Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Case for Palestine

RAMALLAH – Nowhere are the grievances that perpetuate violence and war more evident than they are in Palestine today. But the world’s politicians continue to dance around the problem, rather than confront it. The recent deadly violence in Gaza is only the latest proof that people living under occupation and siege need a political horizon, and not simply a cease-fire: the case for an independent state of Palestine has never been so compelling as it is today.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to proceed with plans to seek a vote this week on recognition of Palestine at the United Nations General Assembly has come despite pressure, promises, and threats from Israel and some of its Western allies. Rather than pursuing the UN route, the Palestinians, according to these interlocutors, should continue to depend on asymmetrical negotiations that have served as little more than a photo opportunity.

The UN vote (which coincides with the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People) would not grant Palestine full membership. Rather, it would upgrade Palestine’s status to a level comparable to that of the Vatican, allowing its political leaders to bring war-crimes charges against Israelis to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Zionists in Palestine rejoiced in 1947, following the UN General Assembly vote for partition into a Jewish and an Arab state. It is ironic that, as rockets from Gaza reach the outskirts of Tel Aviv, those Israelis who celebrated the partition, and their descendants, do not see the importance of fulfilling the other half of the partition plan.

It is true that Palestinians, who comprised the vast majority of the population and owned an overwhelming share of the land, were unhappy with the partition plan, which awarded them 46% of mandatory Palestine. Today, Palestinians are seeking statehood on a mere 22% of the territory that had been part of mandatory Palestine until Israel was unilaterally established on areas much larger than those awarded by UN General Assembly Resolution 181 in 1947.

Palestine’s quest for statehood within the borders of June 4, 1967, falls squarely within international law. The UN Security Council resolved in November of that year that “acquisition of territory by war” is unacceptable. Subsequent Security Council resolutions and international treaties have upheld this principle.

In fact, a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders is exactly what US President Barack Obama has called for. Similarly, the European Union has long advocated a two-state solution, with Palestine being established on areas occupied by Israel in 1967.

As Abbas has said, the upcoming General Assembly vote is not aimed at delegitimizing Israel. It follows the Palestinian National Council’s declaration in 1988 of a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel. It also follows the Arab Peace Initiative, adopted by the Arab League at its Beirut Summit in 2002 (and to which Israel has yet to respond).

The Arab League initiative, which was also approved by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, embraces a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, but goes one step further, calling for a “just” and “agreed upon” solution to the thorny Palestinian refugee issue. By accepting the words “agreed upon,” Palestinians, Arabs, and other Muslim-majority countries have conceded that Israel will not recognize Palestinian refugees’ inalienable right to return to their homes. This should allay Israeli fears that the right of return would end Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.

Abbas will go to New York holding an even more important card. Israel’s recent brutal violence in Gaza has united Palestinians who were split along partisan lines. Leaders of Abbas’s Fatah faction, which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, and of Gaza-based Hamas have been meeting regularly to implement the Egyptian-Qatari reconciliation plan. Political prisoners from both sides have been released, and a senior Fatah delegation just visited Gaza.

Hamas officials, including Mahmoud Ramahi, the leader of a bloc in the Palestinian National Council, have publicly supported the UN recognition bid. According to Mousa Abu Marzook, Hamas’s deputy leader, his movement is not opposed to Abbas’s diplomatic initiative.

An independent and free Palestine alongside a safe and secure Israel is a plan upon which the entire world agrees. Palestinians have shown that they are willing to accept minor and agreed-upon land swaps, and will be open to creative ideas for solving the problem of Jerusalem, possibly following the parameters set out by US President Bill Clinton at the end of his second term.

What is needed now more than ever is political will to give the peace process a serious boost. Obama, now free of electoral shackles, and the international community should give Palestinians’ peaceful effort a chance at life. The case for Palestine has never been so clear. A vote for recognition of Palestinian statehood is a vote for peace.

Read more from our "Palestine Goes Global" Focal Point.

  • Contact us to secure rights


  • Hide Comments Hide Comments Read Comments (5)

    Please login or register to post a comment

    1. CommentedSamuel Jew

      I appreciate that all communities are imagined communities and the Palestinians are no different. At the same time, the Arab world may as well be pining for the return of the Ottoman Empire.

      Furthermore, the existence of the state of Israel is apparently ordained by God as an eschatological imperative. People of all Abrahamic faiths should celebrate it as the fulfillment of prophecy. Appeals instead to the moral authority of the UN are both laughable and unseemly.

    2. CommentedIsmail OURAICH

      Here is comment on a previous article, and which points out to the main problem to be resolved if to reach a permanent solution. This comment was in reaction to a comment by Avraam Dectis, which I copy-paste as well.

      "Avraam Dectis 1 week ago

      This conflict could be ended with a genuine peace plan that would be barely acceptable to everyone. I propose one.
      The current situation has two groups in close proximity who will continue to fight for eternity until they are separated like the quarreling children they really are - much like the Greeks and Turks ceased fighting after the Treaty of Lausanne.
      The Israelis will never go. This only leaves the Gazans.

