This September, the Palestinians plan to introduce a resolution to the U.N. General Assembly for a vote to recognize Palestinian statehood. This new state would encompass the west bank, the Gaza Strip, and parts of East Jerusalem.
We are all also acutely aware that it was five years ago, in June 2006, that the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, now 24 years of age, was captured and has been held hostage in Gaza by Palestinian militants. Hamas leadership has defied all efforts to free Shalit, ignoring protests not only of Jewish voices but also of several worldwide human rights organizations, including the papal nuncio to Israel.
The U.N. vote, by broad consensus, has a strong chance of passing in the General Assembly. Although the outcome of the vote has no legal weight, if passed, it will only embolden the Palestinians, strengthening their resolve to get their way without the so-called inconvenience of negotiating with Israel.
If the vote passes, it’s inevitable that the rest of the world will be subjected to rhetoric by the Arab factions about the moral imperative to now comply with the U.N. vote and on the Palestinians’ terms.
It is then imperative for the world Jewish community to take this opportunity to remind the Palestinians and their cohorts that it is they who they are the ones who have turned a deaf ear to the U.N. – when it comes to releasing Shalit.
A U.N. fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict issued a report in September 2009 calling for Shalit’s release for humanitarian reasons. But not only do the Palestinians refuse, but they have also denied Shalit visitation by the Red Cross, in violation of international law.
Therefore, this September, let us use this opportunity to shift the focus from the Arabist agenda of Palestinian statehood to the very real plight of Shalit, who sits in a cell in Gaza, separated from his community, contrary not only to the 2009 United Nations report, but to international law as well.
I hope that President Obama will see this as a golden opportunity to mend his relations with the Jewish community by reiterating his call not only for the safe return of Shalit but as a precondition to any talk of statehood for the Palestinians.