Saturday, September 24

Unilateral Declaration of a Palestinian State

United Nations General Assembly hall in New Yo...Image via Wikipedia
The frustration of the Palestinians was enacted at the UN General Assembly on 23rd Sept 2011.  Most countries of the world support the bid to declare a Palestinian state. The Israeli Government and the US are against it. The US has no power of veto in the General Assembly.

It will not be surprising if the unilateral declaration reaches the UN Security Council where the resolution will reach a dead end because of the US veto. This will dampen things for the Palestinians. At the same time it will isolate Israel even further and will harm US credibility in the Palestinian world. It remains to be seen whether Israel's strong public relations exercise at explaining their perspective will persuade some countries to support its stand, is questionable.

However the ramifications are important for the Palestinians for a number of reasons:
  1. It is a great morale booster for them psychologically.
  2. It can isolate Israel even further from the world of nations.
  3. The world status of the US is weakening, because of its economic woes and its costly involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  4. Israel sent PM Netanyahu to plea its case against the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. This may be viewed as a futile automatic reaction because of panic.
  5. Netanyahu delivered his speech to the UN General Assembly bearing the illegal settler stench on his back which means no end to building of settlements in the West Bank and the continuation of the occupation.

Continuation of the occupation is incompatible with a two-state solution and it behooves Netanyahu to explain his support of a two-state solution without giving up the settlements in occupied Palestinian lands. Logically this seems impossible.

Israel cannot be blamed for the changes in the Middle East because of various Arab uprisings. We can blame Israel for the lack of vision and apathy to ride the storm as if nothing has happened.
Both countries - Israel and Palestine have shown intransigence towards getting the peace process back on track. Israel has its right wing government and the Palestinian Authority signed a pact with Hamas in Gaza. The situation is very complex and the extremists in both cases are preventing negotiations for peace.

Perhaps the declaration of a Palestinian state will clear the air. Hamas will have to moderate its stance towards Israel. It is unlikely that this will occur because the General Assembly vote will be overwhelming in its support of a Palestinian state. This will serve the purpose of delegitimizing Israel even further. Much of the blame for this (not all) can be blamed on the Netanyahu Government with its settlement policy.

The visionless, unimaginative Netanyahu Government has done nothing to prevent Israel's deteriorating world image nor has it ever given a hint of the “painful concessions” that it is prepared to make for the sake of a true and lasting peace. Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's Foreign Minister has been making “Rambo-like” utterances against the Palestinians and the Arab World in the past. He is even on record as saying that Israel should blow up the Aswan Dam some years ago.

Lieberman's side-kick, Danny Ayalon,the Deputy Foreign Minister, behaved like a spoilt child with Turkey's ambassador at the beginning of last year. After that, the Mavi Marmara flotilla imbroglio and the false pride of not apologizing to clear the air have also received accolades from Israel's right wing.

It seems that the Israeli Government does not want to give up any settlements in the occupied Palestinian lands or make any movement towards peace. The illegal settlers are more important in the occupied Palestinian lands than peace.

23rd Sept 2011 arrived and ended. We must also bear in mind the incredible pro-Israel speech of Pres. Barrack Obama of the US in the UN General Assembly a on 21st Sept 2011. Such a “Zionist” speech could be a record of support of Israel's stand. Perhaps we could view it as a prologue for Netanyahu's speech. Whether Obama made this speech in order to regain Jewish voter support and US citizen support, which has been sagging, is a possibility. Both PM Netanyahu and Pres. Mahmoud Abbas gave their much anticipated speeches at the UN General Assembly. Both stuck to their original mantras and said nothing new.

Both leaders appealed to their respective audiences and said what their audiences wanted to hear. There were no refreshing new ideas or signs of any vision for a new deal or a move towards negotiations for peace.

Abbas gave a speech that evoked great applause from those supporting the Palestinian side. The applause for Netanyahu's speech was from the Israel side and from the US. The applause for Netanyahu was conspicuous by its absence. Many members even walked out.

Netanyahu even made a show appeal to Abbas to start negotiations for peace without pre conditions. He knew that this would not happen.

Netanyahu's emphasis on the "truth" that he came to reiterate was a cover for right wing Greater Israel and his settlement policies rather than any true desire for a true peace. We are all aware that the problems of the schism between the Israeli and Palestinian narratives of Israel's establishment since 1948 remains as wide as ever and is allowed to cloud any form of rapprochement between the two peoples.
The Netanyahu Government maintains that the settlement issue is not the reason for the deadlock in negotiations but Israel's establishment as a Jewish state in 1948. There were no Israeli settlements in the West Bank prior to June 1967 nor was there ever any peace between Israel and the Palestinians either. This, in Netanyahu's view, proves his point that Israel's right to exist was always denied by the surrounding Arab states.

In my honest opinion (for what it is worth), Netanyahu has made a valid point and the events that have occurred does prove this. The various terror attacks in the 1990s after PM Rabin's assassination and suicide attacks on Israel's civilian population also added to the belief in the impossibility of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

On the other hand, despite all the various nuances in Abbas's speech, there were no utterances of denial of Israel's right to exist or any desire to destroy Israel. If anything, there was a desire to renew negotiations for peace and recognition of a Palestinian state alongside Israel in peace. Does this mean support for Israel's deligitimization? This was not apparent in Abbas's speech at all. So we must put both speeches in the correct perspective despite the wide gaps in direction because of lack of trust and goodwill on both sides.

There is no doubt that the occupation does not add much to Israel's credibility in its desire for peace due to illegal settlement activity. As I have mentioned many times in previous posts, illegal settlement activity with its destruction of Palestinian agricultural land for illegal building activity was a great error and no matter what Netanyahu says will ever justify usurping Palestinian lands.
Israel's security needs are important, understandable and justifiable. Israelis do not wish a Hamas and Hezbollah takeover of the West Bank, which could be disastrous for Israel. We experienced Hamas rockets being fired into Israel from Gaza since 2005 with great destruction to property and lives. If Israel returns the West Bank to Palestine rule and withdraws all the illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian lands, will there be peace and no threats from Hamas and Hezbollah? If missiles fall on Israel will be repeated as in the Gaza withdrawal, if a Palestinian state is established any reasonable person can understand Israel's fears.

Despite this, a Palestinian state alongside Israel should be the aim of peace negotiations without compromising the security of both sides and ensuring that the relationship between the two states be based on respect, coexistence, justice, human rights and democracy. Once there is trust between the two sides and a true desire to solve the complicated issues existing between the two sides, a Palestinian state could be a model for emulation. We need two Mandela-like leaders of vision that could achieve this. It is unfortunate that both Israel and Palestine do not have a Mandela.

What is clear from all the hype over Palestine's unilateral declaration of an independent state is that it is a non-starter without serious negotiations for peace with Israel to end the conflict. The continuation of the old mantras on both sides will not achieve this.
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