The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) applauds President Obama’s recent remarks at the United Nations in which he called for a negotiated peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, denounced unilateral actions, and reaffirmed America’s commitment to a safe and secure Israel.  Like all who believe in a two-state solution, we agree wholeheartedly with the President that there are “no shortcuts” to peace and that a lasting peace can only be achieved by both parties involved.

Furthermore, we agree with President Obama’s statement that “[p]eace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations– if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now, ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians who must live side by side.”

The JCRC also appreciates the evenhanded approach by the Star Tribune in today’s editorial, in which the editorial board opined “[President] Obama is living up to the definition of an ally by being a true friend to Israel, both by working to block Palestine's U.N. bid, as well as by pushing both sides to make the necessary compromises to legitimately achieve a two-state solution.”

Since the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s, it has been understood that a two-state solution—a safe and secure Israel next to a free, independent, and democratic Palestinian state—would be achieved through a negotiated agreement.  While this path has certainly been rocky at times, the framework to achieve this desired outcome has endured through three American Presidents, several Israeli Prime Ministers, two Palestinian Presidents, an intifada, wars on Israel’s southern and northern fronts, and unsuccessful negotiations.  Despite it all, Israelis today are, by and large, relatively safe and the Palestinian society on the West Bank is thriving in ways unimaginable only a short time ago.  Unfortunately, it appears that the Palestinian Authority is ready to bypass the existing principles in place and officially request that the United Nations recognize Palestine as a full member nation. 

No one should misconstrue the position shared by the JCRC, the vast majority of the American Jewish community, and a majority of Israelis, all of whom support a two-state solution involving an independent Palestinian state side by side with Israel.  It is unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) and the bypassing of the peace process which we oppose.

UDI initiated by the Palestinians presents several problems.  First, it repudiates a core principle of the peace process – that the solution to the conflict can only be the result of direct and bilateral negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.   Second, UDI violates previous interim agreements between the Israelis and the Palestinians that reject unilateral action by either party.   At the same time, UDI would leave unresolved the critical core issues of Jerusalem, refugees, borders, and settlements.  Last and most importantly, rather than helping the parties advance to peace negotiations, UDI will likely only further exacerbate the conflict.  

A considerable majority of United Nations member states will likely support admission of a Palestinian state in the General Assembly.  The United States maintains a veto in the Security Council and the Obama Administration has stated its willingness to use it in opposition of UDI. 

Other concerns surrounding UDI include the very real possibility of imitation maneuvers by other separatist movements—many of them recognized terrorist movements—around the world.  If this scenario were to happen, it could cause significant troubles for many nations as well as the United Nations.  These nations include China, Russia, and India.

The Obama Administration has consistently and unequivocally opposed UDI.  Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, Holland, The Czech Republic, and Columbia, among other nations, also oppose UDI.

Per United Nations protocol and procedure, any nation wishing for a full vote on statehood from the General Assembly must first pass a vote by the United Nations Security Council.  Because the United States has already promised to veto this measure, Palestinian statehood is an unlikely prospect.  The Palestinian Authority could, however, bypass this obstacle and push a full vote using General Assembly Resolution 377.  The result of this vote would be non-binding and would not deliver full statehood to the Palestinians.  It could, however, sour Israeli public opinion with the belief that the Palestinian Authority is not acting in good faith.  This has the potential to have devastating repercussions on the long-term peace process. 

We agree with our country’s position that two states for two peoples is the goal and the only way to reach this goal is through a negotiated agreement by both parties.  Sidestepping this process, in the end, will not have the desired results for Palestinians or Israelis.

The already volatile Middle East is becoming even more unstable.  Syria is turbulent.  Egyptian leadership is in flux as its relationship with Israel.  Turkey’s bellicosity toward Israel increases with each day.  Meanwhile, the United States is attempting a delicate drawdown of American forces from Iraq—involving thousands of Minnesota National Guard personnel.

Let us hope, in light of these conditions, the envoys working feverishly at the United Nations are able to reach an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians which would include: recognition of two states for two peoples – the Jewish and Palestinian people; a timeline for a peace agreement; and the boundaries of a Palestinian state.