Image taken from “Voices of the Vigil” by the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington.
Richard Schifter served in senior foreign policy positions from 1981 to 2001. These included his service, from 1985 to 1992 as Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights. One of the major issues that he addressed during that period were the violations of international human rights standards by the Soviet Union, including the denial of the right of citizens to emigrate. The negotiations with the Soviets resulted in the lifting of the ban on emigration in 1988, which was followed by the departure from the Soviet Union of hundreds of thousands of Jews. Richard Schifter served also as U.S. Representative in the UN Human Rights Commission, Deputy U.S. Representative in the UN Security Council, Special Assistant to the President and Counselor on the National Security Council, and Special Advisor to the Secretary of State. He has a deep understanding of the workings of the United Nations. He now chairs the Board of Directors of the American Jewish International Relations Institute (AJIRI).
Ambassador Richard Schifter sits down with The Zionist Narrative to discuss and relate an imminent issue that is of paramount importance to all who value freedom and Israel’s sovereignty in the modern world.
THE ZIONIST NARRATIVE: Could you please describe to TZN readers the issue at hand concerning the resolution that is expected to be submitted soon to the United Nations Security Council on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Why is this such a pressing matter at this time and what are the implications for Israel’s future if this resolution passes?
AMBASSADOR RICHARD SCHIFTER: We have in recent years witnessed U.S. efforts to bring Israel and the PA together to negotiate a two-state solution to the present conflict. Israel has made it clear that it is prepared to enter into a peace agreement for a two-state solution based on the principles spelled out in UN Security Council Res. 242 of 1967. That resolution calls for an agreement on “secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”
The Palestinian leadership, by contrast, does not agree to those principles. While its leadership uses ambiguous language when it speaks in English to the outside world, its goals are very clear when it addresses its own people in Arabic. It tells its people that while it is prepared to make a temporary two-state arrangement, that arrangement will be followed by the exercise of what the Palestinian leadership calls the “right of return,” the mass migration of 5 1/2 million so-called “Palestinian refugees.” Less than 1% of these millions of refugees are indeed refugees from the 1948/1949 War in which the Arab states tried to prevent the newly founded State of Israel to continue to exist. More than 99% are descendants of these refugees. The end result of the mass migration would be a one-state solution, a majority Arab state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
Statements made in recent months by the Palestinian leadership lay out plans to reach this goal through a UN Security Council resolution (which is legally enforceable) that would impose the Palestinian demands on Israel. These demands will include a requirement for Israel to allow the mass immigration of the millions of Palestinian so-called “refugees,” thus leading to the one-state solution and the end of the State of Israel under the terms of a UN Security Council resolution.
THE ZIONIST NARRATIVE: Last year in 2014, the Palestinian Authority submitted a similar resolution to this year’s to the UNSC. We understand that that resolution was not adopted, without a need for a veto. What is different now that requires there to be a VETO by the US?
AMBASSADOR RICHARD SCHIFTER: The Security Council has 15 members. They include 5 Permanent members (China, France, Russia, UK, and U.S.) and 10 members, elected by the UN General Assembly for two-year terms. For a resolution to be adopted, it must have attained 9 Yes votes and not a single No vote from a permanent member. Last year’s Palestinian State resolution failed because it did not get the required 9 Yes votes. It got only 8 Yes votes. The United States voted No, but as the resolution would have lost because of its failure to attain 9 affirmative votes, it is not regarded as a veto.
But at the end of 2014, the terms of Security Council members Rwanda and South Korea, which had abstained, came to an end and they were replaced by Angola and Malaysia, which are expected to vote Yes. Australia, which voted No in 2014 has been replaced by New Zealand, whose vote is uncertain. Only if the United States is prepared to veto the resolution might the other side not get the needed 9 votes.
THE ZIONIST NARRATIVE: Please describe the issues that make this issue in the coming days so much more vital to the general public to act than last year’s. What is different (and worse) now? For people to act, they must feel a sense of seriousness and urgency in the matter (which there most certainly is)!
AMBASSADOR RICHARD SCHIFTER: Last year, work was undertaken to keep the Yes votes below 9, so that a Veto would not be necessary. The fact that Rwanda and Nigeria abstained was a result of these efforts. This year the chances of 9 or more Yes votes are so high, that the focus must be on a Veto.
THE ZIONIST NARRATIVE: Since there are likely to be 9 votes for the Palestinian-supported resolution, for it to be defeated there must be a VETO by the US. What can the American public do in order to make a difference in this impending situation? Is the time to act now?
AMBASSADOR RICHARD SCHIFTER: Yes, the time to act is now. We can be certain that the vast majority of Americans would not want to see the liquidation of the State of Israel. But hardly anyone is aware of the looming threat at the UN. Information about that threat must get out to the interested public, so that they can express themselves on the issue of a need for a veto.
THE ZIONIST NARRATIVE: What specifically can we do about this? What can I do as an individual and what can we all do to help. There are many people who will just be finding out about this who want to make a difference now. Please tell us how to do so and what we can do outside of simply sharing this article and the news of what is happening.
AMBASSADOR SCHIFTER: It is important, to start with, to inform members of the Jewish community of the nature of the demands put forward by the Palestinian leadership. Next, it is also important for other groups of individuals supportive of Israel to be made fully aware of these demands and for all concerned to declare their support of a veto of a resolution that seeks to bypass negotiations and impose Palestinian demands on Israel through a Security Council resolution. It is important that it become clear that the general American public is fully aware of the problem and makes it clear that it strongly opposes UN action that would have the result of threatening the very existence of the State of Israel.
[Attached here is the Erekat Full Statement (Translated). The text of the resolution is not yet available. Attached is an English translation of a statement made in Arabic by the Palestinian principal negotiator, Saeb Erekat. It lays out the Palestinian demands quite clearly.]