The Palestinian Authority makes its next move

Dec 22, 2010 | AIJAC staff

Update from AIJAC

December 22, 2010

Number 12/10 #06

Today’s Update looks at the strategy of the Palestinian Authority (PA) following the unequivocal signs that it will not be returning to negotiations – direct or indirect- with Israel anytime soon.


The last week has seen a flurry of diplomatic activity by the PA to convince the international community to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for it rather than tackle the main issues via direct negotiations with Israel.


We begin with a primer from Ronen Medzini at Ynetnews on recent moves by Latin American countries – Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia – to recognise the State of Palestine within 1967 borders. Uruguay has promised recognition in 2011.


From Israel’s point of view Latin America is considered further down in terms of diplomatic importance, but the very real fear is if the push for recognition gains acceptance in Asia and Europe.


Medzini writes that Thailand, Singapore and Myanmar are being lobbied by the Palestinians to offer formal recognition, while Germany is actively advocating in EU circles for recognising a State of Palestine within 1967 borders.


To appreciate the full significance of where things are headed in 2011, CLICK HERE.


Next up, respected Israeli economist Saul Singer, writes that US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, must press the Palestinians and Arabs to put substance behind their insistence that they want peace with Israel. Singer argues this can happen if the US moves away from the false assumption “that both sides want peace and are equally held back by shortsighted leadership”. He offers a series of tests to measure if the Palestinian leadership is ready for peace: accepting the existence of a Jewish people; accepting that Jewish temples stood under independent Jewish sovereignty for centuries;  accepting that Jewish moral, legal, and historic rights to sovereignty are not inferior to those of Palestinians; and ending demands for a Palestinian right of return to Israel. For Baker’s full argument, CLICK HERE.

Finally, former Israeli Ambassador and legal expert to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Alan Baker, argues that the international community is falling for a trick if it accepts the Palestinian argument that the 1967 borders have any legal standing. Baker writes that the 1949 armistice agreements “specifically stated that such lines have no political or legal significance and do not prejudice future negotiations on boundaries”.


The Palestinian tactic of insisting upon the 1967 borders as sacrosanct and getting the international community to recognise them as such is all part of a plan to avoid negotiating and making concessions with Israel. This flies in the face of numerous UN resolutions including Resolution 242, and the Oslo Accords, which insist upon a negotiated settlement for peace. To read this important article, CLICK HERE.


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Israel fights recognition of Palestinian state

Ronen Medzini, Ynetnews, December 21, 2010

An increasing number of ambassadors and representatives of Latin American states have been walking the corridors of the Foreign Ministry in recent weeks. One after the other, like a red wave, they have come to meet with senior figures and diplomats.


Some are “welcomed” with admonishments and protest, while some are heaped with praise – depending on their country’s intentions regarding the recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. The message they get in all the meetings is the same: Such recognition will harm the peace process and push the Palestinians away from negotiations.

The fires which raged on the Carmel range drowned out Brazil’s announcement that it would recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders – an announcement which caught the Foreign Ministry off guard. When the flames subsided and Argentina announced it would follow in Brazil’s footsteps, the Ministry began assessing the damage and formulating its position.


The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem is not dragging its heels. On Monday, acting Director General Rafi Barak sent instructions to all Israeli representatives of all ranks around the world, including explanatory and legal arguments against Palestinian aspirations towards international recognition of their state, and against their attempts to promote UN General Assembly resolutions condemning Israel. However, it seems the Palestinian wave continues to gather strength.

From warfare to lawfare

Palestinian attempts to garner international recognition of a state are not new to Israel. In November 1988, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat announced the establishment and independence of Palestine during a Palestinian National Council convention in Algeria. Following Arafat’s announcement, 94 states acknowledged the Palestinian state, but without UN blessing.


“So they climbed onto the roofs and set off fireworks,” said Brigadier General (res.) Shalom Harari, former advisor on Palestinian affairs at the Defense Ministry. “And what happened? Nothing.”


Problems of outside recognition and the de facto lack of land on which to build a state made Arafat’s announcement mere showmanship. However, in light of the stumbling peace process, Palestinian attempts to attract international recognition have increased in recent months.


“Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) is operating in a problematic arena, while acting as a non-elected president,” Harari said. “He needs outside assistance to stay afloat politically and outside legitimacy to show his nation that he is achieving something.”


