Gershon Baskin at KAS

Going to the U.N.? What’s it all about?

In cooperation with the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) Ramallah organized a conference on June 27th, 2011 entitled “Going to the UN? What’s it all about?”.

Felix Dane, Resident Representative of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) in the Palestinian Territories, opened the conference alongside the directors of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), Dr. Gershon Baskin and Hanna Siniora. Around 140 Israeli and Palestinian participants from politics, academics and the media, as well as representatives of Jerusalem-based international organizations, then listened to the explanations of the panellists. Dr. Baskin, Dr. Hiba Husseini, former legal advisor to the Palestinian negotiation team and Dr. Alon Liel, former Israeli ambassador to South Africa and director general of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, discussed the motivations behind going to the United Nations (UN) on a first panel. In a second discussion round, Attorney Ziad Abu Zayad, co-editor and co-publisher of the Palestine-Israel Journal, and Walid Salem, director of the Center for Democracy and Community Development, spoke about the Palestinian positions and options.

The first panel discussion was opened by Dr. Gershon Baskin. He stressed that the only way to bring about negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Territories was the preservation of the two-state-solution. He also pointed out that not only the USA but possibly also China and Russia could veto the accession of Palestine to the UN in the Security Council (SC) for domestic reasons. If this was to be expected, he said, another way should be chosen to gain recognition as a state. Instead, a new General Assembly or SC resolution could reaffirm the “two states for two people” solution. Baskin also called for the engagement of the Israeli public making clear that going to the UN is “no threat to Israel”. Rather, it would be an opportunity to have Israel’s borders and Jerusalem as the capital of both Israel and Palestine recognized and thereby secure Israel as the state for the Jewish people. He called the possible Palestinian bid for UN-membership the “ultimate act of multilateralism”.

Dr. Hiba Husseini laid out three different ways forward for the Palestinians: first, the recognition as a non-member state; second, the recognition as a state; and third, membership in the UN. At the same time, she stressed that the last possibility would not mean the pre-emption of a negotiated settlement, but rather “putting one step before the other”. She also made clear that going to the UN is not a unilateral step, but one alternative amongst others to reactivate the peace process. Moreover, she underlined the need for the Palestinians to “go proactive” in order to break the stalemate in the peace talks. Lastly, she pointed out the difference between recognition as a state and membership in the UN.

Dr. Alon Liel explained that the gap between the positions of both parties, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, has widened. The Israeli opening positions claiming an undivided Jerusalem and a military presence along the Jordan, as well as the refusal to negotiate with Hamas, he said, make a negotiated settlement impossible. It was therefore necessary for the Palestinians to “outsource the conflict” by bringing them before the UN. He also made clear that a UN-decision without a mention of the 1967 borders would be meaningless. He finally stressed the international community’s responsibility toward the conflict.

Ziad Abu Zayyad opened the second panel discussion. He pointed out that there are not only one but several Palestinian positions, judging this a sign of Palestinian despair. He also made it clear that if no solution to the conflict is found shortly, everything would be “hitting toward a one-state solution”.

Walid Salem highlighted the benefits of Palestinian statehood: this would upgrade the Palestinian Territories’ position in negotiations.

Subsequently to the two panel discussions, the floor was opened for discussion to the numerous participants – a possibility warmly accepted. Gershon Baskin explained that there is not a one-state-solution, but merely a one-state-option, since this would mean an internalization of the conflict, making it a conflict about identity.