EAJC General Council Chairman Josef Zisels
EAJC General Council Chairman on the Support of Israel
12.08.2011, Communities of Eurasia
We in the Jewish community often use a whole group of catch phrases which have long since become stereotypes and have become divorced from their true meaning. One of these phrases is “all Jews are responsible for one another.”
Living in the Diaspora, many of us consider supporting the State of Israel to be their duty. This support usually manifests itself as gatherings for Independence Day, or in other events in honor of this or that festive occasion. But when our historical homeland, to which we are bound with countless ties, enters dark days, many of the Jews in our part of the Diaspora do not burden themselves with thinking about what they can do for Israel. I mean the leaders of the hundreds of Jewish communities and organizations in the CIS. These same questions concern the community leaders of the West, yet the West has at least a certain tradition and continuity in the support of Israel. We must ourselves devise our own method of interaction with this country, and find ways to support it in difficult historic moments. Today is precisely such a moment, for we stand on the threshold of an event that could have a dramatic effect on the fate of the Near East – I mean the possible vote at the UN General Assembly on a resolution of a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.
Unfortunately, due to circumstance, clear borders between Palestine and Israel were never determinded, neither in 1948 nor in 1967. So nobody really understands what exactly constitutes a return to the borders of 1967, and, nonetheless, the UN calls for a return to them.
The Oslo Accords, however one may look at them, deny any unilateral actions from the participants. Thus, the unilateral proclamation of a Palestinian state is a blatant violation of this agreement and throw the peace process back a great deal.
The position of the President of the Palestinian Autonomy Mahmud Abbas are reminiscent of the famous winged phrase “Après nous le déluge,” meaning “a flood may come after us [we don't care, what happens next].” His so-called “achievements” after a most dubious treaty with the HAMAS leadership may include the unilateral proclamation of a Palestinian state, which he is currently lobbying and w hich will not actually have any legal consequences for the Palestinian people. Abbas plans to withdraw from governing the state and rest easy on the laurels of a “peacemaker,” and all of the hardships of uncontrolled consequences of these populist actions will fall upon the shoulders of millions of common people.
Over the years, a stereotype has come into being that the political left is always the camp that wishes for peace more. Nonetheless, particular treaties are usually negotiated by the right-wing administrations of Israel. For example, this was the case with the Camp David Accords, during the negotiation of which the Harvard Negotiation Method, which is extremely valuable to sides that have been in conflict with each other for a long time, was put into practice for the first time. This approach implies that the peace formula needs to include something beneficial for both sides. What was important for Israel then? Safety and the absence of the Egyptian military at the Sinai Peninsula. What did Egypt want first and foremost? The return of the Sinai Peninsula. Both goals were achieved by demilitarizing the Peninsula. Both sides achieved the main priorities that they had before negotiations. If no such formula exists for a given task, any negotiations are doomed to failure.
What is important right now for the sides of the conflict? For Israel, the problem of safety is yet dominant. For the Palestinians, their economic state is critical, because right now the Palestinian autonomy exists almost exclusively through international and Israeli aid. A peace treaty with Israel would have given Palestine the possibility to develop its economy – Israeli technology and Arabic money would have stimulated the social and economic development of the new state.
Thus, any new formula of peace must necessarily meet two requirements – guarantees of Israel's safety and the stimulation of economic development for the Palestinian state. Right now, neither the UN nor the Quarter have been able to propose such a formula. And any populist act of the current Palestinian government aimed at a one-sided proclamation of a state is not only disrupting the fundamentals of the previous treaties, but gives rise to, as has been said multiple times already, very high expectations from the Palestinian people.
And we all know what the inevitable collapse of overly high expectations means: a new round of the confrontation and thus new victims. This is why the communities of the Diaspora have a certain responsibility for making it certain that the governments of the states we reside in would, first of all, have objective information on these events, and, second, would help convince the Palestinian authorities of a necessity to return to the process of direct peace treaties with Israel. One of the tools to convince the Palestinian leadership would be to vote against the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state by the UN.
We already have certain experience of influencing the government in a similar manner, one that has already begun to resemble the civilized forms of lobbying adopted in the Western world. For instance, several years ago, before the INTERPOL General Assembly in Marrakesh, there was a question on whether to extradite to Argentina several Iranian functionaries that the investigations believed to be privy to to the terroristic attack on the Jewish center in Buenos Aires. We were able to influence the Ukrainian leadership, and Ukraine voted in favor of this decision, unlike Russia. The second instance, which happened just recently, is the UN vote on the anti-Israeli Goldstone Report. Ukraine was one of the six countries that spoke out against the conclusions the report comes to. This was also preceded by significant work. And now, when Goldstone himself has admitted to the fallaciousness of the conclusions made by his own committee, anyone can easily see how wise Ukraine had been during the vote.
There are other examples of when VAAD Ukraine spoke on behalf of the Jewish community and called the attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the inadmissibility of the passive behavior of the Ukrainian diplomats during the provocative speeches of the Iranian President, when the representatives of most civilized countries demonstratively left the conference room in full solidarity.
The opinion of the Jewish community can and must influence the leadership of a country. We have full right to critique Israel in internal discussions, but if we want the Jewish state to be preserved, we must influence our leadership so that its decisions will not be directed against Israel. We have lived in the Soviet Union – a country that strove towards the destruction of Israel – long enough that we cannot even imagine a position aside from the unconditional defense of the Jewish state.
Despite the great migration of Jews from Ukraine during the last 20 years, the Jewish community of our country yet remains a significant demographic, economic, social, and political factor of Ukrainian life. The leadership of the country must know our consolidated opinion on many essential questions of our life together with Ukraine, and take it into account when making the respective decisions. We will only become a mature community when we work out the mechanisms of discussions and decision-making for questions most important to our community and country.