The Palestinians will submit a resolution within weeks to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) demanding that Israel be made to withdraw from what Ramallah considers to be its territory - despite explicit American calls for Ramallah to put off the gambit - according to an announcement made earlier this week by Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary General Yasser Abed Rabbo.
Secretary of State John Kerry had met with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas earlier this week and asked Abbas to put off the move, but was rebuffed. The Palestinians subsequently leaked that Abbas threatened Kerry that he would pursue further international action, including a campaign of legal warfare against Israel that would see Jerusalem dragged into the International Criminal Court (ICC), if the U.S. exercised its veto against the Palestinian resolution. The move to acquire statehood outside of negotiations with Israel violates core Palestinian commitments made under the Oslo Accords, which among other things
forbid either party from taking "any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations." The Israelis secured those assurances at the expense of functionally irreversible territorial concessions, and backsliding - which erodes the confidence Jerusalem requires to trade tangible land for intangible promises - has long been seen
as potentially devastating to future diplomacy. U.S. officials have been adamant that Palestinian unilateralism strikes at core American interests in the region, and a Heritage Foundation report co-authored by Brett D. Schaefer and James Phillips a few years ago identified such moves
as "threaten[ing] United States and Israeli interests" and "undermin[ing] all internationally accepted frameworks for peace." President Barack Obama has been explicit
in expressing his opposition to Ramallah's U.N. gambits. The Palestinians have nonetheless made several moves to upgrade their status at Turtle Bay in recent years, all outside the peace process and all in the face of American opposition. Washington has responded by threatening and in some cases implementing sanctions against both Ramallah and the institutions that they leveraged, per black-letter congressional legislation
that cuts off funds to UN bodies that give the Palestinians membership. In the fall of 2011 Ramallah sought and acquired UNESCO membership despite calls to put aside its application from the White House
and the State Department,
triggering immediate aid cut off
that crippled the body.
The next year the Palestinians secured an upgrade to non-member statehood, again over strong
American opposition, and again triggering an intense congressional backlash.
Last April Ramallah disrupted efforts to extend nine months of U.S.-backed peace talks by submitting membership applications
to a range of United Nations bodies as the "State of Palestine." Brushing aside harsh condemnations
from U.S. lawmakers, the Palestinians more or less accurately boasted that
administration figures in the United States would prevent any Congressional retaliation. The successful domestic pushback to congressional anger occurred within a political environment - strong approval for the administration's foreign policy, a Democratic-led Senate, and so on - that is likely to be different than those in 2015.
Approaching the Technoda Dorset complex in the Givat Olga neighborhood of Hadera, one is struck by how incongruous the clean pink-brick building looks among the tenements, ill-kept sidewalks and low-scale shops in the surrounding area. But the location of the Center for Education in Science and Technology is no accident. Technoda was established in 1986 as part of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Project Renewal – precisely for the purpose of providing Givat Olga’s children with the opportunities for enrichment that are taken for granted in more affluent communities. Every year tens of thousands of children and teenagers receive an extensive extracurricular education here in a wide range of science and technology fields. “The more disadvantaged among the children of Givat Olga are offered afterschool day boarding,” Director of Resource Development Liora Kalish tells ISRAEL21c as we tour the facility indoors and out. “They get a hot meal, help with their homework and access to all the activities of the center.” One department is devoted to studying and assessing the long-term effects of this program on the kids. According to Kalish, “Not only do their grades in school improve, but 58 percent of them end up continuing on to academic studies connected to science and technology.” In other words, she says, “It works.” But she acknowledges some failures, particularly a lack of improvement in the kids’ language skills – a realization that has led to enhanced efforts in that area. Walking through a large, colorful room set up like a city street with crosswalks and traffic signs, Kalish explains that this is for preschoolers learning about road safety. Every few weeks, the display is changed for teaching other subjects. “For the little ones, as for older kids and adults, everything here is hands-on,” she says. “To be touched and experimented with, not just seen.” The non-profit organization is funded mainly by local and foreign donors, with minimal subsidies from the Israeli Education Ministry. According to Technoda Director Gadi Mador, who heads a staff of 150 full-time and part-time employees, what is special about the center is its focus not only on cultivating future scientists, but on social equality and peace. Mador is not worried that Technoda’s success can, and often does, send youth from Givat Olga in search of greener pastures. “If we can be a kind of way station for cultivating kids who subsequently leave, it’s a good thing,” he says. “One mistake I learned from was not to help the poor families here – whether native Israelis or immigrants from the Caucasus and Ethiopia – through charity. Instead, we have to cause them to strive for bigger and better things. To empower them, not keep them weak.” Asked if this meant that Technoda is providing the proverbial fishing rod, as opposed to the fish, he smiles. “It’s much more than that. We are teaching them to build the fishing rod.” (via Israel21c)