Arab News (Editorial)
December 7, 2009 - 1:00am§ion=0&article=129202&d=7&m=12&y=2009

Both the Palestinian and Israeli public have taken great interest in the plan by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad proposing the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state within two years, and taking the case to the UN Security Council for recognition of the prospective state. The expected response, by Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been to warn against any unilateral steps by the Palestinians.

Many Palestinians view Fayyad’s goal as a formula for continued occupation and is in compliance with Israeli aims. Critics have mostly focused on details rather than substance. And few have come up with a better or more viable plan.

The idea of seeking UN Security Council recognition, with or without Israeli recognition, was proposed and adopted by an Arab League meeting. This is about going to the UN Security Council, and that is certainly not unilateral. Netanyahu’s hawkishness plus his determined settlement drive have made negotiations a harder option, thus diminishing hopes for the creation of an independent Palestinian state. And with armed struggle at a dead end, Palestinians need to start looking at other options. To break the impasse, Fayyad’s plan goes beyond the options of negotiations and armed resistance. His move is based on the Palestinians’ need to prove to themselves as well as outsiders that they can run a state of their own. To do that, they should start by building and developing the various institutions that a modern state requires and run them in a smooth manner and in keeping with the requisites of civil society, democracy, and political pluralism.

The fact that Hamas and Fatah remain divided does not mean that Palestine does not have a government; it is merely that the authority of the government is in dispute. The dispute is between Palestinian leaders who have been elected and the unelected leaders of the Palestinian people. The Palestinians will have to resolve this dispute to develop their full potential. They must define their government in a manner that all Palestinians living in Palestine answer to the same unified government. But the Fatah-Hamas dispute will not necessarily stop them from being recognized as a state. Israeli warnings that any declaration of an independent Palestinian state through any other means than negotiations with Israel would be considered a unilateral move and would prompt the Israeli government to retaliate by annexing West Bank territories on which Israeli settlements are built should be taken seriously. The Israelis are genuinely concerned that Palestine will join the international community of states as an equal member entitled to the same respect for its sovereign territorial and political integrity as every other state. Today, Palestine is considered a state by most of the international community but the consequences of recognition by the United Nations could add significantly to Palestine’s rights.

Seeking UN support for the declaration of a state is but an outcome of the obstacles that Israel has been putting in the way of the resumption of negotiations. Perhaps the Palestinians should thank Israel for opening a path they had not previously pursued.


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