Videos & Speeches
Sep 22 2011
Madam President, this is a historically significant week for the United States and for all those who care about peace and stability in the Middle East. As we know, it is a region that is already roiled by protests and war and faces the prospect now of even more tension, more uncertainty, and potentially more violence.
We know this to be the case if the Palestinian Authority’s President Abbas goes forward with his plan to seek recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations in New York. We have known for some time that this was coming, and thankfully the U.S. Government has expressed opposition to this ill-conceived idea, and the Administration plans to direct a veto of the measure.
Our government has also worked to persuade other nations to join us in opposing the Palestinian statehood bid. But I am afraid that we have not done enough to convince the Palestinians there will be consequences for their actions.
By pursuing recognition of a state at the U.N., President Abbas is choosing confrontation rather than negotiations with Israel. In doing so, he is violating the Oslo peace agreements signed 18 years ago which state that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians must be solved through direct negotiations between the two parties. Direct negotiations are not just the best way to achieve peace, they are the only way to achieve lasting peace.
Direct negotiations are meant to bring the two sides to the finish line, where all the final status issues, including borders, can be resolved. By rejecting negotiations with Israel and appealing to the U.N., the Palestinians are trying to make the previously agreed-upon finish line the new start line. If President Abbas pursues statehood this week at the U.N., the Palestinians will find it more difficult to compromise in the future, given the terms of the state they are seeking recognition for.
Israel will also find it more difficult to enter into future talks when the starting point is already an unacceptable result. Years of American efforts to foster peace will be set back and threats to security will increase once the Palestinians discover that votes in favor of their statehood have not changed any of the circumstances of their daily lives.
The Palestinian statehood bid will do nothing to bring Palestinians or Israel peace, for peace cannot be made by votes in the Security Council or the General Assembly. All parties involved stand to lose if President Abbas pursues statehood at the United Nations.
It is important the truth be told. Israel is not what stands in the way of a Palestinian state; neither is the United States standing in the way of a Palestinian state, for both the United States and Israel have endorsed the creation of that future state. What prevents the state’s creation is the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state with historical rights going back thousands of years, to the land and to Jerusalem.
The Palestinians must recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and must return to the negotiating table. Rejecting these terms and instead going to the United Nations will result in widespread repercussions. The Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people rely heavily upon international donors and support. Chief among those benefactors are the American taxpayer. Last year, Americans sent about $550 million to the Palestinians.
In June, this Senate unanimously passed a resolution cosponsored by 90 Senators, including me. That resolution stated that the Senate intends to consider reductions and restrictions on aid to the Palestinian Authority, should it continue its efforts to circumvent direct negotiations by turning to the United Nations.
My request this evening of my colleagues is that we should abide by this resolution. There must be consequences. Lasting peace requires it.