Monday, November 26, 2012

29th of November: Take Two


The 29th of November is an auspicious date in the history of Israel. And it promised to be so again.

On the 29th of November 1947, the UN voted for "Resolution 181: A Plan of Partition with Economic Union." The resolution called for the end the British Mandate for Palestine and for partition of Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state  (with a UN controlled region around Jerusalem.) The resolution formed the legal basis for Israel's creation. Jews around the world rejoiced. Most of us have seen the iconic videos of the vote being announced over loudspeakers in Tel-Aviv, and people breaking out in song and dance when it became clear that it would pass.

The date was considered so significant that there are streets in a dozen Israeli cities named "Kaf Tet b"November" (Hebrew for 29th of November) Street. The map above shows Kaf Tet b'November Street in Jerusalem's Katamon neighbourhood. It runs from Gdud Ha'Ivri (the Hebrew Brigade) Street to Kovshei Katamon (Conquerors of Katamon) Street. (My mother's cousin, Rushka Olian z"l, used to live just around the corner, on Eli Cohen Street.)

Now, another event on the 29th of November, and also at the UN, may serve as the final nail in the coffin of a two state solution: exactly what the original partition plan envisioned. Or alternately, the UN that day, may breath some life into this almost dead idea. On that date - this coming Thursday - on the 65th anniversary of the United Nations original resolution to partition British Mandatory Palestine, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas plans to ask the U.N. General Assembly to recognize Palestine as a “nonmember state.”

If he succeeds, it may give the PA, Fatah, and their relatively conciliatory positions some credibility  with the Palestinian people, versus Hamas and its hard line. If he succeeds, Abbas may be able to jettison his condition that Israel freeze settlement growth and call to restart peace talks. It may give him enough clout to wring some concessions out of the Israelis (something he has not been able to do so far with all his cooperation and conciliatory gestures.) If he fails, thats it for the PA. Even if it does not fold  (and it very well may) it will have lost all credibility with the Palestinian people. They will likely draw the conclusion, that diplomacy and cooperation with Israeli authorities will never bring them much closer to independence, or even decent living conditions. They will have learnt what Hamas wants them to learn - that (to quote Mao) "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun" - or to use a more Israeli idiom, "The Jews only understand force."

For a more thorough analysis of this, as well as a prognosis of why we should be pessimistic about Abbas succeeding even if he wins the UN vote (hint:  both the U.S. and Israel are working very hard to make him fail) see this piece by Peter Beinart.

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