When Israel signed the Oslo accords with the Palestinians in 1995, it did so with great hopes for peace in its heart. It also did so with the understanding that both sides would respect the agreements.
Unfortunately, the Palestinians have recently committed a fundamental breach of these accords, most specifically the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In that historic document, both sides pledged that nothing would be done that changes the status of the West Bank and Gaza, that no unilateral act would be undertaken to alter the basic nature of these disputed territories.
Now the Palestinians have petitioned the U.N. Security Council to have these disputed territories declared a Palestinian state. This unilateral act not only undermines the accords; it deals a severe blow to prospects for peace.
How can the Israeli people be expected to trust any future agreements with Palestinians, treaties that will be necessary for peace, when they are violating one of their basic accords with Israel? How can the Israelis rely on the international community to help safeguard peace if it lends its support to the Palestinians in this illegitimate act? To do so will harm one of the most basic principles of international law: respect for agreements.
But the greatest injury to the peace process will arise from the effect unilateral actions will have on the Palestinians. It has long been their dream to see a settlement imposed upon Israel rather than be negotiated with it. The history of the peace process has proven that the Palestinians are unwilling to make the compromises that both sides must undertake for peace to be achieved. Recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations will strengthen this tendency to avoid compromise, driving true peace even further away.
Furthermore, the question must arise about what kind of Palestinian state is to be declared. According to international law, in order to establish a state, there must be effective government over the territory claimed. It is this basic condition that the Palestinians do not meet. The Palestinian Authority claims all of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. However, it does not at all control the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by its bitter rivals, the Hamas, an extremist jihadi organization dedicated to Israel's destruction. In addition, there is still the matter of control of the West Bank, where Israel has full responsibility for more than 60 percent of the territory.
And if the Palestinians settle their internal feud — without Hamas changing its actions and policies — there will be negative consequences for the nature of a future Palestinian state. International recognition of a state that includes Hamas means international recognition of a terrorist organization. This group, dedicated to Israel's destruction by the most violent means, refuses to recognize the three conditions of the Quartet (the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia) by negating the existence of Israel, by continuing to use terrorism and by repudiating the agreements signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
There may be those who think that by supporting this premature bid for statehood they are helping the Palestinians. But this U.N. maneuver is meaningless on the ground. It will do nothing to improve the lives of the Palestinians or solve the key issues that must be decided by the parties — mainly Jerusalem, security, borders, refugees and water. Instead, it will only delay negotiations.
If the international community wants to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it needs to tell the Palestinians that there are no shortcuts to peace, no instant solutions.
Indeed, Israel would be the first to welcome the establishment of a Palestinian state, if that would be the result of a negotiated peace accord which also addresses Israel's legitimate security needs.
The Palestinians must stop looking for excuses to avoid negotiations and instead return to the table. Nothing can be resolved without direct talks between the parties and compromises from both sides. The only true resolution is a negotiated resolution. The only path to peace is a negotiated path.
Chaim Shacham is consul general of Israel to Florida and Puerto Rico.