By Hasan Afif El-Hasan
The resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly for the establishment of a nonmember observer independent Palestinian State has officially transformed the occupied territories into an occupied country. The idea of a Palestinian state has been popular within the Developing Nations and widely supported by the Arab masses. But the US regrettably voted against the resolution; and if the US will ever reverse its stand and recognize the Palestinian State, it will be the last after Israel to provide such recognition. By refusing to adopt a position opposed by Israel, the US policy toward the Palestinians has never been a matter of rational or logical decision. The US support to the Israeli policies can be expected to continue indefinitely.
The Palestinians need Israel’s withdrawal from their occupied lands; recognition by Israel must not be a precondition for the withdrawal. The Palestinians as a nation can survive without Israel’s recognition but they cannot be free to govern themselves, shape their destiny and build their state while under occupation. The Israelis and their British allies never asked the Palestinians for permission to create the State of Israel, and the Palestinians should not wait for Israel’s recognition to have their own state. Under the best-case scenario from the Palestinians’ perspective through which Israel withdraws completely to the 1967 borders, the Palestinians would be getting only 22% of historic Palestine, the country that was 100% theirs before 1917 Colonial Britain ‘Belfour Declaration’.
The challenge that the Palestinians face today is how to wage a campaign for Israel’s military and settlers withdrawal from their state. Now it will be primarily the Palestinians’ next move that will decide whether the UN Recognition was a triumph. Their action is critical for the prospects of creating a viable Palestinian state in the future. Should they fail, the 2012 UN Resolution will be another broken promise like the 1947 UN Partition Resolution or the 2004 ruling of the International Court of Justice in The Hague on the separation fence.
A territorial state exists when there is a political entity in charge making and enforcing rules and laws to defend and protect the rights of the people in its territory. The Palestinian Authority (PA) that was created by Oslo Agreements is a rudimentary quasi-state with all symbols of state: a president, Palestine National Council (PNC) as a parliament, prime-minister, ministries and other administrative bodies as well as a judiciary Branch. But since the PA is a client entity of Israel and of the donor states, its powers are limited. It has no power to police its borders; it does not have its own currency; it cannot negotiate trade agreements or grant citizenship to members of its constituencies; and it cannot defend and protect its citizens and their properties from the Israelis.
Most of the Palestinian fiscal revenue, resources critical for the survival of the Palestinian entity, is being collected by Israel allowing it to extract rents from the Palestinian consumers and labor. The PA has been receiving the unsustainable external financial resources in exchange for accepting and guarding the so called ‘peace process with Israel’. The only power the PA is allowed and encouraged to have is monopolizing the use of violence to maintain social order among the Palestinian population, and deliver security to Israel’s satisfaction. The Western powers made ‘security’ for Israel more important than the security and the human rights for the Palestinians or strengthening good governance and the PA democratic institutions.
The Quartet envoy, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, plan for the reform of the Palestinian Authority (PA) institutions was mostly to finance, restructure and train the PA security forces to put down any resistance against the occupation, without making any reference to the attacks on Palestinians by Israel’s military and settlers. The plan called for granting the Palestinian Public Attorney and the judiciary the power to try members of any ‘resistance movement’. It appointed an American security coordinator, General Keith Dayton, to improve the effectiveness of the PA’s security forces.
Once Palestine is proclaimed a state, Oslo agreements, Tony Blair and General Dayton should become past history and the PA as a client state to Israel should become a relic of a failed experiment. The highest duty of the Palestinian State government must be to defend and protect its own citizens from the mortal dangers arrayed against them by Israel. The statehood is a responsibility that no outside forces should make sacrifices on its behalf. The Palestinians learnt their lessons the hard way in 1948 and 1967 when they looked up to the Arab States for protection.
Given the continued presence of the Israeli military in the West Bank and Jerusalem, the arrogance of the settlers and the fact that the Palestinians lack a meaningful sovereignty over their land and resources, the Palestinian leaders cannot have the freedom needed to carry on the duties of the state government. The leaders of the Palestinian state cannot function under occupation within the framework of control that was deliberately created under Oslo agreements.
The Palestinians should transform their Authority into a provisional government where top government leaders should reside outside the West Bank, preferably in Gaza, until Israeli withdrawal is achieved. Gaza is a big prison but the Palestinians control more than 90% of this prison space. Under the proposed structure, only lower level government officials should be inside the West Bank territory and the management of the Palestinians daily life should be decentralized. The provisional government should think, plan and work on freeing their occupied state. Its concern must be the defense of the national interests of the Palestinians in and out of their state.
After investing years of negotiations in vain, the Palestinians have realized that Israel will not permit a Palestinian state. The Palestinians’ strategy for ending the occupation should center on making occupation too costly and convince a significant sector of the Israeli public to support withdrawal. Essentially, the strategy should affect the costs and benefits of different Israeli policies as perceived by Israel’s public and decision-makers. Civil disobedience is the Palestinians’ most effective weapon! They had the experiences of non-lethal civil disobedience in the First Intifada where stone-throwing was the weapon of choice. They won the three-year non-lethal struggle against the powerful Israeli military machine, but they lost the war, so to speak, when the PLO leadership in Tunisia signed the Oslo agreements and aborted the Intifada.
The Palestinians must have the discipline not to use guns; otherwise events may spiral toward a disaster for the Palestinians. A non-lethal uprising similar to the First Intifada is the form of resistance whereby the Israelis may reconsider their policies and think withdrawal. With the non-lethal strategy, more people around the world will recognize the humanity of the Palestinians rather than referring to them as terrorists and more Israelis will think about the benefits of withdrawal vis-à-vis the cost of keeping the Palestinians under occupation.
– Hasan Afif El-Hasan is a political analyst. His latest book, Is The Two-State Solution Already Dead? (Algora Publishing, New York), now available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.