“Now, after a list of achievements, including putting an end to the chaos, economic growth and security cooperation with Israel, the ‘rabbits from the hat’ have run out,” Harari claims. “In such a situation of a lack of achievements, Arafat would have opened fire. But what we see today is a change of direction within the PA, which is part of Abu Mazen’s big switch – ‘we don’t fire, we talk.’ Some people call this new Palestinian approach ‘a soft intifada’ – they have moved from fighting with weapons (warfare) to a legal-procedural battle (lawfare), which is not violent and is welcomed by the West.”


Harari says Palestinian Prime Minister Salem Fayyad is behind the new policy.


“The idea is to create momentum for the possibility of a UN resolution condemning Israel’s settlements at the beginning of next year, and for the recognition of a Palestinian state by August or September 2011,” he claims. “They are trying to pressure Israel through the international community, signaling – ‘If you don’t cede to us, you’re going to lose everything.’ Each time their state is recognized, Abu Mazen heaps praise and reaps the benefits.”


Brazil blazing trail


It was not by chance that Brazil led the way in recognizing a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. Brazil is considered to be a central player in Latin America and in the international community. It is the fifth-largest state in the world with the eighth-largest economy, and under the leadership of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil is showing signs of aspiring to an even greater international role, marked by its temporary membership in the UN Security Council. Brazil is also the leader of the Mercosur economic bloc, which includes Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay as well.


Though in recent years Brazil has become increasingly pro-Palestinian in the political arena, Israel has been encouraged by a number of economic agreements and cooperation in the military arena. But Brazil’s dramatic announcement some two weeks ago marked the beginning of a wave of recognition, with Argentina and then Bolivia following suit.


The historic membership of South American countries as well as Arab states in the non-aligned bloc, founded in 1955, also plays a part in recent developments. Most non-aligned states are third-world nations who united during the Cold War and declared they would not support either of the superpowers. Instead, they said, they would worry about their common interests to promote their global standing. Even today, these states tend to vote as a bloc in the UN.


Mexico next?


“The common factor uniting these countries is hatred for the US,” claimed a diplomat in a Latin American state during a conversation with Ynet. “Without generalizing, Latin American countries see themselves as underprivileged southern states facing rich northern developed states. They often act as a bloc, with Brazil leading the way and the others toeing the line. It is not surprising that Argentina followed, and it is likely that Uruguay will soon act similarly.”


Even though Israel’s standing in Latin America is actually reasonable, there are fears that other states will recognize Palestine. An immediate candidate is Ecuador, according to the Foreign Ministry. Abbas has also said so recently.


Two states Israel considers central in the struggle for recognition of a Palestinian state are Chile, which has an Arab population of some half a million, and Mexico, which could take the wave of recognition outside South America.


“If Chile and Mexico follow Brazil and Argentina, this will be a sign for all the other Latin American states, who will not find it comfortable to stay on the sidelines,” the same diplomat said. However, he said, as long as the wave remains within the borders of Latin America, the damage to Israel will not be great.


“We have our own status in Latin America, which is based on decades of cooperation, on a good image due to our economic and technological strength, and on our stamina,” he said.


Face towards Asia and Europe


Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon has been talking with his Chilean and Brazilian counterparts recently, to explain Israel’s position regarding the issue and to clarify their importance in restarting negotiations. At present, the diplomatic source said, the South American develops are no more than a minor irritant.


“After all,” he claimed, “Latin America is on the second or third circle of diplomatic importance for Israel. The problem is if the wave moves outside (Latin America).”


While Israel acts to stop the “red wave” of recognition of a Palestinian state, the “other side” continues its efforts to garner support on other continents. There have been reports recently that the EU is considering Germany’s proposal to recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. Following Foreign Ministry efforts, this proposal was moderated at the last minute to “recognition of Palestine when the time comes” – and even this proposal was eventually rejected.


In Norway, which is not a member of the EU, the buds of Palestinian efforts can be seen, and the Palestinian representative in Oslo was upgraded to ambassador status.


