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A Palestinian state and the prospects for September

January 25, 2014 at 9:11 am

The Palestinian Authority is banking on its diplomatic campaign, and the promises of support it has received from many countries, in order to achieve UN recognition of a Palestinian state at a meeting of the General Assembly in September. That would be a hugely significant result if it comes to pass.

According to the PA, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will be given an official letter in mid-September, asking for recognition of a Palestinian state and admittance as a permanent member of the United Nations. The state will be based on the pre-June 1967 borders and the PA will use previous UN resolutions in support of its request, beginning with Resolution 181 in 1947. The current situation, whereby many countries have already given recognition to a Palestinian state, will also be cited as a reason for the UN to agree to the latest request.

The PA’s move comes in the wake of yet another failure of the now-stalled peace process. Many people are optimistic that recognition will be granted even as the Israeli occupation continues and Jerusalem is undergoing a major Judaisation makeover.

The UN General Assembly can accept Palestine as a full member but it needs a recommendation in this respect from the Security Council. America, of course, has a veto in the Security Council and will be ready to use it in Israel’s favour, so the Zionist state is focusing its own campaign on persuading the General Assembly to reject the PA’s request.

This move by the Palestinian Authority is accompanied by questions and conflicting positions among the factions, which have different ideas about the possibility of its success.

While Fatah and some other PLO factions regard the proposal to the UN to be part of a larger “national entitlement”, the rest, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, are pessimistic, fearing that the move will be yet another opportunity for concessions to be wrung from the Palestinians. Indeed, any move towards a state based on the pre-June 1967 borders will almost certainly involve land and population “swaps”; and the refugees’ issue and status of Jerusalem are still not up for discussion. It has also been pointed out that international recognition will do nothing to alter the situation in reality, as Israel will probably just ignore the UN, as it has done on dozens of occasions over the past 60 years.

While international support for a Palestinian state is important and might allow the PA to bypass the US-Israel path to “peace”, perhaps the most important aspect is the need for Palestinian reconciliation to work. It requires a mature approach to ensure that all aspects of the agreement are implemented and the current duplication between the West Bank and Gaza Strip is ended.

Despite the importance of the current diplomatic efforts, putting trust in the UN in isolation actually weakens the Palestinian position. Different options for the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital need to be explored. As the saying goes, “Those who don’t have something cannot give it to others.” Thus, international recognition of a Palestinian state may be effective, if it is within the context of a true Palestinian plan which does not rely on negotiations with the Israelis.

International recognition has to be accompanied by an announcement from the Palestinian leadership that negotiations with Israel in the current form have failed, and that the declared American position, which was stressed again by President Obama in his recent speech, requires a serious critical analysis. Relying on negotiations alone allows the Zionist state to use talks as a cover for further procrastination and the creation of more Israeli “facts on the ground”. Gaining recognition for a state from the international community at the UN must result in the reality of a state in support of the Palestinian national struggle and not in the interests, as the current set-up is, of Israel, the USA and certain regional parties.

The existing recognition of Palestine as a state by countries around the world arose despite Israeli intransigence and US collaboration with Israel’s far-right politicians. Those countries offering such recognition have displayed their support for the right of the Palestinian people to decide their own fate and establish an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. It also demonstrates that Palestinians have many friends and allies around the globe.

However, it is important not to exaggerate the importance of recognition and what it offers to the Palestinian cause. It is a positive step, no doubt, but we have to expect Palestinian work to continue according to a comprehensive strategy that includes strengthening resilience and resistance, having national unity, getting the PLO back on track and restoring the Arab dimension of the Palestinian cause. Recognition in itself should not be an alternative to the other aspects of the struggle.

In any case, recognition by the UN is not a foregone conclusion; despite French, German and British hints at recognition, Europe’s position is still uncertain and prone to influence by the US. We should not be under any illusions, not least because the American position is so closely aligned with that of Israel.

Arab backing and support for all international legitimacy resolutions, especially the right of return for refugees and Jerusalem as the capital of the state, is a key element for success if the words of recognition are to be turned into the reality of a Palestinian state. The current political turmoil across the Arab world and the absence of a unified Arab stance makes it difficult to predict if such backing will be offered and, if so, if it will be effective.

The Arab Peace Initiative launched in the Beirut Summit eight years ago was rejected immediately by the Israelis and the Americans have sought to dilute it; the Arab position overall is very weak. No alternative has been proposed so Beirut still represents the Arab position to the international community. As Israel retains US cover for all that it does, and wants to do, it is hard to see how the Arab world can have any influence over the Palestinian situation unless it can come up with viable alternatives to the Beirut initiative, or the means to challenge the current Israeli position. Neither appears likely.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.