Palestinians Ask the U.N. for Help
For all of those Israelis who thought the peace-process was solely in their hands, I am afraid you are mistaken. According to reports from a top negotiator of the conflict, the Palestinians are revamping efforts to form an independent state through unilateral action. The Associated Press confirms this story, commenting that a Palestinian delegation is expected to approach the U.N. Security Council on the issue of an autonomous Palestine free from Israeli control.
Even by Mideast peace standards, this is an unprecedented move by the Palestinians. For the first time since the inception of the Middle Eastern peace process (approximately 18 years ago) the ruling Palestinian coalition has reached a boiling-point over Israeli settlements in the West Bank; so much so that they have decided to ask for international help in solving the statehood problem.
The move is a clear indication of Palestinian devotion to the two-state solution. If Israelis refuse to recognize the approach, then the Palestinians seem intent on going it alone.
Undoubtedly, this is more than a tactical move by the Palestinians, who have come to be viewed by the international community as the “whipping-boy” of the Israeli intelligence apparatus. The appeal also possesses an inherent symbolic effect, particularly against America’s policy in the Middle East…a policy that has been categorized by many Arabs as biased towards Jerusalem.
However dramatic the move is, I am not sure that appealing to the United Nations is the right step. A U.N. denial could not only have lasting ramifications for the Palestinian leadership…it could also strike a blow to their credibility as a legitimate negotiating partner. The bright side to this deal, of course, is an internationally recognized Palestinian state and a public rebuke of Israel’s forceful nature.
With all of this being said, I am rather puzzled as to why Mahmoud Abbas would even consider declaring a unified Palestinian state at this point. Palestinian politics is perhaps at the most fragmented point in its history. Not only is the political process divided between two distinct entities, but the Palestinian people remain divided between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This separation is not only due to geography; it also has something to do with intense Palestinian political loyalties.
From what I can gather, if you are a Palestinian who is semi-engaged in the political process, you are either a supporter of Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah Party or an advocate of the Hamas movement. There does not appear to be any moderation between the two camps…a development that is conductive to arrogance, stalemate, and an unwillingness to compromise on key issues. Abbas’ American-trained forces are still battling Hamas militants in the West Bank, and Hamas militants are still viewing Fatah as a corrupt American puppet. As long as this is happening, there is no chance for a unified Palestinian state, regardless if Fayyad declares one or not.
In addition, there is no question that the U.S. Government is going to veto this Palestinian declaration at the U.N. Security Council. President Obama probably does not want to alienate and anger the Israeli Government any more than he has over the past nine months. Recognizing a unilaterally declared Palestinian state- without the approval of Israel- would only add insult to injury to the P.M. Netanyahu. Of course, depending on which side you are on, this could either be a refreshing change in the U.S.-Israeli relationship (one that emphasis equality in the Middle East peace process rather than American submission); or it could be a setback for U.S. interests in the Middle East. These days, I tend to think that more people would agree with the former rather than the latter.
-Daniel R. DePetris