George S. Hishmeh
The Jordan Times (Opinion)
April 15, 2011 - 12:00am

There has been much good news this week for the Arab world, thanks to the successful uprisings against autocratic regimes ushered in by the glorious Arab Spring and the uplifting responses that followed from various world spots.

An “overwhelming majority”, or two thirds (65 per cent) of Americans, more Democrats than Republicans, believe that “greater democracy in the Middle East would be positive for the United States”. And in the long run, more than three-quarters (76 per cent) of Americans say democratisation would be mostly positive for the US.

Also, a majority of Americans (57 per cent) say that they “would want to see a country become more democratic even if this resulted in the country being more likely to oppose US policies”.

These were some of the key findings of a new poll conducted by the respected Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development and the Programme on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, directed by Shibley Telhami and Steven Kull, respectively. The poll was released at the opening of the eighth annual US-Islamic World Forum held in Washington between April 12 and 14.

However, American views of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, according to the pollsters, were not affected by the uprisings in the Arab world. Two thirds continued to have a “favourable view” of Israel and believe that the US should not take sides in the conflict - “unchanged from a Sadat Chair poll conducted last November”.

But more than previously (30 per cent against 21 per cent) felt the US was not trying hard enough to resolve the conflict.

Another upbeat assessment came from the United Nations, which declaredin a report that the Palestinian Authority is ready to run an independent state. This virtually echoed a similar finding last week by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. However, the UN noted that the PA will have to struggle to make further institutional progress due to the restrictions of the Israeli occupation and the breakdown of the Middle East peace talks.

But the UN report said deep political divisions between the PA and the Islamist group Hamas, which runs Gaza Strip, added another complication to the drive to Palestinian statehood.

This blunt assessment makes it incumbent on the two feuding Palestinian groups to immediately settle their differences if they do not want to run the risk of losing another major battle in September when the UN General Assembly is expected to support Palestinian membership in the world organisation.

Obviously their picayune quarrels are not worth that price.

Already, the PA has more than 100 votes to gain full membership in the 192-member UN General Assembly, the main deliberative, policy making, representative organ of the United Nations. More significantly, it will give the Palestinians the right to challenge Israel’s continued illegal occupation of the Holy Land where, in accordance with the 1948 Partition Plan, Israel was awarded 55 per cent of the former British mandate.After the 1967 war, Israel secured 78 per cent of the country, but in the wake of the 1973 war,it gained full military control of the country as well as significant areas of Syria, Egypt and Jordan.

Another significant turnaround has been the Arab League’s call last Sunday on the UN Security Council to consider an embargo on Israeli military flights over Gaza Strip where 19 Palestinians have recently been killed as a result of Israeli air raids.

The move, aimed to protect Palestinian civilians, mimics the Arab League’s endorsement of the north Atlantic alliance NATO,imposinga United Nations no-fly zone over Libya, which has been effective in disabling the pro-Qadhafi troops.

On the other hand, these international moves appear to have crippled all Israeli manoeuvres championed incoherently by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who recently travelled to Europe in the hope of winning European support against UN recognition of the Palestinian state. Likewise, Israeli President Shimon Peres recently visited the United States for this purpose, but it is not yet certain what commitments he has been promised by the Obama administration, which lately seemed to be maintaining a hands-off approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

This so-called “diplomatic tsunami” that Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak forecast is bound to hit Israel hard if the Palestinians win admission to the United Nations in the wake of the uprisings in the Middle East, which are baffling Israeli leaders about the next step, which may be revealed if and when he comes to the US next month.


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