There is a bit of perverse poetry in the fact that the Annapolis conference is taking place the same week as the 60th anniversary of the UN General Assembly's resolution recommending that the British Mandate of Palestine be partitioned between a Jewish and Arab state.
What the confluence of events serves to show is just how little has changed in the past 60 years.
Both the 1947 UN resolution and the Annapolis conference are dedicated to the task of forcing the Jewish people to compromise their rights in a bid to appease Israel's neighbors who still 60 years on maintain their refusal to accept the right of the Jewish people to sovereignty over their land. And both are presented as diplomatic achievements by the Israeli government.
The Olmert government, backed by the leftist Israeli media, has presented the decision of Arab and Muslim states like Saudi Arabia, Syria, Pakistan and Indonesia which do not accept Israel's right to exist to participate in the Annapolis conference as a major breakthrough. But this is nonsense. The representatives of these states will use their American-provided platform to condemn Israel, just as they use every other available international platform to do so.
Similarly, the Olmert government, backed by Israel's leftist media celebrates the 1947 UN resolution as if it were the foundation of Israel's international legitimacy. Not only is this incorrect, over the years, the perception that Israel owes its legitimacy to that UN resolution has had corrosive effect on Israel's ability to conduct foreign policy in a manner that advances its national interest. This effect is clearly evident in the Olmert government's handling of foreign policy.
ON NOVEMBER 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly passed resolution 181. As a General Assembly resolution, 181 had no force of international law. The international legal basis for the Jewish state was the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine which charged the British government with administering the area earmarked as the future Jewish state.
Indeed, if anything, resolution 181 sought to legitimize illegal moves taken by Britain throughout the term of its mandate. As the League of Nations mandate made clear, Britain was supposed to preside over the territory of the Mandatory Palestine and to foster the establishment of a Jewish state which would eventually replace the British mandatory government. Yet almost from the get-go the British did just the opposite. They established the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan on the majority of the land slated for the Jewish state. Moreover, they took all possible steps to prevent the Jews from establishing a state on the remainder of the land. They blocked Jewish immigration and limited the right of Jews to purchase and settle the land to a tiny portion of the territory – which they believed would be too small to sustain a sovereign state.
It was due to the British failure to destroy Zionism and block the Jewish people from establishing their state that the UN partition plan was brought into being. That is, far from establishing a Jewish state, 181 simply accepted an already existing national entity. Despite the best efforts of Britain, the Jews had already established their state in 1947. It would have existed even if the resolution had not passed.
Unfortunately, rather than recognize the actual legal foundation of Israel and though it, its own rights to Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, Israel acts as though its legitimate boundaries were determined by the UN Security Council. Its misplaced gratitude to the UN has caused successive Israeli government's to ignore and downplay the UN's mistreatment of Israel.
For the past 40 years, far from living up to Israel's high opinion of it, the UN has been the primary engine behind the campaign to deny Israel's right to exist. The UN has relegated Israel to the status of second class citizen that suffers from systematic discrimination throughout the UN system. The UN's unfair treatment of Israel places the UN in violation of its own charter's assertion that all states must be treated equally. And indeed, it has corrupted the organization beyond repair.
BACK IN 1975, Israel's UN ambassador Chaim Herzog stood before the General Assembly and tore up the body's anti-Semitic resolution defining Zionism as a form of racism. But over the past 15 years, Israel's ability to stand up to UN discrimination has eroded. This erosion of Israel's ability to recognize the UN's belligerence as such has been driven to new depths under the Olmert government. Far from giving the UN a wide berth, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni have embraced the hostile body and empowered it to determine international policy on the three largest threats to Israel's national security: Iran's nuclear weapons program; Hizbullah's power in Lebanon; and Palestinian terror and political warfare against the Jewish state.
Since the Iranian nuclear weapons program was first exposed in 2002, Israel has supported US efforts to handle the threat through the UN Security Council. In light of Chinese and Russian support for Iran, this policy never made sense. And yet, as Iran has moved ever closer to nuclear capabilities, for five years Israel has subordinated its efforts to thwart Iran's nuclear progress to a body that is institutionally incapable of doing anything to prevent Iran from getting the bomb.
During the war with Hizbullah in 2006, the UN Security Council led the charge in condemning Israel. Yet rather than sideline the hostile body, the Olmert government chose to empower it still further. The Security Council, which daily held special sessions to attack Israel and accuse it of war crimes was authorized to set the terms of the cease-fire. And Israel embraced its cease-fire resolution which enabled Hizbullah to rearm and assert control not only over south Lebanon but north of the Litani River.
Israel also enthusiastically pushed for the expansion of the UNIFIL force in south Lebanon under whose watch Hizbullah has been allowed to rearm and Israel has been barred from taking military action to neutralize the burgeoning threat to its territory.
FINALLY THERE are the Palestinians. The day that Israel celebrates the 60th anniversary of resolution 181, the UN will mourn it in an official day of solidarity with the Palestinian people. Indeed, the UN will mark the anniversary by passing a dozen resolutions condemning Israel – most authored by the same countries that sent representatives to Annapolis to condemn Israel.
As with Iran and Hizbullah, so with the Palestinians, the Olmert government has responded to the increased radicalization of Palestinian society by expanding UN authority over the conflict. This is nowhere more apparent than in the government's promotion of the UN Relief Works Agency.
After Hamas won the Palestinian elections in January 2006, Israel called for the international community to expand its financial support for UNRWA. UNRWA, which runs the Palestinian refugee camps has allowed those camps to be used as terror bases. The sole purpose of UNRWA is to perpetuate the plight of the so-called Palestinian refugees and their descendents by preventing them from being permanently resettled in the countries where they have lived for four generations. And yet, the Olmert government has become one of the agencies most fervent advocates.
The Olmert government denigrates its critics who point out that the Annapolis conference is harmful to Israel's national security interests as anti-peace. By the same token, it attacks Israel's supporters who criticize the UN for its anti-Israel policies. On November 18, experts on international law, US lawmakers and retired Israeli diplomats convened in New York at a conference entitled: "Hijacking Human Rights: The Demonization of Israel by the United Nations
" sponsored by Touro College, The Hudson Institute and the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists. The UN's sole defender at the conclave was Deputy UN Ambassador Daniel Carmon.
Carmon trivialized the effect of the UN's discriminatory treatment of Israel as a merely unpleasant and upheld the UN as useful on Iran, the Palestinians and Lebanon. He chided Israel's defenders for attacking the UN and generally did everything in his power to demoralize his audience.
As Esther Kandel, a Jewish activist who has been lobbying the US Congress to cut off funding for UNRWA due to its support for terrorism told the Jewish Week, "It doesn't help when we are working on educating members of Congress about the fraud and evil-doing in UNRWA to have a representative of Israel say that UNRWA is a good thing. I feel undercut and undermined by the government of Israel on this issue."
The problem that Israel's supporters face in contending with the Olmert government is the same as that experienced by Israelis who understand just how dangerous and self-defeating the government's foreign policy is. In both cases, the same blind officials who think they have accomplished something when Arab and Islamic states agree to sit at the same table as Israelis and condemn the Jewish state to their faces, and who view a legally insignificant failed UN resolution as a great diplomatic achievement, are calling the shots.
Until Israel gets leaders who run a foreign policy based on a recognition of reality and a celebration of the Jewish people's accomplishments in building and securing the state, Israel's supporters will continue to be confounded by the Israeli government, and the Israeli people will continue to be attacked and humiliated.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.