The Palestinians are also directing their efforts towards the Asian arena, even though most Asian states recognized the Palestinian state in 1988. Asian nations which have not yet recognized the Palestinian state include Thailand, Singapore and Myanmar, and Israel is concerned about pro-Palestinian steps in all three countries. Sources at the Foreign Ministry confirmed that Israeli representatives in these states have been instructed to raise the issue urgently at local foreign ministries, to prevent the “wave” from sweeping into Asia.


The Foreign Ministry fears that a wave of recognition in so many continents will have a domino effect which will be very hard to halt.

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Clinton should press the Arab side

Saul Singer, bitterlemons.org, December 20, 2010

There is nothing new about the “new American policy” announced by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently at the Saban Conference. This is unfortunate, because the current impasse is an opportunity for a fundamental rethink of the US strategy.

Let’s start with what’s broken. Clinton’s speech was a classic example of the historic and failed US approach. Almost every sentence was crafted to convey absolute evenhandedness. Every ounce of praise or pressure on one side was carefully balanced by an equal weight on the other. To someone unfamiliar with the conflict, it would be impossible to detect which side the US favors. Such neutrality is both deliberate and axiomatic: it is a pillar of US Middle East diplomacy regardless of party, but even more so than usual under the current administration.

Another pillar of the current US approach is that it is overwhelmingly local. There were brief mentions of the Arab states and Iran, but by and large the Israeli-Palestinian problem is treated as just that: a problem between two parties that radiates outwards.

Both of these pillars represent fundamental misunderstandings of the conflict. The conflict is not symmetrical or local; it is asymmetrical and regional.

Declared US policy is built on the premise that both sides want peace and are equally held back by shortsighted leadership. International opinion and the private views of many diplomats are even less kind to Israel and see evenhandedness as a fig leaf for Israeli obstinacy.

The reality is that the conflict is asymmetrical, but in the other direction: Israelis, both people and polity, are much more ready for the two-state solution than is the Arab world. This can be seen by the long, tough road Israelis have taken over the past two decades, compared to where the Arab world is today.

Twenty years ago, the number of non-Arab Israeli parliamentarians who openly favored a Palestinian state could be counted on the fingers of one hand, if that. To be for the two-state solution then would isolate an Israeli politician on the far left of Israeli politics. Before the 1993 Oslo accords, it was illegal for an Israeli to speak to the PLO.

Today, almost the entire political spectrum is squeezed into what was once the far left corner. “Right-wing” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stands leftward of former Labor premier Golda Meir. The handful of politicians who would dare openly oppose the two-state solution today are as isolated on the right as the pro-state camp on the left was just a short time ago.

What has happened in the meantime on the Palestinian side? True, open calls for Israel’s destruction that were de rigueur before 1967 are now limited to the Hamas-Hizballah camp, as large as it is. But almost no Palestinian leader can openly admit the most basic tenets underlying a two-state solution: that there is a Jewish people; that Jewish temples stood under independent Jewish sovereignty for centuries; and that Jewish moral, legal, and historic rights to sovereignty are not inferior to those of Palestinians.

On the one hand, Palestinian leaders claim all they are asking for is 22 percent of Palestine between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

On the other, as lead Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat explained on Ynet.com, “agreeing to the Israeli demand for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state would empty negotiations on the refugee problem of all content … and completely negate the Palestinian narrative.” In other words, the Palestinian position is what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine: you have no right to live in a Palestinian state, while Palestinians must have the right to “return” to the Jewish state.

It is bad enough that the Palestinians claim to support a two-state solution while accepting none of its basic premises. What is much worse is that no western leader will call them on it. But the asymmetry goes even deeper.

The reason that the Israeli political spectrum has lurched leftward over two decades is simple: the Zionist project has always had one or both feet in the two-state camp. When the United Nations voted to partition Palestine in 1947, the Jews danced in the streets. Two states meant the realization of a 2,000-year-old Zionist dream.

By the same token, if tomorrow a peace agreement were announced in the Arab world there would be much more mourning than dancing. For Arabs, the two-state solution represents the abandonment of a century-old dream: the eviction of the Jews from Palestine. It would be a defeat, not a victory. While a Jewish state of any size is a victory for Zionism, the Arab world has spent the last century convincing itself that a Jewish state of any size is a defeat for Arab honor and rights.

