On Monday, September 19, the Jewish Congregation of Marco Island hosted a luncheon and lecture by the Israeli Consul General for Florida and Puerto Rico, the Honorable Chaim Shacham. Mr. Shacham, American born, has served Israel in several capacities, as an army commander, Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israel’s representative to the Plenary of the United Nations General Assembly for nine sessions and participated in the Israeli Delegation to the Madrid Peace Conference. He drafted the speech given by the late Prime Minister Rabin at the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles in 1993.
Consul Shacham described the proposed request of the Palestinian Authority which runs the West Bank. Gaza is being run by Hamas. On Friday, September 23, President Abbas will submit an application to the United Nations for full membership for the state of Palestine within the 1967 borders. The application goes to the Secretary General of the United Nations who reports to the Security Council. Five members of the Security Council have veto power: the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain and France. If there is one veto the application will not pass. If there are less than nine members voting in favor it will not pass.
In practical terms, a state is not declared a state in this manner. A state is recognized when it has demonstrated the necessary criteria for governing itself, for protecting its people, for having established borders, and for interacting with other nations as an independent country. If this proposal were to be approved it would disrupt the international rules of law concerning the establishment of independent states.
The more responsible members of the world community understand that the proposal can’t pass. Backdoor diplomacy is taking place, as we speak, to urge the Palestinian authority to withdraw the request because if it fails by veto power, which the United States has indicated it will do, violence may occur in the Middle East. The world does not want the Palestinians to take this “very risky, high stakes” step as a means of bargaining because it does not advance the peace process and raises the specter of renewed violence.
Consul Shacham pointed out that if and when violence starts, it is always Israel’s fault. “It is the David vs.Goliath image and the narrative of the conventional media.” It does not matter who starts the violence, it seems certain that Israel will be blamed. Consul Shacham proposes that the Palestinian authority does not want to negotiate with Israel. It would be less costly for them to force statehood out of the United Nations. The issue should be about resuming the peace process, sitting down and negotiating an equitable agreement with one another, a homeland for Palestinians and a lasting peace for Israel.
A question and answer period followed the Consul’s talk covering a number of urgent subjects concerning the Middle East. Please view our website for a longer version of Consul Shacham’s commentary.
Following Consul General’s talk about the Palestinian proposal to the United Nations this week, the Consul took questions from the audience about issues related to the Middle East. He noted that the tension in the Middle East at this time could have prompted the Palestinians to “put a match to the keg” by their unilateral approach to achieving statehood through the approval of the United Nations rather than resuming negotiations with Israel.
“What is important to us, is important to us,” seems to be their philosophy.
The first question reminded the audience that Hamas has promised to “push Israel into the sea.” Through all the talk about the Paletinian proposal no mention has been made about this chilling threat. Mr. Shacham responded that, of course, this threat puts doubt into the minds of Israelis about the validity of any promise to Israel by Palestinians from any source. Hamas has never agreed to any ground rules for resumption of talks by the Palestinian Authority. If they cooperate with one another in future will there be any assurance that Hamas will give up its threat to Israel? It causes deep concern and reservations among Israelis and their supporters around the world.
“Isn’t the rest of the world just as concerned about the possibility of an explosion in the Middle East as we are?” The Consul suggested some of the world leaders are smiling because they can say, “someone else is to blame for this event.” If the United States exercises its veto, the rest of the world states can do nothing and remain unscathed.
The Consul described the determination for Israel’s statehood as a narrative beginning with Scripture. Israel is located in a land which is historically valid and in the 1920’s, the Balfour Declaration calling for the establishment of a Jewish homeland was accepted by the League of Nations. A Jewish community began to establish the framework of governance and in 1947 a Partition Resolution by the United Nations established the borders for a Jewish state.
A unilateral declaration, which the Palestinian Authority is pursuing, is usually followed by a war of revolution as in the case of the American colonies against England. The Authority is requesting statehood recognition from the United Nations when they were free to accept the Partition Resolution in 1947 according to Consul Shacham.
In response to a concern about Israel’s safety, Mr. Shacham reported that Israel has revolutionary weapons systems which can shoot down missiles and rockets aimed at the country. One is called the Iron Dome system and the second is Windbreaker. “Both render ineffective simple but dangerous tactical weapons that are aimed at Israel.” Israel may not have to enter neighboring countries, its radar should locate and hone in on incoming weapons and the new systems will shoot them down before they reach populated communities.
Consul General Shacham spoke about a new image for Israel, that of a country of innovation and invention in the fields of medicine, energy, high tech microprocessing , modern stents, medical camera devices, water management, training teams in developing African countries. Another part of the “rebranding” of Israel is the experience of visiting the country by people of all religions who discover its diverse culture and spiritual history. Rabbi Maline thanked Mr. Shacham for a thorough look at the issues in the Middle East and the events at the United Nations in particular.