Adam Gonn
December 2, 2010 - 1:00am

JERUSALEM, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has once again raised the possibility of unilaterally declaring a independent Palestinian state without signing a peace agreement with Israel.

After a meeting with German President Christian Wulff in Bethlehem on Tuesday, Abbas told reporters that if talks with Israel fail then the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) will look for other options to achieve independence.

Abbas expressed his frustration with the efforts by the United States to restart the direct peace negotiations with Israel and told the Palestinian Maan news agency that "we will go to other options within the framework of peace and international legitimacy, to arrive at the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. "

After the latest round of negotiations came to a halt in September with the end of Israel's 10-month freeze on Jewish settlements building in the West Bank, there has been frenetic diplomatic activity in public and behind the scenes as the U.S. administration coaxes the parties to resume talks.

However, these efforts haven't brought about the desired outcome, as Israel has yet to vote on the U.S. incentives it has been offered as these haven't been formalized in documents and the Palestinian demands for the new moratorium to include east Jerusalem have been rejected by Israel.

Analyst told Xinhua that when Abbas talks about unilateralism, he gets Israel's attention because it's seen as a warning, but it could also be seen as a sign of frustration with the lack of progress in the peace talks with Israel.


While reaching an agreement within the framework of negotiations conducted under U.S. supervision still remains the preferred option by Abbas, the renewed call for unilateralism can be seen as sign of frustration, said Joshua Teitelbaum, a principle research associate at the Inter-Disciplinary Centre in Herzliya north of Tel Aviv.

"It gets Israel's attention because it is a threat to act outside of negotiations," he said, adding that "Israel's position is that it wants these issues to be settled within the framework of negotiations."

However, the Palestinian unilateralism may very well lead to unilateral actions by Israel, such as annexing the three major settlement blocks in the West Bank, namely Ariel, Maale Adumim and Guch Etzion, according to Teitelbaum.

As what might be the reason for the renewed call by Abbas, Teitelbaum said that it should be seen as a sign of frustration with the lack of progress in the talks with Israel, as Abbas needs to show the Palestinian people that he is doing something.

Regarding what kind of support Abbas might be looking to get for any future unilaterally declared state, Teitelbaum said that " he (Abbas) must have been told in some foreign capital that there would support for this."


Mahdi Abdul Hady, chairman of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, believed that Abbas' declaration was a sign of frustration that "he has been waiting and waiting for the United States but nothing has happened."

Hady also said that Abbas needs to be seen as doing something. "He can't be seen as being idle while the construction of Israeli settlements continue."

The idea of unilateralism has been around since the 1980s. But according to Nabil Kukali, director of the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, the scheme doesn't have solid support in the Palestinian society.

"I did a study on this, only 35 percent of the people I asked supported it," he said, quoting a recent poll.

Asked why the support was so low, Kukali said that it was likely due to the fact that many Palestinians don't believe that such a move would be viable.

If Abbas would try to seek international recognition of a unilaterally declared state, the case will be taken to the UN. Most local analysts believe that this will be vetoed by the United States.


Yossi Mekelberg, associate fellow at the Middle East and North Africa Program at the British think-tank Chatham House, told Xinhua that the talks of unilateralism get Israel's attention because it's something beyond Israel's control.

Asked about the timing of the latest remarks by Abbas, Mekelberg said that "it is a threat to speed up negotiations," adding that calls for unilateral action is not something new in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and similar statements have been made since the 1980s.

He said that Abbas' comments should not be confused with the plan that Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad presented in 2009, which called for the preparation of a de facto establishment of the Palestinian state by setting up all the necessary institutions for statehood.

There are several complicated issues that need to be addressed with the call for unilateral action, Mekelberg said, noting "such as what kind of support you will get for this state itself and where will its capital be."

The Palestinians want east Jerusalem as their capital, but Israel would most likely not cede its control over the city if it was based on a unilateral declaration.

"What does it mean in terms of the refugees?" Mekelberg asked, referring to the Palestinians who fled or left their homes when Israel was established and now live in neighboring countries. " Because it's a unilateral agreement (the question is if) they would be allowed to return. And the answer is no."

Mekelberg also raised the possibility that any unilateral move by the Palestinian might trigger a unilateral response from Israel.


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