Palestinian Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI): A Teacher s Guide

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1 Palestinian Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI): A Teacher s Guide By Moshe Abelesz, The Lookstein Center

2 I. Background Information, In the Middle East there are two peoples struggling for control over a small stretch of land. The Jewish People call this land: Israel. The Palestinian People call this land: Palestine. (The name Palestine was given to the land by the Romans after the Great Jewish Revolt, in 163 CE. It was called Palestine until 1948.) Neither people wants to be controlled by the other. This has resulted in many wars. But even when no official wars were being waged, violence continued and continues to this day. Most people believe that the only way to resolve the issue is to partition/split the land, into a Jewish State and an Arab State, so that each people has its own sovereign country. This is called the Two State Solution, and was proposed on several occasions: A: 1937 The Peel Commission In 1937, the British, who controlled the area, set up the Peel Commission to look into resolving the issue. The Peel Commission supported a partition plan. The map to the right illustrates how they proposed splitting the land. The Jews accepted the proposal, even though they had many reservations. The Arab states rejected the proposal outright. As a result, the British decided that the plan was unworkable and discarded it.

3 B: The United Nations General Assembly Partition Plan 1947 The British decided that they would withdraw their troops and give up control of the area in They asked the United Nations to resolve the problem. The UN set up a committee comprised of representatives from a number of different countries. This committee also decided to partition the land and create a Jewish and Arab State, along the lines delineated in the map to the right. The Jews accepted the proposal, even though they had many reservations. The Arab states rejected the proposal outright. As a result, several events occurred: a) On the day the British left, the Jews declared independence in their section of the land according to the UN Partition Plan. They called their state: Israel. b) The surrounding Arab nations attacked and invaded Israel. Israel eventually won the war ( War of Independence"). c) The Arabs did not declare a state and so an Arab state never came into existence. d) Most of the area that the UN proposed to be the Arab State was occupied by both Egypt (in the south) and Jordan (to the east). After the war, Israel's border was often called "The Green Line (see image to right).

4 II. Select Timeline, Sinai Campaign The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is established. Its aim is to "liberate" Palestine, i.e. destroy the State of Israel and establish the State of Palestine in its place. The charter calls for the elimination of Zionism in Palestine Israel fights a defensive war against Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Israel wins, and gains control of the West Bank of the River Jordan and the Gaza Strip - areas that the United Nations had said in 1947 should be part of the Arab State UN Security Council Resolution 242 calls for Israel to withdraw from areas occupied in the conflict as part of a peace agreement, but allows for Israel to have secure and defensible borders. Israel builds settlements in strategic areas (some of which, in Gaza as well as Samaria, have been dismantled). Currently, hundreds of thousands of Israelis live in these communities Yom Kippur War Peace agreement with Egypt First Lebanon War First Intifada Israel and the PLO sign the Oslo Accords. The PLO recognizes Israel's right to exist and Israel accepts the PLO as the leader of the Palestinian people Peace Agreement with Jordan The Palestinian Authority (PA) is created. Israel withdraws forces from Arab cities and the PA takes control of them 2000 Talks between Israel and the PA to establish a Palestinian State break down The Second (Al Aqsa) Intifada Peace talks break down again Palestinians ask UN General Assembly to vote on establishing a Palestinian state in the pre-1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.

5 III. Discussion Questions and Select Highlights of Arguments on Both Sides Palestinian delegates are now planning a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) at the United Nations General Assembly (GA). Why are the Palestinians approaching the United Nations to attain statehood? The Palestinians say: 1. Israel continues to build settlements in the West Bank. These settlements are a barrier to peace. 2. Israel will not withdraw to the 1967 border. 3. Therefore, Israel is not serious about giving Palestinians independence. The Palestinians must do what they can to gain independence, from a legitimate international agency. 4. Israel needs to return to the pre-1967 borders including withdrawing from East Jerusalem. 5. Israel has to accept two million Palestinian refugees. Why is Israel against this unilateral declaration of statehood? The Israelis say: 1. The only way to establish a Palestinian State is through peace negotiations. 2. There must be no pre-conditions in negotiations: not about settlements nor about final borders. 3. This whole UN request is a propaganda move to pressure Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians, without the Palestinians having to have to make peace. 4. The Palestinians are considering a unilateral step because they are not serious about the peace negotiations. Additionally Israel says that while the Palestinians have accepted the Two State Solution, they have never really accepted Israel as a Jewish State. Instead, they see the second state as a non-ethnic entity. Why is this significant? The Israelis say: 1. The Arabs rejected the UN Partition Plan in 1947 because it called for the establishment of a Jewish State. Israel believes that the Palestinians must correct that mistake and say clearly that they accept that Israel is a Jewish State (i.e. that they will never work towards its transformation into another Arab state, either by demography or by violence). Therefore, Israel argues that in reality, the Palestinians have still never really accepted Israel's right to exist. 2. This means that the Palestinians must accept that Palestinian refugees cannot come to Israel. They can go to Palestine, but not Israel. By insisting that they go to Israel, the Palestinians are trying to dismantle the Jewish State, by flooding it with Palestinians (i.e. creating a Palestinian majority). 3. The Palestinians are using settlement building as an excuse to discontinue negotiations. Settlements continued to be built throughout the signing of the Oslo Accords until the present day, and they never stopped negotiations. Israel insists that it cannot go back to the pre-1967 border

6 for strategic reasons and therefore needs to continue to build settlements. History cannot be re-written and there will have to be border adjustments. Those adjustments should only be decided through negotiations. What is the significance about going to the United Nations General Assembly? The United Nations General Assembly resolution in 1947 set the stage for Israel's establishment in If the UN GA were to call for the establishment of a Palestinian State, within the pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, it will be a very important symbolic gesture. If Israel does not recognize this state, it will be defying the United Nations, and possibly even invalidating its own existence. How will this affect Israel? The majority of nations within the UN GA support the Palestinians, however, much will depend on how the democratic Western countries vote, as well as Russia and China. If they vote against the resolution, even if it passes, the resolution may not have that much significance. It will be seen as a statement from the West that the only way for the Palestinians to gain statehood is through negotiations.

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