Issue 131: It is Time for One Middle East Policy

It’s Time for One Middle East Policy

Alfred H. Moses

There is again a glimmer of hope for a political settlement in the Middle East that will allow two fully democratic states, Israel and Palestine, to live in peace and security.  Unlike Yasser Arafat, his predecessor, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) may yet move to corral the twelve or so independent militias operating in Gaza and the West Bank that direct terrorist attacks against Israel.  His Security Minister, Mohammed Dahlan, and Nasser Yousef, the Authority’s Minister of the Interior, have said the right things, and Abu Mazen’s government has brokered cease-fire agreements with Hamas and the al-Aksa Brigade.  Islamic Jihad is also said to be on board, but the recent suicide bombing at a nightclub in Tel Aviv for which Islamic Jihad claimed credit casts doubt.  Despite this setback, there has been sufficient progress on the anti-terror front to persuade Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government to release 500 Palestinian prisoners and to announce the withdrawal of Israeli security forces from Jericho and Tulkaram on the West Bank.

At the historic meeting between Sharon and Abu Mazen last month at Sharm el Sheikh where the two of them were flanked by Jordan’s King Abdullah and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to follow the Road Map leading to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The performance-based Road Map with clear phases, timelines, dates and benchmarks was formulated under the auspices of the Quartet composed of the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia.  For its part, the Quartet committed itself to support and facilitate implementation of the Road Map.  At the end of the day if the parties adhere to the Road Map, the critical issues of borders, Jerusalem, refugees and settlements will be finally and permanently resolved.  The Road Map also calls for a comprehensive settlement between Israel and Lebanon and Israel and Syria.  There is agreement that the Road Map is the way; there is no other.  And yet, three of the four members of the Quartet, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, continue to act as if the Road Map hardly exists.

At the upcoming United Nations Human Rights Commission convening this month in Geneva the world will again witness the abandonment of the Road Map by three members of the Quartet.  The same shameful conduct occurred in the last General Assembly session in New York where 19 resolutions singling out Israel for censure were adopted.  No less than five resolutions are likely to be adopted at the current Human Rights Commission session supporting the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, upholding the inalienable rights of the Palestinians, calling for an end to Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights and demanding the dismantling of Israeli settlements on the West Bank and in Gaza.

The decision of the Israeli government to withdraw unilaterally from Gaza and the removal of Israeli settlers in Gaza will be ignored in the rush to condemn Israel.  So, too, will the fact that these issues are political in nature, having little, if anything, to do with human rights.  Ironically, Israel’s human rights record far outshines that of its Arab neighbors that regularly trample on the rights of minorities, women included, do not allow universal suffrage as does Israel for Jews and Arabs alike, do not have a free press or uphold an independent judiciary.

Sadly, like other specialized UN agencies that began with a clear mandate to do good works, the Human Rights Commission is no longer a credible protector of human rights.  Countries with the worst human rights records vie to get on the Commission to protect themselves from condemnation.  The Commission was recently chaired by Libya, one of the worlds most flagrant human rights violators.  Efforts to condemn outrageous human rights abuses with few exceptions regularly fail.  China’s oppressive measures against Falun Gong go unmentioned.  So, too, Russia’s actions in Chechnya.  The non-existence of human rights in Saudi Arabia is off limits for the Commission, as are human rights abuses in such countries as Malaysia, Zimbabwe, the Congo and Rwanda.  One would think that the egregious human rights abuses in Darfur where tens of thousands have been killed by Janjaweed militia and many times that number made homeless would merit condemnation by the Commission.  But, alas, the Commission has been silent.

Such hypocrisy is not going away any time soon.  What needs to change is the voting pattern in the UN of the signatories to the Road Map who, but for the United States, pursue two policies, one giving lip service to the Road Map, the other engaging in a voting pattern at the UN that ignores the Road Map.  The first step on the Road Map is for the Palestinians “to end armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis everywhere.”  In calling for the creation of an independent Palestinian state, the Road map gives practical meaning to the empty rhetoric of UN resolutions calling for Palestinian “self determination” and recognition of the “inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.”  So, too, the borders of the Palestinian state to be determined in Phases II and III of the Road Map will determine the fate of the settlements, which will remain and which will not remain.

The plain fact is that resolutions in the Human Rights Commission like those in the General Assembly have not advanced the peace process one iota. They only confuse things by encouraging extremist elements in the Palestinian camp to point to votes in the UN as evidence that the world is on their side, thereby buttressing their rejection of the Road Map and Israels right to exist.  Ironically, the Palestinian representative to the UN in Geneva has no such illusions.  He recently told me, “These resolutions are worthless words.”  He is right, but the dance goes on.

Only the European Union has the moral authority and the votes to put an end to this ridiculous situation by championing one balanced resolution to replace all other resolutions on the subject of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  This resolution should call upon the parties to commit themselves unconditionally to implement the Road Map with the aim of achieving an early comprehensive political settlement which will allow two fully democratic states, Palestine and Israel, to live in peace and security.  Anything else is a distraction from the real business of making peace.


The author was an American ambassador and a special presidential envoy in Europe, and is currently the Chairman of UN Watch.

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