As the world celebrates the birth of its newest nation, South Sudan, separated from North Sudan, it's all too easy to draw parallels to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Many point to the U.N.'s success in Sudan, in having avoided (so far) renewed all-out attack from the North, and in monitoring a largely peaceful January referendum in the South overwhelmingly approving independence from the North. The U.N. also oversaw last week's declaration of independence by the South (and its immediate recognition by the North, as well as by the United States, Israel, and others). And rightfully so.
Many (including the editorial writers of Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper this past week) exclaim that, if only the U.N., based on the South Sudan example, would take ownership of Israel's conflict with the Palestinians and the Arab world, a solution there too would be within reach.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's magic touch should be applied, they say, for the world's benefit here too. But the two situations are vastly different.
|U.N.'s Ban Ki-moon
The South Sudanese had the courage to enter into a comprehensive peace agreement with their enemy in the North. In contrast, the Palestinians, when presented with their chance at Camp David in 2000 to sign a final peace deal, backtracked at the last moment and refused to sign.
Whether it was Yasser Arafat, his Arab funders, or others who nixed this chance for peace, we may never know. But the bottom line is that the deal would have given the Palestinians over 90 percent of territories they laid claim to, and they rejected it.
It reinforced the notion that the Palestinians were not really all that interested in their own state. Sure, that would be nice, but it was only a secondary goal.
The primary goal was to replace Israel, not co-exist with it. This was trumpeted in Palestinian Authority school textbooks that, even in the immediate aftermath of the Oslo Accords, never included Israel on any maps or elsewhere. (At the same time the Israelis were busy re-writing all their school textbooks to eliminate "offensive" Zionist references).
Even Arafat's headress (kafiyeh) was in the shape of all of the land between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea, an important symbolic statement of Palestinian intentions. The Southern Sudanese, however, never pretended that the North doesn't exist, or shouldn't.
The Southern Sudanese, despite everything they endured, consistently chose life over death. Not so the Palestinians.
Sudan's willingness to accept a South Sudan would likely be markedly different today if the South Sudanese had been continually rocketing Sudanese villages with missile barrages, as Palestinians in Gaza do to Israel, and might well do from the West Bank as well if Israel were to withdrew militarily from there.
The willingness of the South Sudanese, despite border skirmishes and other frictions and fracases with the North, to live peacefully alongside the North was never seriously doubted in the North, and this endured over South Sudan's extended autonomous period that began in 2005 with its signing of its comprehensive peace agreement with the North.
Moreover, the bias of the U.N. against Israel and Judaism is well-documented. One need recall only its galling 1975 passage of the infamous Zionism-is-racism resolution, and the pre-9/11 Durban anti-Semitic hatefest that the U.S. had to walk out on due to its vitriol.
The U.N.'s extreme and unapologetic bias makes it a forum that no friend of Israel should support as the forum of choice for settling issues relating to the conflict.
As far as similarities between the South Sudanese and Palestinians go, here's one we can actually use: U.N. Security Council approval of any Palestinian entity should be a pre-condition to the U.N. General Assembly taking up any vote on the issue, just as the Security Council is taking up the issue of South Sudan's U.N. membership prior to the corresponding vote in the U.N. General Assembly.
Presumably the U.S. administration would be wise enough to veto any resolution in the Security Council on Palestinian statehood, which would wind up doing nothing more than serving as a pretext for more terror against Israeli civilians.
That would serve only the Palestinian goal of replacing Israel, and would do nothing to foster peaceful co-existence.
Jeff Katz is an attorney who comments frequently on the Middle East and Africa.
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