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July 18, 2011 Israel Action Network: Community Response to UDI-UN Recognition of Palestinian State

July 18, 2011

Israel Action Network: 
Community Response to UDI-UN Recognition of Palestinian State

Hadassah Israel, Zionist, and International Affairs (IZAIA) and the Hadassah United Nations Team are working closely with coalition partners to monitor the possible Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) of a Palestinian state and to help coordinate a community response.   

Below is Community Response to UDI-UN Recognition of Palestine State, a report from the Israel Action Network, a joint project of The Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.  The report includes strategic background information and analysis of UDI and an overview of the Jewish Community Action Plan in response.

Hadassah will continue to monitor the situation and update Members, Associates and supporters on any pertinent information and new advocacy initiatives. Hadassah International has also been briefed on the possibilities for international advocacy on this issue.       

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COMMUNITY RESPONSE TO UDI-UN RECOGNITION OF PALESTINE STATE          

I. Executive Summary

The Palestinian Authority leadership has indicated it will pursue a strategy that has become known as Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI).  While the exact course of their actions is not known, it may include seeking full membership or some form of enhanced status in the U.N.  The implications of UDI are significant.  It rejects the long-standing consensus of the peace process for a negotiated settlement by instead using the UN as a vehicle to isolate and build diplomatic pressure on Israel. We encourage all constituents to engage in targeted advocacy with key swing governments, including visiting local consulates, writing to ambassadors in Washington and at the UN, and discreetly encouraging individuals with special business, cultural and other ties to use their relationships. The targeted countries and detailed action plan are described below.

II. Strategic Background

The leadership of the Palestinian Authority (PA) has indicated that it will pursue enhanced standing at the United Nations, including the possibility of requesting member state status, at the upcoming session of the United Nations General Assembly in late September.  (This initiative broadly has become known as the unilateral declaration of independence – UDI.) Admission of a member state requires a recommendation from the Security Council and two-thirds vote of the General Assembly.  There are other options available short of achieving full member state status, and there is no way to know at this point exactly what scenario will unfold as we move toward the convening of the General Assembly. Through this initiative the PA appears to be abandoning a path to a negotiated settlement, at least for the time being, and using the UN as a vehicle to isolate and build diplomatic pressure on Israel.  

A considerable majority of U.N. member states would likely support admission of a Palestinian state in the General Assembly.  Fortunately, the United States maintains a veto in the Security Council and the Obama Administration has stated its strong opposition to this initiative. As such a Palestinian state clearly will not be admitted to the UN in the foreseeable future. However, even if unsuccessful due to a U.S. veto, the Palestinian Authority may pursue other efforts to bolster its non-member status or to memorialize its stance on issues such as borders, refugees, Jerusalem, and other issues.  In short, UDI comes with significant diplomatic and symbolic implications. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy has provided anexcellent background on the implications of UDI written by Tal Becker. The following links provide additional useful information on the political and economic consequences of UDI, including comprehensive resources by both the AJC and ADL.

The fundamental argument against UDI is that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute can and should be resolved through direct negotiations based on the formula of two states for two peoples.  Instead, taking unilateral steps to impose a solution through UDI and increasing pressure on Israel by using the UN, the PA will only set back prospects for advancing peace. This is the policy view held by all levels of the US government, including the administration and both houses of Congress.

The United States and Israel are engaged in an active diplomatic campaign to encourage as many states as possible to oppose UDI, especially the European Union (EU) nations and those that generally vote along with the EU. This will help make a strong case that the democracies of the world recognize the necessity of a negotiated settlement.  It will also help deny the momentum that the Palestinians seek to build with this unilateral action.

The organized American Jewish community is working in tandem with this diplomatic campaign to influence the decisions of key foreign countries.  It is imperative that we do all we can to maximize the number of countries opposing UDI. National organizations with global reach have been meeting with senior government leaders.  While the situation is fluid and targeted countries and messages are evolving, local communities led by Federations and JCRCs can play a pivotal role in reinforcing these strategic efforts. We will continue to work directly with you and provide updates regarding both outreach and messages in your efforts to reach out to consulates, communicate with ambassadors in Washington, DC and at the United Nations, and discreetly mobilize individuals with special relationships to the targeted countries, as described below. 

In addition, if UDI proceeds in September, as is our operating assumption, we anticipate that there will be considerable political and media attention devoted to it. This presents an opportunity for us to convey the message that Israel and the Israeli people do not oppose Palestinian statehood. On the contrary, Israelis seek a fair solution, one that will bring a negotiated peace based on two states that, at long last, will provide the security and normalcy sought for the last 63 years. It is important that communities be prepared to have voices from Israel, the Jewish community and prominent non-Jewish leaders filling the public square with this message.  The IAN will provide materials, resources and the guidance necessary to achieve this objective, as described below. 

