By Alexandra Robinson
Friday, September 23rd de facto president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, approached the United Nations to request their recognition and acceptance of a Palestinian State that would include the territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Of course the bid has received opposition from the U.S. as it stubbornly stands by Israel whose alliance has garnered distrust for the American activity in the region. It’s expected that the U.S. will utilize its veto power on the Security Council against this move. This would be a safe expectation regardless of what Israeli lobbyists say or do but a superfluous AIPAC campaign removed all doubt with its success in pressuring the House and Senate to overwhelmingly pass resolutions H. 268 and S. 185.
In the Palestinian camp there’s been a debate over whether or not the bid is a wise decision for Palestinians, not for the reasons cited by the West that it “would poison the environment for restarting peace negotiations” but for its other problems such as the preclusion of refugee eligibility for citizenship in the new state.
The negotiations, which the U.S. claims the bid threatens to ruin, haven’t seen true progress in years. Nearly the entire “peace process” has been a charade of stalling and low-ball offers by Israel to the Palestinians with the U.S. “balancing” all of this in Israel’s favor by maintaining what they consider to be non-negotiable items such as the compulsory “demilitarization” of the would be Palestinian state with international oversight to ensure that it remain so. Other items include ceded control of Palestinian airspace to Israel and recognition of Israel as the Jewish Homeland. For those in the Palestinian camp that are opposed to the unilateral declaration, these terms are no longer requisite if Israel and the U.S. are not part of the move for statehood.
It was Israel’s Ehud Olmert who rejected the last of the Palestinians’ offer for 2 independent states based on the 1967 borders which also included their greatest concessions to date in terms of land annexation by Israel and the number of Palestinian refugees that could return to their homes. It was Abbas who had made this offer but has clearly had enough and in doing “180,” stepped up to, at least symbolically assert Palestinian dignity and the right for his people to be a recognized nation in the U.N. Despite Israel’s opposition to the bid and the Obama Administration’s claims that it will be bad for peace negotiations, this is the only way that any true peace negotiations can ever take place between the 2 sides–that is to say that these past peace negotiations were never sincere and therefore leave nothing to “poison” or protect.
Shamefully the U.N. has moved to push resuming direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian politicians in lieu of taking a vote on the request by Abbas. Recognizing the Palestinian state and resuming direct talks are not necessarily mutually exclusive and shouldn’t be treated as such. Although some 140 countries have expressed their support for the bid, the contention with the U.S. isn’t something they’re ready to face has led them to participate in furthering the charade. With all of the proposed state’s problems, it will likely only have symbolic importance and seeks to give the Palestinians a slightly better platform for negotiation. If nothing else all of the press preceding Abbas’s address to the U.N. has served as a mechanism that called the issue to light on an international level. Egypt and Turkey have departed from being prevailing allies of Israel in the region and even the centrist U.S. news media outlet NPR has acknowledged “Israel’s growing isolation in the world.” The U.S. is the only significant ally that Israel still has. The publicity this debate has received in the media served to draw attention to the issues faced by Palestine. People who have not or would not have otherwise thought about the conflict are now starting to raise questions especially in regards to the unwavering support the U.S. affords to Israel.
The truth is that it is hard to justify U.S. alliance and its $3billion annual aid contribution to Israel. However the U.S. is likely to remain allied with Israel for as long as it exists. The upside is that the Zionist Project, as we know it, is finite. This is no big secret or surprise and it is a fact that every Israeli leader in history has understood and has acted on. They have shaped their policies in such a way that preserves their legacy, knowing that Israel’s era of power and expansion to date is not sustainable but ensuring that they will not be the leader with which it passes.
Through his advancement of illegal settlements in the West Bank (something that truly “poisoned” the peace process) Benjamin Netanyahu must face this moment in time that he helped to construct. His failure to stop the settlements (partially to preserve his image as a “strong” Israeli leader) has ironically turned against him. A real 2-state solution isn’t viable due to the extensive number of Jewish settlements that weave their way throughout the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority has said that there should be no Jewish citizens in the new state (not a surprising response to Israel’s bill stating all new citizens must pledge an oath to a “Jewish” state). It’s not likely that the world will be witnessing any modern-day exodus in the near future of the Middle East. Little will change in terms of the reality of peoples’ daily lives. Israel will continue to exercise force as an occupying power, the difference will be that they will be occupying a nominal “state” rather than a “territory.” This is yet another reason why the bid is symbolic but wholly necessary not as a means to an end but as a game changing step towards progress. The bid leaves out refugees and Hamas and does not represent all Palestinians. However Israel has only been negotiating with the PLO thus far and if this gives the Palestinian Authority more grounds to insist on the inclusion of Hamas and rights of refugees then it should be done. Of course this is a gamble but it’s one for the Palestinians to make and not one that the U.S. can weigh in on in any moral capacity.
– Alexandra Robinson is an activist and freelance journalist. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.