During the annual United Nations General Assembly on Friday, September 23rd the Palestinian Authority is planning to submit a resolution that, if passed, will recognize a Palestinian State. As Jewish teens living in North America, we have a responsibility to learn about the situation and try to understand how this will affect the state and the people of Israel.
What is the Unilateral Declaration of Independence?
The UN Vote on Palestinian Statehood refers to the Palestinian Authority’s official request that the United Nations recognize Palestine as a full member through a vote of the Security Council and the General Assembly. It is anticipated that such a resolution would call for a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. This would include the Gaza Strip as well as the West Bank – it would not include the Golan Heights.
How does this process work at the United Nations?
There are two options for a membership bid in the United Nations. A resolution for full membership needs to be passed first by the U.N. Security Council and then the General Assembly. If the Palestinian Authority’s petition is passed in both places, they will be recognized as a full member country. Alternatively, if the Palestinian Authority’s resolution is not passed in the Security Council, they can still bring a request to the General Assembly to be recognized as an observer state (this is the same status as the Vatican).
What is the Reform Movement’s response to this vote?
The URJ, Religious Action Center and Central Conference of American Rabbis have opposed to this resolution, even though they support a Palestinian state for several reasons:
- The resolution is unilateral (one-sided) and we want a negotiated agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority – as was accepted in 1993 as part of the Oslo Accords (between Israel and the Palestinian Authority).
- The resolution fails to resolve complex central issues, e.g., exact borders, the refugees, the status of Jerusalem and settlements in the west bank of the Jordan.
- The United States has already gone on record that it opposes the resolution and will veto it if it comes to the Security Council. Consequently, all this process will lead to will be a confrontation that further isolates Israel in alignment with the United States and makes negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian authority less likely.
- Israel’s Declaration of Independence explicitly states as a founding principle a desire for peace and to be a good neighbor in the Middle East. Neighborliness is a mutual relationship. Israel needs a full Palestinian partner as a neighboring state.
What does this mean for me?
Above everything else, it means each one of us must be informed. The name Yisrael comes from the Hebrew phrase “he who struggles”. Over the next few days and weeks, not only will Israel be going through her own struggle to respond to the outcome of the UN vote, but each of us may also struggle with understanding this complicated issue that resists being reduced to a sound byte. The Reform Movement is on record supporting a Palestinian State, as is the United States. However, we believe that state must result from a negotiated agreement between the people directly involved – not in the United Nations, but rather between duly elected Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
What can you do?
Over the next few weeks, this topic will be a major conversation in all Jewish communities – as well as communities who have interest in the US foreign policy. The best thing we can all do in engage in this conversation. Listen to what your rabbis say on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Ask questions of your teachers or parents or youth group advisors. Talk to your friends about it. Email Roey Shiff, NFTY Shaliach, to ask your questions. Most of all join in a conversation that could have profound implications for the future of the Middle East in general and of Israel and the Palestinian Authority in particular. This conversation needs each one of our voices.
Shana Tova U’metukah – Wishing you and your family a sweet new year – and wishing our extended Jewish family everywhere the peace that they search for.
Roey Shiff and Beth Avner