There are, therefore, two fundamental requirements for peace. First, the West must demand that the Arab world accept Jewish peoplehood and historic rights, just as vociferously as it has demanded that Israelis accept the same for Palestinians. Second, the West needs to recognize that the Arab world will not accede to this demand so long as the radical Islamist camp is on the brink of achieving strategic immunity by way of an Iranian nuclear umbrella.

As was revealed by Wikileaks, Arab leaders regard the Iranian threat as an existential one to their regimes. If Iran is going nuclear, why would they throw fire on the flames around them by ratifying Israel’s existence?

On closer examination, one notices that Clinton’s speech is quite specific on its demands of Israel (“we do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity”) while vague with respect to the Arab states (“they should take steps that show Israelis, Palestinians, and their own people that peace is possible and that there will be tangible benefits if it is achieved.”) Why not clearly call on the Arab world to stop denying the existence of a Jewish people and admit basic historic facts, such as the Jewish temples that stood in Jerusalem?

Israelis have crossed the two-state Rubicon; Arabs pretend to have done so but are in reality far from it. They need to be pressed to take the first baby steps toward truly accepting Jewish rights in “their” land, and they need to be given the strategic space to do so by defusing the Iranian nuclear threat. The good news is that if these two achievable goals are met, the prospects for Arab-Israel peace will be substantial; the bad news is that absent these steps no amount of negotiations–proximity or direct–will bring us fundamentally closer to a lasting peace.-Published 20/12/2010 © bitterlemons.org

Saul Singer is co-author, with Dan Senor, of “Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle”.

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The Fallacy of the “1967 Borders” – No Such Borders Ever Existed

Alan Baker, Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs “Briefs” Vol. 10, No. 17   21 December 2010


The Palestinian leadership is fixated on attempting to press foreign governments and the UN to recognize a unilaterally declared Palestinian state within the “1967 borders.” Indeed, this campaign appeared to have some initial successes in December 2010 when both Argentina and Brazil decided to recognize a Palestinian state within what they described as the “1967 borders.”


But such borders do not exist and have no basis in history, law, or fact. The only line that ever existed was the 1949 armistice demarcation line, based on the ceasefire lines of the Israeli and Arab armies pending agreement on permanent peace. The 1949 armistice agreements specifically stated that such lines have no political or legal significance and do not prejudice future negotiations on boundaries.


UN Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967 acknowledged the need for negotiation of secure and recognized boundaries. Prominent jurists and UN delegates, including from Brazil and Jordan, acknowledged that the previous lines cannot be considered as international boundaries.


The series of agreements between the PLO and Israel (1993-1999) reaffirm the intention and commitment of the parties to negotiate permanent borders. During all phases of negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians, there was never any determination as to a border based on the 1967 lines.


The PLO leadership solemnly undertook that all issues of permanent status would be resolved only through negotiations between the parties. The 2003 “Road Map” further reiterated the need for negotiations on final borders.


With ongoing and increasing intensity, the Palestinian leadership is fixated on advancing a concerted policy vis-à-vis the international community and public opinion, demanding recognition of what they claim to be the “1967 borders,” and acceptance of a unilaterally declared Palestinian state within those borders. Indeed, this campaign appeared to have some initial successes in December 2010 when both Argentina and Brazil decided to recognize a Palestinian state within what they described as the “1967 borders.”1


In actual fact, the Palestinian leadership, as well as members of the international community, are well aware that such borders do not exist, nor have they ever existed. They have never figured in any of the international, agreed-upon documentation concerning the Israel-Arab and Israel-Palestinian issues, and have no basis whatsoever, neither in law nor in fact.


There are no provisions in any of the agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinians that require withdrawal to the “1967 borders.” There were never any geographic imperatives that sanctify the 1967 lines. Clearly, there could be no legal or political logic to enshrining as an international boundary an inadvertent and coincidental set of ceasefire lines that existed for less than 19 years


While the above is fully evident to the Palestinian leaders who are actively and daily advancing this policy – principally the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and the head of the Negotiations Department of the Authority, Sa’eb Erekat, both of whom were themselves actively involved in all the stages of negotiation – they nevertheless continue with their fixation to present the concept of the “1967 borders” as an accepted international term-of-art and as an Israeli commitment.


