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      A Palestinian State by September? 

      The probable recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations General Assembly this September might productively realign American policy toward the Muslim world or leave the Obama administration further sidelined and isolated. The strong push for recognition comes a moment when the Middle East, including Palestinian communities, is pulsating with democratic aspirations while the US is involved in multiple wars and counterterrorism operations in Muslim countries.

      Outside a narrow diplomatic culture, an astonishing void of discussion exists on this development, if only because the existing parameters of debate over two-state and one-state solutions are frozen.

      Here is how the process is moving. The Palestinian Authority’s leadership has been campaigning all year for recognition, winning support from 112 countries by January and setting of a goal of 150 by September. In the absence of UN Security Council support, because of an American veto, the General Assembly can extend official recognition. The Palestinians also plan to invoke UN Resolution 377, allowing the General Assembly to enforce resolutions where the Security Council is deadlocked. The U.S. may try to claim the Security Council can veto any such recommendation to the General Assembly, but it may be facing a majority of countries that have formally granted recognition.

      Led by Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela have formally recognized the Palestinian state, with Paraguay and Peru expected to follow. (New York Times, January 1, 2011) Israeli now worries that Germany, the United Kingdom and France will press the UN and European Union to lead the effort for a diplomatic settlement instead of waiting on the US. (New York Times, April 7, 2011)

      Last week, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) endorsed the Palestinian effort, finding that Palestinian institutions compare favorably with those in other nation-states. (Reuters, April 6, 2011) The Palestinian Authority Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, is a technocrat who previously worked for both the World Bank and IMF.

      Many believe that the Palestinian statehood campaign is increasing pressure for an Israeli-Palestinian negotiated agreement before September, a possibility which is dimmed by the hardline politics of the current Netanyahu government. Already, however, a mainstream group of forty Israelis has released a proposal for a Palestinian state in parts of the West Bank and Gaza, including a capital in East Jerusalem, as well as withdrawal from the Golan Heights. (New York Times, April 5, 2011) The proposal is acknowledged as a response to increased international pressure at a time of popular uprisings in the Arab world demanding democracy and self-determination.

      Creation of a Palestinian state by the General Assembly would mean a significant step in addressing the grievances now contributing to both terrorism and the awakening across the Islamic world. Last year, on March 16, 2010, Gen. David Petraeus testified that the Israel-Palestine conflict was “fomenting anti-American sentiment” because of the widespread perception of a pro-Israeli American bias. Vice President Joe Biden also told the Israelis, “What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.” (Foreign Policy, March 13, 2010)

      The new dynamic creates a possible alternative to the two-state solution that has been stalemated primarily by the U.S. policy, which gives Israel a de facto veto over the shape, scope and timing of any Palestinian statehood. The impasse is similar to the longtime British grant of an “Orange veto” over Northern Ireland, which was finally broken by the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

      So far the proposal lacks a means of including Gaza in the recognition, though that could be addressed through provisional lines and an internal mechanism for managing the conflict between the PA and Hamas, with the new Egyptian government playing a role.

      Any UN recognition of Palestine would produce two states in reality. While key details like boundaries are unclear, the new Palestinian state would emerge in the West Bank with provisions for linkages to Gaza, assuming a coalition of interests between the Fatah and Hamas factions of the Palestinian national movement. Current Palestinian diplomatic offices would be officially recognized by the UN action.

      The concept also implies a sharp rejection of the proposal for a “one state solution” popular among many Palestinian supporters, which would require Israel to dissolve into a unitary state.

      Recognition of a new Palestinian state would alter the dynamic between Israel, Palestine and the international community. Both states would be headquartered at the United Nations. Talks between Israel and the Palestinians would take place on a state-to-state basis for the first time.

      Defense minister Ehud Barak says that Israel faces a diplomatic “tsunami” if the Palestinians seek recognition in September, causing a “wide effort aimed at delegitimization” of Israel. (Washington Post, April 6) Israeli statesman Shimon Peres has traveled to the UN to campaign against the statehood vote, which would “put Israel in a diplomatic bind at a time when the peace process is at an impasse.” (New York Times, April 7, 2011). The pro-Israel Lobby is mobilizing American supporters to oppose the specter of a diplomatic threat, regardless of the consequences for U.S. isolation. In January, Rep. Howard Berman obtained unanimous support for Resolution 1734, condemning any effort to seek unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.

      The drive for UN recognition already is causing a greater Israeli interest in peace talks, if only to avoid the September UN vote. In early April, a mainstream group of forty Israelis released a proposal for a Palestinian state in parts of the West Bank and Gaza, including a capital in East Jerusalem, and a withdrawal from the Golan Heights. (New York Times, April 5, 2011) The proposal is meant to respond to increased international pressure at a time of popular uprisings in the Arab world demanding democracy.

      Why the existence of an independent Palestinian state would be a mortal threat to Israel is unexplained. But the proposal has momentum because the only alternative to the stalled possibilities of a negotiated two-state agreement is the resumption of war in the region.

