Arab News (Editorial)
November 18, 2009 - 1:00am§ion=0&article=128571&d=18&m=11&y=2009

If both Israel and Hamas condemn the proposal of a UN declaration of independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, as they have, it suggests it must be the right idea. The Palestinian Authority has come up with it because nothing is happening to the peace process. It is their way of forcing it back onto the international agenda.

In fact, in an editorial in this column two months ago, Arab News made the very same suggestion and for the same reason. We said the only way out of the current impasse was a political bombshell such as recognition of Palestinian independence. We said it would concentrate Israeli minds wonderfully. It has done that. The Israeli government visibly almost choked at the suggestion. Trying (but failing pathetically) to take the moral high ground, it claimed such a move would unravel past peace agreements. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman fulminated that that it would breach the 1993 Oslo accords.

That is rich coming from a government that has done everything to stop past agreements being implemented. Only on Tuesday it announced another 900 homes would be built in a West Bank Jewish settlement. One of the key clauses in the Oslo accords was a freeze in settlement expansion. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is not inventing impediments to peace with his insistence on no more talks unless expansion is stopped; he is simply sticking to what was agreed. It is the Israelis who are riding roughshod over the agreements. But is Hamas any better? They are opposed to the independence plan for two reasons both of which show them with their heads in the sand and putting their own interests above those of the Palestinian people. Firstly, they do not want the Fatah government of President Mahmoud Abbas getting the kudos for independence. Secondly, and far worse, the West Bank and Gaza is not enough. For them, it has to be all or nothing. That was made clear two days ago when a Hamas spokesman, trying to justify the rejection, said that the Palestinian state should be from the Mediterranean to the River Jordan. Amazingly, Hamas still believes that it can be achieved through armed struggle.

That is not Arab policy. The Arab position is a two-state solution based on Israeli withdrawal from all occupied lands in return for Arab recognition. The Hamas dream of permanent armed struggle until Israel is no more is a nightmare. It condemns the Palestinians to permanent violence and degradation. Military solutions are not going to work. The solution has to be political.

Needless to say, the Hamas and Israeli responses come as no surprise and can be ignored. The EU reaction, however, is more awkward. Without European support there can be no UN move on independence. It has called a sovereignty move premature.

That is patronizing nonsense. What newly sovereign country was ever perfectly ready for independence? But they all adapted quick enough. There is no reason why an independent Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza should not be any less successful than, say, nearby Cyprus with all its political complications. The time for endlessly talking about Palestinian independence is fast drawing to an end. It is time for simple action. That has to be recognition of Palestine as an independent and sovereign state.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017