase in terror as a result. He reminded the world that in 2005 Israel “turned the keys of Gaza” over to Mr. Abbas and the PA, only to see it collapse to Hamas, Iran’s terror proxy along Israel’s border dedicated to destruction of the Jewish state. He described Israel’s prior offers of a Palestinian state in 2000 and 2008 that were rejected by Palestinian leaders, as well as the unprecedented 2010 construction moratorium that Abbas ignored. He clarified Abbas’ earlier comment in noting the Palestinians are armed not just with hopes and dreams, but also with 10,000 missiles and Grad rockets supplied by Iran, in addition to a river of lethal weapons flowing into Gaza from the Sinai, Libya, and elsewhere. Mr. Netanyahu pointed to several examples of a US military presence in other sovereign nations as precedent for Israel maintaining troops along the borders of a future Palestine to ensure peace. Most importantly, he reiterated his desire for the creation of a Palestinian state only after peace is made with Israel, not before. To restart negotiations, he invited Abbas to meet with him that very same day in New York, an invitation that went unheeded.
The Mideast Quartet
The next day the Mideast Quartet (US, EU, UN and Russia) published a framework for discussions that would result in a Palestinian state by the end of 2012. The Quartet is committed to a Palestinian state only through negotiation, and without preconditions. (It had unsuccessfully lobbied strongly to prevent Abbas from presenting his petition to the UN.) The EU faces significant opposition, however, to its official position by some European nations.
Netanyahu immediately accepted this framework, while the Palestinians rejected it. The positions seem entrenched; Abbas will not negotiate without first having a state, and Netanyahu will not agree to a state without first negotiating.
October: Back at the UN
Over the next few weeks, the UN Security Council will debate the Palestinian petition for statehood. Seven abstentions or “no” votes in the Council will defeat the petition, thereby forgoing the need for a US veto. The US and four EU nations are expected at this point to vote “no.” Nigeria recently surprised the world by declaring “no” as well. Therefore, if just one other country, such as Columbia, Bosnia, or Gabon also does not support the petition, it will be rejected. Israel is focusing hard on these three nations diplomatically, and we urge you to do the same in prayer.
If the Security Council indicates non-acceptance of his proposal, Abbas plans at this point to go to the UN General Assembly to obtain the lesser, non-member state status. This would allow the Palestinians to access international jurisprudence against Israel. But in that event, Israel would also be in a position to use international courts and laws against any terror attacks arising from Palestine.
On the Palestinian/Israeli Ground
As we wrote about earlier in “New Year, New State?”, which contains helpful background, Abbas cannot first agree to peace because he cannot deliver peace. His attempts to form a unity government with Hamas have failed, and he does not represent the Palestinians in Gaza. In fact, Hamas still opposes Abbas’ bid for statehood through the UN. While Hamas rules Gaza and remains opposed to peace with Israel, it is hard to envision any progress.
When the UN voted in 1947 to re-partition Palestine into one Jewish and one Arab state, Jerusalem was to remain under international jurisdiction. The idea of an Israeli state without Jerusalem was unpalatable to Jewish leadership at the time. But the leadership of the soon-to-be-born Jewish nation recognized that getting something was better than getting nothing. They accepted the UN offer, teensy as it was. Then, eventually and in stages, by defending themselves from one Arab military assault after another, Israel gained all of Jerusalem. The Palestinians could be well served to learn a lesson from Israeli history. Something is better than nothing, if what is desired is a normalized state for the sake of a people’s self-determination. But if the death of another people is more coveted than the thriving life of one’s own, then that is another matter altogether.
On the Horizon
After September the status quo may no longer prove sustainable. (The status quo means worsening bloodshed and injustice suffered by both parties and peoples, with the nations doing little to change matters on the ground.) However, the nations—especially the PA—have mobilized at a more formalized level. Israel has agreed in full sight of the world to relinquish rightfully acquired land for the hope of peace. Still, the events which transpired last week must be viewed against a background in which the Middle East is in uproar and regional war is not inconceivable. Iran is defiantly advancing its nuclear arsenal. Nobody can know for sure how details will play out.
As followers of Yeshua, we do know there can be no genuine, lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace apart from the Prince of Peace. The Spirit is planting seeds of revival in the West Bank, including Ramallah, Bethlehem. Now is the time to pray for these seeds to be nurtured and multiplied. Pray for houses of prayer and worship to be established in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). A revival in such cities will shift the spiritual climate of the PA, in turn impacting the political realm. For their sake, for Zion’s sake, and the sake of the heart of God who longs to give them true peace, let’s give Him no rest.
How to Pray
- Praise God for His gracious intervention in the affairs of men this past week. (Psalm 68:32)
- During these Ten Days of Awe, pray for a spirit of grace and supplication (genuine repentance) to be released over Israel, that we might look on the One we have pierced and mourn for Him as for our only Son. (Zechariah 12:10) “‘Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people [including Israel]” (Proverbs 14:34)
- Zechariah 12:10’s promise of grace and supplication is given in the context of the nations surrounding Jerusalem with the goal of “moving” the city, which can be interpreted as dividing it. A division of the city is precisely how the nations plan to accommodate a future Palestinian State. Therefore, pray for a similar spirit of grace and supplication (repentance) to be released on those nations dedicated to this endeavor. (Zechariah 12:3, Psalm 2, Joel 3:2)
- Seeds of revival are being planted in the West Bank, especially Ramallah, Bethlehem and elsewhere. Pray for these seeds to be nurtured and multiplied. Pray for houses of prayer and worship to be established in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). A revival in such cities will shift the spiritual climate of the PA, in turn impacting the political realm. Petition heaven on behalf of Arab Christian believers facing opposition. Cry out for Muslim men, women and especially children to have an opportunity to choose eternal life over death. (Matthew 5:44, John 3:16, Deuteronomy 30:15-16)
- Pray for the exposure and disclosure to the nations of historical, factual and biblical truth. Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the UN declared key truths to the world, sadly buried under man-made mounds of falsehood. Jewish and Christian activists have garnered important data supporting Israel’s Jewish statehood and defending actions she’s taken to preserve that statehood. Pray for a revived respect for truth in the world. “God our Savior desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)
- Pray for the United Nations Security Council, especially its rotating member nations. As of today, a commitment to veto the Palestinian bid for statehood is needed by just one more rotating member nation for the Council as a whole to thwart the measure. “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations.” (Psalm 33:11-12)
- Pray specifically for Turkey, Iran and Egypt. In the spiritual tumult manifesting as Arab Spring, ancient powers and principalities have re-surfaced, contending for control over the Middle East. These are primarily manifested by the Prince of Persia (Iran), the Pharaoh spirit (Egypt), and the Turkish Ottoman Empire which ruled the region for 400 years until its defeat in World War I. Each is aligned with radical Islam and each is ferociously anti-Israel. Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan, in a manner akin to Ezekiel 38:11-12, seems rabidly determined to provoke Israel into a military confrontation, perhaps over recently discovered natural gas reserves in the Mediterranean Sea. Pray for churches and houses of prayer to flourish and multiply in these key countries.
- Continue praying for President Obama. Although we’re thankful for his recent affirmation of Israel as a Jewish state, this should not be seen as proof he has changed his heart or US policy toward Israel. (An election year is at hand, and the support of America’s pro-Israel community is important.) “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, and He directs it as a watercourse.” (Proverbs 21:1)