Finally, no matter what happens in September, there will be a day after. The challenges ahead are unclear. After all, it was the great philosopher Yogi Berra who asserted that “prediction is very hard, especially about the future.”  The Nakba and Naksa protests, the flotilla, the Ben Gurion Airport fly-in, UDI – even divestment resolutions and attempts to remove Israeli products from grocery shelves – all fit within a broad strategy of mounting a non-violent and global confrontation with Israel with the purpose of isolating her from the family of nations, what we also refer to as delegitimization. (This also does not suggest that a strategy of violence against Israel has been abandoned.)

In essence, the delegitimizers seek to accomplish a paradigm shift. Until the 1980’s, there was the Arab-Israel conflict. Then – especially with the first intifada in the late ‘80s followed by the Oslo Agreement in 1993 – we saw the conflict increasingly revolve around its Palestinian dimension, blurring the broader context. Now, the effort is directed toward projecting an image of a global consensus that opposes not just the policies of the Jewish state, but the state itself.

Adam Shapiro, a leader of the Free Gaza movement, asserted last November at Rutgers University, "Free Gaza is but one tactic of a larger strategy, to transform this conflict from one between Israel and the Palestinians, or Israel and the Arab world... to one between the rest of the world and Israel... our ground is the whole world. And that's where our resistance has to be. The whole world... we already have a third intifada.. It's going on right now. It's going on all over the world."

Whether this approach after UDI in September is expressed as a massive march of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank toward Israel’s borders, a kind of third intifada, or some other form, we have no way of knowing. Nonetheless, the underlying objective of all of our work is to be ready to help shape the public discourse – whether in our communities, on the campuses, or in cyberspace.

III. Action Plan

The Israel Action Network is implementing a comprehensive strategy to respond to this challenge that will include pre, during, and post UDI activities as follows:

a) Pre-UDI (July, August, Early September)

·        In consultation with authoritative sources, a group of nations has been identified as key swing votes on a Palestinian statehood or related resolution. We will continue to provide updated information, but the current targets are: New ZealandJapanSouth KoreaNorway,SingaporeNigeriaCameroonCanadaPhilippines, and all 27 members of the European Union.

·        We encourage all constituents to engage in targeted advocacy with these governments, including visiting local consulates, writing to ambassadors in Washington and at the UN, and discreetly encouraging individuals with special business, cultural and other ties to use their relationships. To assist in this task we have prepared a list of relevant embassies, general consulates and missions, aUDI FAQs and Talking Points fact sheet, and a template letterWe also suggest that all efforts be coordinated with the local affiliates of JCPA national member agencies.

·        If possible, these activities, especially the consulate visits, should be conducted in tandem with delegations or communications from Jewish and non-Jewish influentials, including members of Congress, mayors, city council members, civic leaders and others.

·        Consistent with research showing the effectiveness of projecting the humanity of average Israelis, look for ways to personalize this issue, especially in September when attention will be focused on UDI.  For example, introducing the voices of families from your Partnership 2000 communities who can emphasize their desire for peace and legitimate concerns over an imposed solution from the United Nations.

·        We encourage communities to help interpret this issue to editors and other key media representatives as well as place letters to the editor and op-eds in newspapers. In the coming months, IAN will provide model pieces to help these efforts.

·        In addition, Hillel and the Israel on Campus Coalition are each launching campaigns in September to respond to UDI. As part of our strong commitment to fostering Community-Campus partnerships, we are working with both organizations to engage relevant communities in these activities. These details will be forthcoming as soon as they are available. 

·        If you have not already done so, please thank local congress members for voting for resolutions that rejected UDI. 

b) During UDI and Immediate Aftermath (Late September)

·        Most significantly, we expect this period to include heightened media interest and attention. Communities are then encouraged to prepare for media inquires, and the IAN will be providing assistance with drafting statements, op-eds, briefings and other materials.

·        IAN will closely monitor the latest development and provide guidance, conference call briefings and other support, as necessary.

c) Post-UDI scenarios (October and after)

At this point it is very difficult to predict the implications or consequences of UDI. However, as Tal Becker’s analysis indicates, they can be expected to fall within one of the following categories:

  1. The American government is successful in having the parties return to the negotiating table and restart the peace process. Currently, this appears to have only a slim chance of occurring;
  2. Maintenance of the status quo which will result in anti-Israel initiatives continuing at the same pace, and UDI having little direct effect in increasing Israel’s isolation;
  3. UDI becomes a springboard for the intensification of anti-Israel initiatives with growing non-violent confrontational tactics, such as mass marches in Gaza and the West Bank, and efforts to isolate Israelat the International Criminal Court and other international forums. In other words, the launching of a predominately “non-violent intifada;”
  4. A violent third intifada break outs with Iranian-backed terrorism and rockets from the West Bank,Gaza and possibly Lebanon.   

The IAN will work closely with the JFNA and JCPA to prepare and share strategies and materials in accordance with each eventuality.

Martin Raffel, IAN Project Director
Geri D. Palast, IAN Managing Director
David Dabscheck, IAN Deputy Managing Director



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