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Israel's Ambassador to Canada,Miriam Ziv
photo by Keith Levitt


by Rhonda Spivak, June 16, 2011

In  the  Berney Theatre, after her address to Jewish community leadership here on May 30, 2011 , Miriam Ziv, Israel's Ambassador to Canada was asked by Nora Kaufman the most important question of the day---what about the Palestinian plan to have  the  UN vote in favour of a resolutio to declare a Paelstinian state on the 1967 lines this September ?

Ziv answered  the answer that the Israeli Foreign Ministry has been giving--that it is  "likely" or "probable" that US President Barack Obama will excercise his veto at the United Nations and that willl be that.

Unfortunately, that is not a complete answer and I think it is important for my readership to know the full answer, which I am now going to provide.

Let us assume that  US President Obam will use his veto at the UN Security Council.( This is an assumption which may be true but also may be incorrect if Obama decides to abstain rather than use the veto).

What Ziv  did not tell the audience was that even if President Obama uses his veto, PLO official Saeb Erekat  (and other Palestinian leadersd)have said Palestinians would activate UN resolution 377 if faced with a US veto in September. Ziv never mentioned  resolution 377.

The "Uniting for Peace" resolution 377 states that if the Security Council fails to act to maintain world peace and security, the General Assembly should consider the matter in an emergency session. The session can be called at the request of seven members of the Security Council or by a majority of UN member states. Palestinians would need the support of 129 countries to implement Resolution 377 and secure a General Assembly vote on UN membership.

This U.N. Resolution 377, which  was first  passed in 1950, as an initiative by the United States to thwart the Soviet veto in the matter of Korea, would presumably be invoked by a majority of UN member states that will support the creation of a Palestinian state.

Gabriella Shalev, Israel’s former Ambassador to the UN, ( who is a law professor) laid out in March 2011 how the Palestinians will try to invoke this Uniting for Peace Resolution 377 that would potentially enable the world to impose economic sanctions on Israel,  and even provide military assistance to the Palestinians to force Israel out of the West Bank. [There are two articles that are must-reads for those not familiar with resolution 377,]

Prof. Shalev  has suggested that the cabinet in Jerusalem should take very seriously the possibility that Resolution 377 will be invoked. She  has noted it was used in 1956 during the Sinai Campaign and led to the ceasefire. This happened after France and Britain imposed a veto in the Security Council on a resolution condemning the attack on Egypt.(As an aside, Prof Shalev was appointed as Israel's Ambassodor to the  UN by Kadima.) 

The Foreign Ministry of Israel, however, is skeptical the possibility of activating Resolution 377 in this context---and for that reason, Miriam Ziv has no doubt  been instructed not to refer to Resolution 377 when she discusses this issue.

In an article in Ha'aretz, Prof. Eyal Benvenisti, a expert on international law at Tel Aviv University, indicated he doubted the General Assembly’s’ ability to use Resolution 377 to override the instructions in the UN Charter conditioning acceptance of a country to the organization on approval by the Security Council. However, added Benvenisti immediately, the Generally Assembly can call upon the member states to recognize the state of Palestine, call for sending a multi-national force and call for imposing sanctions on Israel.(emphasis added)

It is because of this Resolution 377,  (in addition ot the fact that President Obama does not really want to use his veto) that there are many in Israel who believe that  Prime Minister Netanyahu ought to ditch his right-wing coalition and form a national unity government with Tzipi Livni's Kadima. Few think that  there is a real chance for a peace agreement with the Palestinian leadership (as they  are not ready to  give up the right of return and make the compromises necessary for an agreement). However, the possible advantage of such a unity government is that when peace talks fail, the US and the world will not  blame Netanayahu-Livni  but the Palestinians ( just like Clinton blamed Arafat, not Barak, after the failure of the peace talks in 2000.) 

 Ari Shavit,  in an article in Ha'aretz laid out this posiiton most eloquently in an article "There Will Be No Peace With The Palestinians" :

"There will be no peace with the Paelstinians. Not this year, not this decade, perhaps not this generation. Even if Ehud Olmert becomes prime minister again, there will be no peace with the Palestinians. Even if Tzipi Livni resumes the negotiations with Ahmed Qureia, there will be no peace with the Palestinians. Even if Yossi Beilin goes to Geneva and shuts himself up with Mahmoud Abbas on the lakeshore, there will be no peace with the Palestinians.

"In the coming years the Palestinians will not compromise on the right of return. They will not recognize the Jewish national state. They will not turn their back on Hamas. Even before the Arab Spring there was not much chance for a long-lasting peace with the Palestinians. But because of the Arab Spring even that flimsy chance has been lost.

"The democratization in the Arab world is wonderful, but it has killed the peace. In the coming years no moderate Palestinian leader will have the required legitimacy to make the historic '48 deal with Israel in exchange for '67. In the coming years no moderate Palestinian leader who will be able to face the refugees and persuade them to give up their homes and villages. No Palestinian Anwar Sadat will rise in the foreseeable future and there will be no Israeli-Palestinian peace [emphasis added].

"So the really important question is different - will there be peace with the world?

"Ehud Barak has many defects. But by going to Camp David in 2000 Barak made certain the world would stand beside Israel in the second intifada. Ehud Olmert also has some defects. But by going to Annapolis in 2008 Olmert made certain the world would stand beside Israel in Operation Cast Lead.

"Both Barak and Olmert proved to the world in acts that the conflict is not about the settlements but about survival. Both Barak and Olmert proved to the world Israel is not an occupying power but a democratic Jewish state that wants to end the occupation.

"Both these unpopular men served Israel not by acting to achieve peace with the Palestinians, but by achieving peace with the world. Thanks to them, when Israel had to exercise force it had the right and the ability to do so. Thus Israel defeated Yasser Arafat and deterred Hamas. Thus Israel gained years of quiet, prosperity and growing strength.[emphasis added]"

Shavit goes on to argue that  in all likelihood there will be violence in the future--a third intifada or worse, (an assessment with which I unfortunately agree ) and  in order for Israeli society to be united and stand by the measures that will need to be taken  it will be important for the  Israeli "center" to know that Israel did really try to put forth a reasonable peace plan (like Barak and Olmert), and the Palestinians rejected it. 

In this regard, I am struck by the fact that David Horowitz,  the editor fo the Jerusalem Post who just stepped down this week, in one of his last editorials said that for the good of  the State of Israel, Netanyahu and Livni ought to have put aside their differences and formed a national unity government.  That , of course, is not something  Miriam Ziv would have been able to say, but readers should know that it is being said.

Whether Shavit or Horowitz are correc is difficult to know. But that is what those in the"centrer" of the political spectrum in Israel are saying. 

Although there is much  I do not know,  I believe I would be doing  a disservice to my  readership if I did not point out  the issues around UN Resolution 377, when it comes to discussing Palestinian strategy at the UN this September.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.