Sharon Lipton
The Detroit News (Editorial)
September 26, 2011 - 12:00am

The tailwind of the Arab Spring appears to be propelling the Palestinians toward their own political revolution.

On Friday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas presented a resolution requesting the admission of an independent state of Palestine to the United Nations. Many have explored the wisdom of a Palestinian Unilateral Declaration of Independence, a diplomatic end-run that allows them to circumvent the negotiating table. If this is indeed the tactic chosen, there is one thing that must be made clear: both sides will suffer for this decision.

Palestinian gains are not necessarily Israeli losses; nor Israeli losses Palestinian gains. Many Palestinians see the declaration of statehood as a triumph, while many Israelis believe it to be utter defeat. However, the reality is far more humbling: Neither side knows where this process will lead.
In these tumultuous times, the only place where parties to a conflict can resolve problems and achieve peace is in face-to-face negotiations. Partners in conflict must commit to becoming partners in peace. Palestinians should join Israel at the negotiating table and clear the way for the overdue peace process.

By unilaterally circumventing bilateral negotiations over the strong objections of the Obama administration and both houses of Congress, Palestinian political leaders might get the symbolic recognition they seek. However, they will antagonize their necessary partner in peace and potentially imperil international aid, while failing to improve life for Palestinians.

Indeed, some high level Palestinian officials, including the current and former prime ministers, Salam Fayyad and Ahmed Qureia, have questioned Abbas' tactics. Their concerns are echoed by the world of nongovernmental organizations, where Ziad J. Asali, founder of the prominent American Task Force on Palestine, warned of the negative repercussions of Abbas' plan.

In addition, while Abbas is leading this drive for unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state at the U.N., it does not appear to be a top priority for his people. In a poll conducted over the summer by Stanley Greenberg and the Palestinian Center for Public Opinions, a mere 4 percent of Palestinians considered unilateral declaration a top priority. As many Americans can appreciate, job creation was their main concern.

The dangers of a Unilateral Declaration of Independence aren't solely monetary. Abbas has also called on the Palestinians to gather in the streets in protest to coincide with the political maneuverings at the U.N. Although he has called for nonviolent resistance, Abbas may be starting a fire he cannot contain.

Ultimately, a negotiated agreement is the only way to resolve the conflict and move toward the only sustainable solution — two healthy democratic nations living side by side.

Sharon Lipton is president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Metropolitan Detroit. Email comments to


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