Ghassan Khatib
Bitterlemons (Blog)
February 21, 2011 - 1:00am

Palestinian officials view the September 2011 deadline for statehood very seriously and most of their political behavior between now and then needs to be taken in that context.

The attempt to go to the United Nations Security Council should be viewed as part of Palestinian attempts to build up an international position that is more responsive to the failure of the bilateral approach and the inaction of the United States, the country sponsoring the bilateral process on behalf of the international community.

For that reason, Palestinians feel that some of their objectives were achieved in spite of the American veto of last Friday's resolution against Israeli settlements. They weigh the significance of the 14 votes of members of the Security Council, including four of the five permanent members, as well as the international attention that was drawn to the danger of continuous Israeli settlement activity.

The veto that the US applied to this resolution was as harmful to it as it was to the Palestinians. It reminded the public in a region that is undergoing serious turbulence of the double standard that the United States uses for the various conflicts of the Middle East. The Arab public, particularly Palestinians, will have great difficulty taking seriously American attempts to support democratization in the Arab world at the same time that it is suppressing attempts by Palestinians to achieve implementation of international legality.

The reaction among Palestinians and many Arabs ranged between disappointment and anger. The arguments of US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were not at all convincing. They tried to argue that the United States is not opposed to the content of the resolution, i.e., it does not support settlement expansion, but that it is opposed to bringing the issue of settlements to the United Nations.

This argument is deceptive because it purposefully neglects the fact that Palestinians, supported by Arab states, brought the issue of settlements to the United Nations only after the US declared that it had failed in convincing Israel to stop its settlement expansion policy, a prerequisite to resuming bilateral negotiations. Our appeal to the United Nations came after 18 years of bilateral negotiations over ending the occupation, during which illegal settlement construction managed to double the number of settlers in the occupation Palestinian territories.

It is unacceptable that the United States would at one and the same time continue its inaction vis-a-vis settlement expansion and also prevent the world body for resolving conflict from proposing ways of solving this problem.

In the period between now and September, the Palestinian Authority will continue to encourage the international community to play a more direct collective role in helping to end the Israeli occupation in order to allow for the emergence of an independent Palestinian state on the borders of 1967. In parallel, the Palestinian Authority will also continue to develop internal conditions that are more conducive to independence and statehood. These measures include continuing the development of state institutions and other reforms, but also resuming the democratization process. Having an active legislative council is an essential aspect of readiness for statehood.

That's why Palestinians are also busy looking for ways to reconcile their political factions and conduct legislative and presidential elections. The dilemma is that conducting elections without reconciliation will contribute to consolidating the existing political division, while waiting for reconciliation before holding a vote will leave the democratic rights of the people hostage to the will of political groups.

That's why there has been a push recently to try to combine reconciliation with elections. A national vote could be both an incentive and a tool for reconciliation.


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