December 10, 2010 - 1:00am

Paralysis in U.S.-backed peace talks is prompting debate among Palestinians on alternatives to the two-decade old diplomatic process.
The chances of another Palestinian uprising, or Intifada, similar to that which erupted when peace talks with Israel hit a dead-end a decade ago, are seen as remote.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says there will be no return to violent methods. Suicide bomb attacks on Israel in the 2000-2005 Intifada damaged the Palestinian cause, and analysts see little desire for a repeat."There might be an operation here and there, but not more," said commentator Hany al-Masri.

So with peace talks frozen, the following are possible Palestinian alternatives as they pursue their goal of independence.


Abbas and his aides have suggested diplomatic moves aimed at securing more international recognition of Palestinian statehood. Brazil and Argentina have both recently recognised Palestine as a state.

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, says it is time for the United States to do the same. Washington opposes such moves as its approach is built around the principle that only Israeli-Palestinian talks can end the conflict.

Abbas has also mooted going to the U.N. Security Council to seek admission to the United Nations as a full member state.

Success at the Security Council would hinge on U.S. support. Some Palestinians are urging their leadership to push ahead with this step regardless of the U.S. position, if only to embarrass Washington by forcing it to use its veto.


The Palestinians could target Israel more systematically abroad in court cases on its occupation and alleged war crimes. Israel sees such actions as part of a campaign by the Palestinians and their sympathisers to "delegitimise" it.

Recognition as a state at the U.N. would make it easier for the Palestinians to use the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation executive, said that short of that, other states could bring cases on the Palestinians' behalf. "We have to get resolutions, court decisions, rulings and so on," Ashrawi said.

The Palestinians could also do more to seek the arrest of Israeli officials abroad for alleged war crimes under "universal jurisdiction" provisions. Since 2005, several serving and former Israeli leaders have cancelled trips to Britain, for example, after being warned they could face arrest for their role in military action against Palestinians.


International legal action against Israel is part of a broader campaign of "popular resistance" which the Palestinian leadership could do more to support, say its critics. "The Palestinian Authority has supported this symbolically, not completely, they have just used it as a tactic," said Masri.

Ashrawi said a campaign to encourage the boycott of Israel and to encourage divestment and sanctions should be stepped up. "This is popular accountability. It's growing in civil society and solidarity movements outside," she said.

Protests against Israeli occupation in the West Bank also fall under the banner of "popular resistance". These frequently turn into confrontations between the Israeli army and protesters that evoke images of the first Palestinian Intifada, which erupted in 1987 and helped the Palestinians to win international sympathy.

"These could happen in dozens of locations," Masri said.


The current paralysis has reignited a debate about the fate of the Palestinian Authority (PA), set up by the Palestinians in the hope it would become the government of an independent state.

"Without a credible political process, the PA will be in dire straits. Its legitimacy will be undermined," said Palestinian political scientist George Giacaman.

Some say the PA should dissolve itself, making Israel bear the full burden of occupation by forcing it to manage the civilian affairs of the Palestinians.

Abbas, in a Dec. 3 interview, said he did not want to remain as "president of an authority that doesn't exist", a remark interpreted as either a threat to dissolve the PA or resign.

Senior PA officials certainly do not think that their body will be shut down, arguing that the Palestinians are better off with it than without it. Giacaman said: "There are too many interests attached to the existence of the PA."


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