Taking sides

Taking sides

Jewish organizations are taking sides in the debate over punishing the Palestinian Authority for seeking enhanced status at the United Nations.

JTA reported last week the Union for Reform Judaism has urged President Obama not to retaliate against the Palestinians for taking this action. It also opposes closing the PLO office in Washington.

The URJ position became clearer when a Dec. 14 letter to President Obama, outlining its positions and signed by URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs and Central Conference of American Rabbis head Rabbi Steven Fox, was mistakenly released to JTA, the news service reported.

On the other side of the debate, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which favors a shutdown of the PLO office here as punishment for the P.A. seeking — and getting — nonmember observer state status in the U.N. General Assembly this past November.

Other Jewish entities have already staked out positions; these just happen to be the latest.

We tend to favor AIPAC’s position, though with qualifications.

To do nothing while the P.A. circumvents the peace process is tantamount to giving the move a stamp of legitimacy. It could embolden the P.A. to gain further recognition in other international forums, especially the International Criminal Court, where it could seek criminal charges against Israeli leaders, as has been tried in individual European nations. Not that they would be successful, but it would represent a further deterioration of Israel’s position abroad.

In fairness to the URJ, its leaders seem to recognize this danger. They have indicated a willingness to support penalties for the P.A. should it move against Israel at the ICC.

And the URJ has formally condemned the P.A. for taking its case to the U.N. in the first place.

Those are good positions, but we prefer the one stated by Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, when he met with reporters last month.

“We think that the Palestinians when they violate agreements, when they declare that Israel is a war criminal or when they describe Israel as a war criminal for defending itself against thousands of terrorist rockets without ever condemning those rockets, we think they should be held to task for that,” Oren was reported as saying. “We do not think they should be given a free pass.”

So you’ll recall, that P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas did use such sharp rhetoric when he addressed the General Assembly in November, shortly before the historic vote. He spoke like Israel’s enemy, not as a partner for peace.

But let’s not forget that enemies make peace treaties, not friends. While there should be some price for going to the U.N. we hope it will be, to use a popular phrase, a proportional response — something that shows Washington’s displeasure with the P.A., but nothing so extreme as to make the P.A. irrelevant or to push the Palestinian street further into the arms of extremists (such as Hamas). That serves no one’s purposes.