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No stopping the Palestinian tide

Posted on 26 September 2011 by admin

NewYork,Sep26(Lubna Asif):The Palestinians’ decision to take their quest for statehood to the United Nations is

wholly understandable. They have tried diplomacy, violence and negotiations to get the Israelis to vacate their land occupied in the 1967 war. But none of these have proved successful. Israel has repeatedly signaled disinterest in a negotiated settlement to the problem. Earlier, the Palestine Authority had broken off peace talks with Israel because of the fresh settlements on land that a future Palestine state hopes to claim as its own.

The Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, has exposed a mass of contradictions in the positions taken by Israel, the United States, and major European Union countries by submitted a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon  requesting full United Nations membership for Palestine.

The request will be based on the Palestinian borders as they obtained on June 4, 1967, that is, before the Six-Day War. There is a suggestion from the European Union that he should seek the recognition of the Palestinian Authority as an “entity” rather than “a full-blown state”. But Mr Abbas says that any dilution of the Palestinian demand will deprive the Palestinians of their right to enter into any kind of negotiations with Israel as an equal member of the international community. It will merely build on the large body of UN resolutions supporting the creation of a Palestinian state. However, the road to statehood via the UN has obstacles. The General Assembly route might be more successful but that will not give them full member status.

Israel wants renewal of talks without preconditions, and argues that UN resolutions will be pieces of paper that change nothing on the ground. Even if the Palestine Authority meets with a rebuff in the Security Council, it can go to the UN General Assembly with a resolution for observer status, which will need a two-thirds majority (or 128 votes); so far, 120 countries have recognised Palestine. Israel argues that the Oslo Accords of 1993 preclude immediate Palestinian statehood, in that the Accords provide for it to happen in stages. A year ago, President Obama was speaking out in favour of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine problem. But when push comes to shove, the US will stand by Israel.

If, therefore, it votes against its president’s declared position, it is certain that America’s standing and credibility will suffer across West Asia and North Africa — at a time when the country might have hoped to gain some traction in the wake of its support for the pro-democracy uprisings in North Africa during the Arab Spring. Israel too will feel the fallout of a negative outcome. Its general intransigence has already cost it two key allies in the region, Egypt and Turkey, and Jordan could be next. This is not the first time that Israel will be isolated in its immediate neighbourhood and it is unlikely to lead to any conciliatory diplomatic overtures from Jerusalem.

The Palestine problem has become more intractable over the years owing to demographic and political changes within Israel, where conservative forces have gained in numerical strength, and liberal voices have been pushed into a corner. Ironically, this is a period when the Palestine Authority – accused at one stage of large-scale corruption, of being incapable of providing proper governance, and of permitting violent protests from its soil against Israel – has made considerable progress. Palestine is now committed to peaceful ways of resolving the dispute with Israel, which it recognises, and it has substantially improved its governance standards, a fact acknowledged by international institutions. It would be a pity if a more responsible and better-governed Palestine did not get international support in its search for a just settlement with Israel.

Earlier, the Palestine Authority had broken off peace talks with Israel because of the fresh settlements on land that a future Palestine state hopes to claim as its own. Israel wants renewal of talks without preconditions, and argues that UN resolutions will be pieces of paper that change nothing on the ground. While not amounting to full membership, that would mean a significant enhancement of Palestine’s current “observer entity” status, which allows it only to maintain an observer mission at the world body. It would enable Palestine to bring actions in the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Court of Justice, and thereby call Israel to account for its conduct. Palestine would also be able to join a range of U.N. bodies, which it cannot do now.

Ultimately, their demand for a sovereign Palestinian state may get weakened. India is among the countries which will support the Palestinian cause in keeping with its policy pursued in the past, though it has no ill will against Israel. The backing of India and other countries, however, cannot lead to the UN General Assembly accepting the Palestinian demand unless the US sees reason and does not use its veto power. The US Senate has told Obama to thwart the Palestinian attempt to acquire a new status as this would affect the interests of Israel, the closest US ally in West Asia. The Senate has even threatened that the US will not release its share — $ 500 million annually — for funding the world body if the Palestinians succeed in getting what they want.

The US has been playing a major role in the emergence of the Arab Spring. It should not do anything that may make the Arab public suspect US moves in West Asia. The new Palestinian leadership is not as rigid as was the case in the past. Except for the Hamas, which controls the administration in the Gaza Strip, no Palestinian group refuses to accept the right of Israel to exist as a nation surrounded by Arabs. The opportunity must be seized by the US and the rest of the world community to help the emergence of Palestine as a sovereign state with the territories it had before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

India has done well to strongly endorse the Palestinian bid for statehood. Its growing proximity to Israel in recent years had worried the Palestinians.

 

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