Mahdi Abdul Hadi
Bitterlemons (Opinion)
July 11, 2011 - 12:00am

The proposal made by Yossi Alpher and several other Israelis of "Buying into Palestinian Statehood" (New York Times, June 24, 2011) is based on several wishful assumptions for the "day after".

First, it assumes that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, after a bid to the United Nations on Palestinian statehood, will not consider his mission accomplished and resign, but stay on to rule and negotiate. Moreover, "the president's men" will stay in office or survive in any election and negotiations will continue on, business as usual. It also assumes that Palestinian society will remain divided between Fateh and Hamas, and the latter will not change its positions.

Second, the proposal presumes that a Palestinian state can be reached without compromising on Jerusalem and a fair and just implementation of UN resolution 194 (1948) on the right of return. Palestinians, it is believed, will accept the term "Jewish state", agree on territorial swaps and not demand full implementation of UN partition resolution 181 (1947), which allotted 56.47 percent of historic Palestine for the Israeli state and 42.88 percent for the Arab state, with an international zone of approximately 0.65 percent.

Finally, it takes for granted that Palestinians will continue under the prison culture of 44 years of occupation, carrying out Israeli instructions to extend conditionally their "municipal authority" into Gaza and crush Hamas, notwithstanding Palestinian reconciliation. It presupposes that Israel's "security arrangements" in the Palestinian state will resemble those in place today, in disregard of both Palestinian security needs and the new state's call for international protection. It also maintains that the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 is still on the negotiations table after a decade of Israeli refusal and reservations.

Israel would be well advised--before it is too late--to have its own "awakening" on the September episode and free itself from the bluffs of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his like.

The Palestine Liberation Organization and Palestinian Authority are determined to submit their bid for recognition of the state of Palestine based on the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital, to the UN General Assembly by July 20. This historic decision is of equal importance to that of the mutual PLO-Israel recognition that took place in 1993. A look at the internal, regional and international factors that led to this decision demonstrates why the above assumptions are really beside the point.

Internally, the UN vote will empower Palestine's position in the international arena and, as a result, unite the people behind their leadership and strengthen Palestinian reconciliation. It will also fill the political vacuum of futile negotiations and free the PLO/PA of its dependency on initiatives, offers and favors from external players, moving the conflict into a new arena.

The UN bid will likely mobilize Palestinian youth to develop a non-violent movement and become part of the culture of the "Arab spring". It will end the "prison culture" that affects all aspects of life (education, health, economy, tourism, etc.) in the occupied territories. It will also open the door for Palestinians from the Diaspora to return unconditionally, and end the siege, closure and separation of Gaza.

Regionally, several factors are significant. The Arab spring has spread its contagious jasmine fever with the yearning for civil states, democracy, rule of law and Arab dignity--Palestine being no exception.

New Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi believes that the negotiations process has reached a dead end. The Quartet conditions and the Bin Laden era are of the past. US President Barack Obama will not act during his re-election campaign, the 27 European Union member states will not reach consensus, and current Arab rulers (while political, diplomatically and financially supportive of the Palestinians) are not holding tight to the Arab Peace Initiative and seek neither direct involvement nor a conflict with Washington. Thus, al-Arabi favors initiating an international conference under UN auspices and sees September as a "test" in that direction.

The Arab League and the new Egypt are in full support of the September mission, and Turkey has repeatedly confirmed its backing for Palestine's statehood bid.

Globally, internationalization of the conflict at the UN General Assembly will open all Palestine files for debate at the world body, including unimplemented UN resolutions from more than six decades. It will renew discussion on Jerusalem as "corpus separatum" (including Bethlehem) and ideas for an open, shared (rather than exclusively Israeli) city.

Further, it will expose the vetoes of the US and a number of others against ending Israeli occupation and against the Palestinian right to self determination. An estimated two-thirds or more of the UN's 192 member states are expected to stand in clear support and recognition of Palestinian rights.

Subsequently, Palestine will be a full member in all international bodies, including the International Court of Justice. This will open up the opportunity to request protection through international forces and be part of international efforts towards ending Israel's colonization drive in Palestine. Ultimately, it will end the Oslo culture of draft agreements, vague negotiations, and the PA system, and thereby assist the PLO's transformation into a state.

One thing is sure: Palestinians will not be the same after September. They will have to translate statehood recognition into real issues on the ground, such as travel (citizenship) and economy (open trade), to name but a few. The most important challenge, however, will be to block Israel from disrupting the new Palestine's sovereignty. Then, international protection will be the key to following words (embodied in recognition) with deeds.


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