Time for Israel to Wake up

By George S. Hishmeh

These must be heady days for Palestinians, certainly most, if not all, of those who live inside their usurped homeland and among the Palestinian diaspora in the Middle East or western countries.

There were lots of good news lately, now topped by the endorsement by the Arab League of the Palestinian intention to ask the UN General Assembly in September to recognise the State of Palestine, a course that does not necessarily guarantee smooth sailing thanks to US and Israeli objections.

In his Op Ed that appeared in the New York Times on May 17, which was published in Gulf News, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that "this September, at the United Nations General Assembly, we will request international recognition of the State of Palestine on the 1967 border and that our state be admitted as a full member of the United Nations." But Gershon Baskin, writing in the Jerusalem Post, warned that "without a fundamental change in relations between the parties [Israelis and Palestinians], the option of a two-state solution will soon be off the table".

A policy adviser for Al Shabaka blog, Victor Kattan, argues that UN membership would be a strategic asset to the Palestinian struggle. The approach follows two steps: international recognition of Palestine as a state, now reportedly promised 150 votes, and membership of the 192-member General Assembly. "However," Kattan continues, that "although there are risks involved…the advantages of this Palestinian strategy could outweigh the disadvantages. Nor … would statehood necessarily bring an end of the dream some hold for a democratic state for all…"

The big stumbling block for Palestinian membership could come from the US if President Barack Obama follows through with his plea to the Palestinians to stop seeking UN membership. Membership in the UN General Assembly would be in response to a decision of the Security Council, where the US holds a veto.

But with the support of the 150 states, Palestine, Kattan maintained, "would be able to formally join the international community and to insist upon a relationship based on sovereign equality. "Palestine’s status will be formally recognised without Palestine having to make any concessions on [colonies] , the right of return, or [occupied] Jerusalem, etc. Accordingly, in any future negotiations on these issues, Palestine can negotiate with Israel."

Another advantage, he continued, this formal equality will be the availability of new avenues "to pursue legal remedies against Israel in various international forums."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that his government cannot accept a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, claiming the lines were "indefensible", despite the other country on the eastern side of the border being Jordan, with whom Israel already has a peace treaty. In fact, as early as 2000, the Quartet’s Roadmap agreement endorsed the 1967 borders as a basis for the Palestinian states. Underlining continued Israeli intransigence is a new Knesset bill that will authorise the Hebraisation of all neighbourhoods in occupied Arab East Jerusalem, discarding all the previous sign posts with Arabic names.

It is time for Israelis to do some serious thinking because the longer this conflict continues, the more serious its future will be now that Palestinians, encouraged by the Arab Spring, are standing tall. For one, the border between Gaza and Egypt has opened after being sealed for four years by the Mubarak regime in Egypt.

On the other hand, Facebook-organised Palestinian activists are planning protests along the Arab-Israeli borders to mark the anniversary of the 1967 war. The fear in Israel is that the activists would once again cross the fenced borders much as they did on May 15, the anniversary of the founding of Israel. As some Americans must remember that during the six-day war, Israeli forces killed 34 and wounded about 170 US soldiers aboard the USS Liberty — an event that was hardly given attention in the US.

– George S. Hishmeh is a Washington-based columnist. Contact him at: Hishmehg@aol.com.

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