With its decision last week recasting the provenance of Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs as Palestinian rather than Jewish, UNESCO once again demonstrated that the UN has largely become a convenient tool for those seeking acceptance of a fictive reality.
The fact that an agency of the United Nations would arbitrarily dismiss the site’s signature identification with Judaism and the Jewish people is a signal event in the history of that body, and we are confident the Trump administration, which has already soured on the organization, will duly take note.
But there is another crucial element in this episode that must also be noted. The UNESCO action followed years of lobbying by the Palestinian Authority to the effect that the Israeli military presence in Hebron, now largely populated by Palestinians, somehow puts the so-called Palestinian site “at risk,” requiring the protections that would be afforded by its formal designation as a Palestinian heritage site.
Palestinian efforts respecting the Cave of the Patriarchs are but one of several continuing attempts to use the United Nations to recognize Palestinian sovereignty over parts of land claimed by the Palestinians rather than pursue negotiations. And therein lies the rub.
Back in February, when Prime Minister Netanyahu was visiting the president in Washington, Mr. Trump indicated he would try to broker a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians but that it would have to negotiated by the parties themselves and that both sides would have to make compromises. The president then casually said to the prime minister that it would be helpful if Israel would “hold off on settlements for a little bit” and if the Palestinians would abandon “some of the hate they’ve been taught from a very young age.”
Yet while settlement activity has since then considerably diminished, the Palestinians have done nothing to address their rampant anti-Israel incitements, and continue to reward the families of those incarcerated or killed in connection with their terrorist activities.
But also to the point, the Palestinians are still trying to end-run negotiations by continuing to resort to the UN for recognition of their claims, as witness their efforts in regard to the Cave of the Patriarchs.
So once again we see a repeat of the old pattern of a total lack of reciprocity between Israel and the Palestinians.
Hopefully President Trump will not repeat the mistakes of previous presidents who bent over backward to avoid holding the Palestinians to even minimal standards of civilized behavior.