John Baird, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, was right to forcefully argue against the resolution at the United Nations to grant the Palestinian Authority the status of a non-member observer state. Canada should not, however, close any of its lines of communications with the Palestinians, let alone penalize them by such measures as a closing of the Palestinian mission in Ottawa, which is reportedly among the ominous-sounding “available next steps” that Mr. Baird and his envoys to Israel, the PA and the UN are now considering.
Mr. Baird shares Canada’s long-held view that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is eminently desirable. But Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the PA, insists on preconditions for negotiations. Meanwhile, the current Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu is doing little to limit Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The upshot is a dangerous impasse.
Moreover, Hamas, which rules Gaza, has not resolved its six-year-old civil war with Fatah, which controls the PA. Half-hearted reconciliation attempts have failed.
All that leaves the Israeli and Palestinian peoples deeply entangled with each other. The PA does not have effective power over much of the territory in question. If and when there is an agreed solution, there will be agreed borders, but these are now missing. The UN resolution’s assertion of the borders of 1967 is disconnected from the present reality. “Non-member observer state” sounds innocuous, but a state that is not a state is a slippery, destabilizing element in the international order.
It is unreasonable, however, to retaliate against the Palestinians for pursuing their aspirations for statehood, which in themselves are legitimate. The PA’s current method of seeking a nation-state through an artificial construct in a resolution passed at Turtle Bay, Manhattan, N.Y., is flawed, but entirely understandable.
The presence of Palestinian missions in capital cities such as Ottawa should be encouraged. All contexts for mutual persuasion should be kept open; better that than the violent alternative, which is represented by Hamas. Aid should not be reduced as a punishment.
Mr. Baird, having dramatically summoned home Canada’s representatives from Tel Aviv, Ramallah and the UN, should come down from his high horse and return to the hard, slow work of fostering progress toward a two-state solution.
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