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      Reader Comments (4)

      The alternative to a two solution are two others, the continuation of the present apartheid state of Israel, or one democratic state with equal rights for non Jews. This last option it seems, is the one that most Israelis want least, as shameful as that is. Apartheid and war would be preferable to many Israelis, than equality under the law, which all human beings are entitled to. It's quite extradinary that such and educated nation such as Israel, with such scientific and cultural achievemnets, could be so dissmissive of the rights of others.


      April 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRickie

      Great piece. Hope you folks know about Mondoweiss. One if not the best site focused on the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Tom wondering if Adam, Lizzy and Phil would allow you to post such great pieces about the conflict as main courses at their incredible site.

      No need to wonder about why Abbas is pushing forward. All the Palestinians have gotten by the US allegedly taking the lead is an illegal wall built partially on their lands and more illegal settlements in the West Bank and illegal housing in East Jerusalem. Who can blame them for going to the international community. The US has almost always negotiated for Israel .

      April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathleen

      There has been "one democratic state" (Israel) for the past 63 years and no military efforts of the Arab League, or Hamas have been able to dislodge it. Between 1948 and 1967, the Arab League failed to create a second democratic state for Palestinians, as intended by the U.N. in its partition of the former British Mandate. The effect of the 1967 "Six Day War," for Palestinians was only to substitute Israeli occupation of Palestinians for that of Egypt and Jordan. Despite the unprecedented agreement of all parties in Oslo in 1993, there is still no Palestinian state. The threat of U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, where Prime Minister Fayyad has been preparing the institutions of a secular democratic state, is a serious motivation for Israeli movement toward a negotiated settlement. However, the "one to the exclusion of the other" doctrine of Hamas and other "rejectionists," will only increase Israeli determination to perpetuate the occupation for security reasons; Palestinians can no more insist that Israelis forfeit their statehood aspirations, than Israel demand that Palestinians abandon theirs! The "one state" proposal is a recipe for stasis, war and perpetuation of the status-quo!

      With some reservations, Tom Hayden's analysis has real merit. The divisions between Fatah, which favors a negotiated agreement with Israel, and Hamas, which rejects any diplomatic solution for perpetual war, makes the creation of a single Palestinian state untenable! It would lead to a Palestinian civil war, which would serve no one's interests. If Hamas would reject violence for tolerance, there could be two Palestinian states, one secular, and one religious. If that is not tenable in the eyes of Hamas, there would be only a single truncated Palestinian state in the West Bank, which is fully prepared for statehood, while Gaza remains isolated under an embargo and in a continuous state of war with Israel. The Palestinians of Gaza would continue to be the casualties of the conflicts of the ruling theocrats/autocrats and there would be no democracy in Gaza

      Perhaps, the solution lies in first creating a Palestinian state in the West bank, as the first stage, where Palestinians are prepared for it, and then when the population of Gaza demands democracy, secularism and participation in the affairs of that state, then, as a second stage, re-uniting all Palestinians in a single democratic secular state of their own, co-existing in peace with Israel. This will take time, but certainly achieve Palestinian statehood objectives!

      April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMike 71

      So Israel claims that UNGA recognition of Palestine would be "aimed at delegitimization” of Israel", does it? What this means is either of two things (apart from Israel's trying to prevent it, of course).

      The first is that Israel thinks that no "recognition" of Palestine is good unless Israel does it first (i.e., makes peace), something that Israel has not been willing to do on terms acceptable to the PLO/PA/Palestinians. This is just silly. It does not delegitimize Israel to recognize Palestine. It does not delegitimize Israel to say that Israel is not the be-all-and-end-all.

      The second meaning is darker. It is that Israel claims legitimate right to permanent possession of some or all of the West Bank, and it fears that a UNGA "recognition" of Palestine with the pre-1967 boundaries, legitimizing Israel inside its 1948-1967 boundaries but saying a loud "NO" to Israel's claims to territory in the West Bank, is (for some unexplained reason) a "delegitimization" of Israel. But this is silly, too. UNSC 242 (1967) already stated the principle that the acquisition of territory by force of arms is illegitimate -- not the purported acquirer, mind, but just the purported acquisition.

      What's really happening under this cloud of nonsense is that Israel fears that the end is near for its excursion into the West Bank and that it will ultimately (and perhaps soon) be forced to relinquish control over some or all of what it has for 40 years regarded as the legitimate booty of war, namely, the entire West Bank. Israel has even built a wall inside the West Bank by way of asserting ownership of all the territory west of that wall. It does not relish being kicked out.

      I, for one, believe that the UNGA (after recognizing Palestine) should demand that Israel remove all the settlers from the West Bank (that's about 550,000 Israeli citizens, or 10% of Israel's Jewish population), demolish all the settlements buildings and demolish the wall I mentioned. The UNSC (by res 465, 1980) and the International Court of Justice (July 9, 2004) have said that the settlements and wall are illegal. UNSC-465 says the settlers must be removed and the settlements (buildings) must be demolished. what was true in 1980 is truer today.

      However, the UNGA had better be ready to back up these demands with powerfully persuasive action. Words alone will not do.

      Israel is not to be dislodged as easily as Mubarak was.

      But the writing is beginning to show up on the wall. Israel is about to become smaller. It is having "shrinking pains" and it doesn't like them. It calls them "delegitimization".

      April 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpabelmont
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