      You cannot force people to migrate, it would be barbaric. Thus you have to bribe them.

      What bribe would be acceptable?

      Israel could offer $25,000 to every Gazan that would agree to go to another Arab country. A family of six would get $150,000. That might be acceptable.

      Israel could even sweeten the pot by offering free houses in Egypt for whomever left.

      People with immovable assets would be given at least ( or more ) fair market value for them.

      The Gazans would not like this because they would be leaving and psychologically would feel defeated.

      The Israelis would not like this because the cost would be huge and would decades to pay off the cost.

      Ultimately, however, it is the only civilized solution and the only barrier is the expense. Money is easier to replace than people.

      The alternative is that, a century from now, you will read about Palestinians and Israelis killing each other.

      Money or peace, take your pick."

      @Avraam Dectis: How about bringing a little twist to your solution of bribing Palestinians to leave their forefathers land.

      Why not do the same for the Israelis, who in fact have been "bribed", if I could use the term, to settle in a land that did not belong to them, or at least that was settled by a certain populace before the latter was forced out through well-documented terror-tactics.

      When I say that modern day Israelis have been "bribed" to settle in Palestine, it is with regard to the fact that most Jews emigrated from Europe and Ex-USSR under the threat of growing antisemitism and anti-religion bias, which reached its climax in Nazi Germany. Antisemitism is still alive in Europe, much as it was under the Inquisition, though the policies have changed, but the spirit remains the same.

      How about Europe (including Ex-USSR) bribes its Jewish citizenry to go back to their forefathers' land in which they were born for generations. Most of Israelis came from those countries under the threat as I said of growing antisemitism and the promise of material well-being.

      Now, I would argue that indeed Jews and Christian minorities in Muslim majority countries were not treated as full-fledged citizens, yet they had their rights protected more than in Europe and that is a historical fact that one can check by indulging in factual reading of trusted historical sources. The problem is that as countries in the Middle-East and North Africa started to get their independence in the post-empire era, and going into the nation-state era, European politics of hegemony that aimed at maintaining the old-paradigm of Empire (albeit through more nuanced means) have created sectarian frictions and divides that are at the sources of the current situation.

    3. CommentedCher Calusa

      I agree that bilateral agreements or statehood for Palestine will not put an end to strife in the Middle East. There are still too many loose ends in Palestine. During the recent bombings the world should have noticed that the West Bank, home of the PLO was very quiet. There are likely internal struggles that are due to general suspicion and disagreement between the PLO and Hamas as indicated by the need to reinvestigate Mr. Arafat's death. What would happen if the Palestinian people themselves actually did have the right of self determination and ceased to be pawns in the world's games? The people of this world have failed to come together in order to cooperate and grow. We are facing global catastrophe environmentally, fiscally and socially as a species. World leaders don't yet share a vision of how to build a better and sustainable future. This will take a major shift in thinking. Our geographic boundaries mean little or nothing, however, our interlocking connections on many levels will dictate how we succeed or fail.

    4. CommentedChris Milton

      It's worth noting that the UK's price of voting for Palestine's observer status is that they forgo the right to join either the International Criminal Court of the International Court of Justice.

    5. CommentedZsolt Hermann

      I would not want to argue with the main part of the article as it is interpreted very differently depending on which side the observer is standing on. I would like to cite only one sentence:
      "...An independent and free Palestine alongside a safe and secure Israel is a plan upon which the entire world agrees..."
      Well this statement is clearly not true. Since the formation of the Jewish state in 1948 neither the Palestinians nor any major Arabic country apart from Jordan and Egypt (as a result of military defeat) accepted Israel's' right to exist either in a "safe and secure" or in any other way.
      And not only they do not accept the "right to exist" their openly declared aim is to wipe the country off the map killing all of the inhabitants (and other Jews in other parts of the world).
      There were many instances starting from the initial 1948 partition, when the 2 state solution could have been accepted, offers were tabled from Israel extremely close to the present Palestinian demand.
      The problem is that the Palestinian people are used as live baits or proxies by much stronger and larger countries to exert pressure on Israel, which pressure Israel handles rightly or wrongly depending on who observers it and how measurements are made.
      The point is that the situation will be never solved by simple Palestinian statehood, or bilateral agreements.
      Any solution would need to involve the whole region, and even non-regional powers also "assisting" in the background.
      For that to happen everybody without exception would need to understand the principles and necessities of a global, interconnected world where everybody depends on everybody else, and we simply cannot "wipe off", or oppress, incarcerate nations, cultures either physically or ideologically without inflicting the greatest harm on ourselves.
      None of the seemingly unsolvable crisis and flash-point in the world today can be solved without this understanding.
      Humanity has become a single, interconnected organism whether we want to accept it or not, and if we want to build a sustainable future we have to adapt accordingly.