The following is a summary of the background to the 1967 lines as described in the international documentation:



UN Security Council Defines Initial Ceasefire Lines


The term “1967 lines” refers to the line from which Israel military forces moved into the territories at the start of hostilities on June 4, 1967 (“The Six-Day War”).


These lines were not based on historical fact, natural geographic formations, demographic considerations, or international agreement. In fact, they had served as the agreed-upon armistice demarcation lines from the termination of the 1948 War of Independence, pursuant to the armistice agreements signed between Israel and its neighbors Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon in 1949. These lines remained valid until the outbreak of the 1967 hostilities.


The armistice demarcation line represented nothing more than the forward lines of deployment of the forces on the day a ceasefire was declared, as set out in Security Council Resolution 62 of November 16, 1948, which called for the delineation of permanent armistice demarcation lines beyond which the armed forces of the respective parties will not move. The line was demarcated on the map attached to the armistice agreement with a green marker pen and hence received the name “Green Line.”


The Security Council in its resolution stressed the temporary nature of the armistice lines that were to be maintained “during the transition to permanent peace in Palestine,” intimating that permanent peace would involve negotiating permanent bilateral borders that would be differentfrom the armistice demarcation lines.2



1949 Armistice Agreements


In fact, the Israel-Jordan Armistice Agreement signed on April 13, 1949, as well as all the other armistice agreements, emphasized the transitional nature of the armistice as “an indispensable step toward the liquidation of armed conflict and the restoration of peace in Palestine.” The language of the agreement went to great pains to stress that the armistice lines were of a provisional and non-political nature and were not intended to, and did not constitute international boundaries, and as such do not prejudice the rights, claims, and positions of the parties in the ultimate peace settlement:


“No provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims and positions of either Party hereto in the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine question, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations.”3


“The basic purpose of the Armistice Demarcation Lines is to delineate the lines beyond which the armed forces of the respective Parties shall not move.”4


“The provisions of this article shall not be interpreted as prejudicing, in any sense, an ultimate political settlement between the Parties to this Agreement.”5


“The Armistice Demarcation Lines defined in…this Agreement are agreed upon by the Parties without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto.”6


Subsequent Views on the Transitional Nature of the Lines


Statements from Arab and other sources between 1949 and 1967 confirm the common understanding as to the transitional nature of the lines. During the debate in the Security Council before the outbreak of hostilities in 1967, the Jordanian ambassador stated:


“There is an Armistice Agreement. The Agreement did not fix boundaries; it fixed a demarcation line. The Agreement did not pass judgment on rights political, military or otherwise. Thus I know of no territory; I know of no boundary; I know of a situation frozen by an Armistice Agreement.”7

Prof. Mughraby wrote in the Beirut Daily Star:


“Israel is the only State in the world which has no legal boundaries except the natural one the Mediterranean provides. The rest are nothing more than armistice lines, can never be considered political or territorial boundaries.”8

President Lyndon Johnson is on record stating:


“The nations of the region have had only fragile and violated truce lines for 20 years. What they now need are recognized boundaries and other arrangements that will give them security against terror, destruction and war.”9 In this context, international jurists have also acknowledged the limited effect of the armistice lines:

Elihu Lauterpacht, in his booklet, Jerusalem and the Holy Places, states:


“Each of these agreements…contains a provision that the armistice lines therein laid down shall not prejudice the future political settlement. It would not therefore be accurate to contend that questions of title…depend on the Armistice Agreements. Questions of sovereignty are quite independent of the Armistice Agreements.”10

Judge Steven Schwebel, former President of the International Court of Justice, stated in 1994:


“The armistice agreements of 1949 expressly preserved the territorial claims of all parties and did not purport to establish definitive boundaries between them.”11


Security Council Resolution 242, 1967


The transitory nature of the 1949 armistice demarcation lines was clearly acknowledged by the Security Council in Resolution 242 of 1967, after the “Six-Day War,” which affirmed, in its first paragraph:


“…respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”12


There is no call in this resolution for a return to the armistice demarcation lines or to any other line or border. The Security Council specifically dismissed the Arab demand for a text that required Israel to completely return all the territory it occupied during the 1967 conflict. Israel was called upon to withdraw from “territories occupied in the recent conflict,” not from “all the territories” or even from “the territories.” At the same time, the Council called upon the parties to work together to promote agreement on a peaceful and accepted settlement in accordance with



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