A shortened, edited version of this article was posted on Ynetnews, and can be read here: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4115514,00.html
By: Avi Yesawich
In three weeks, a sovereign Palestinian state will almost certainly be welcomed as the194th addition to the United Nations – if not by the UN Security Council, then as a “non-member state” by the General Assembly. Established on the votes of a 140 or so nations, the UN will welcome Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, the PA and the Palestinian people into its concubine. Worldwide celebrations in honor of the long sought-after creation of a sovereign Palestinian state will undoubtedly take place. Unfortunately, such celebrations will be honoring a superficial development, an illusion of achievement. In reality, recognition of a Palestinian state in the current political climate will not resolve any of the outstanding issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, only exacerbate them.
Let me issue an ominous reminder: the UN will be recognizing a state whose government(s) maintains questionable legitimacy among its population (half, actually), suffers from bitter corruption and internal fighting, lacks control over terror cells that undermine all peace efforts, is crippled in enacting any significant legislation and reform, and whose economy is depressingly mismanaged, not to mention completely contingent on Israeli industry. The world will be voting into existence a welfare state that currently owes much of its sustenance to the donations of the international community and Israeli tax transfers.
The Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement has proven to be a failure and never came close to being implemented – and it may never be. Abbas recently rejected the labeling of Israel as the Jewish State, sounding defiant ahead of the planned UN vote. The recent terror attacks and rocket fire emanating from the South have shown that terrorist groups other than Hamas hold considerable political and military sway in the Gaza Strip. Israeli security cooperation with Fatah has minimized similar developments in the West Bank, although that certainly didn’t prevent the Itamar Massacre or the Cochav HaShachar and Kiryat Arba murders, among other incidents in recent memory. Are these positive signs that point to a nation ready for statehood?
Anyone who endeavors to predict the consequences of the Palestinian bid is imprdent, yet media commentators and politicians are shuffling through the foreseeable scenarios. Large-scale riots, peaceful protests, violent confrontations, and regional war - anything is possible. We’ve seen from the results of the Arab Spring (or lack thereof) that the situation here is volatile, erratic and largely unknown. However, one thing is clear: The vote will do nothing to further the permanent interests of Israelis or Palestinians, and can only serve as a critically divisive moment within an already less than stellar period of Israeli-Palestinian relations.
Although defining “statehood” by standards of international law can be problematic, the four main criteria are (a) permanent population, (b) defined borders, (c) effective government and (d) ability to maintain relations with other states. The PA fails to fulfill at least two, if not three, of these criteria, and the world to ignore this reality not at its own peril – or perhaps, more accurately, the peril of Israelis and Palestinian lives.
Statehood, but not at any price
Without question, the Palestinians deserve freedom, justice, security and self-determination. I am committed to the creation of a Palestinian state, but only one that is established through a comprehensive and viable peace agreement. We need negotiations that dictate real solutions to the intractable issues that statehood is meant to alleviate. Contrarily, the current UN bid looks to shirk responsibility for resolving internal and external Israeli-Palestinian issues of significant magnitude, issues that must be resolved before statehood can be bestowed upon a population who, as of now, seems woefully unprepared for it.
The argument will surely be made that UN recognition will force Israel to finally realize its presence in the West Bank is illegal and unacceptable to the international community. However, the real consequences of such recognition vary considerably depending on who you ask. Many analysts seem to agree that the current bid will likely have no practical implications for the Israeli presence in the West Bank. However, recognition is likely to provoke confrontations between Palestinian nationalists that will stream into the streets in celebration of their newfound “independence” and setllers and/or Israeli soldiers. Of course, the threat of further international isolation and boycotts against Israel is also reasonable, but authentic progress won’t - and never has - come from unilateral action or power plays in this conflict, but through mutual agreements and meaningful negotiations.
Ultimately, the Palestinian bid for statehood aims to produce trajectory from stagnation on some of the core issues such as defined borders, Jerusalem and the right of return, etc. It is naïve to believe that UN recognition of Palestine will accomplish this goal. Some commentators state that recognition is purely symbolic, which is an absurd notion: Palestinians have long achieved de-facto statehood with the realization of internationally recognized passports and visa-free travel, ambassadors, government agencies and infrastructure, security forces and UN observer status. The current situation is obviously untenable, but that doesn’t mean any other alternative is therefore a viable option.
It’s understandable that many nations around the world simply want to wash their hands of the Israeli-Arab conflict and rid themselves of a problem that has been a source of immense political tension and violence for over four decades. However, the current UN bid will not wash away the blood of thousands of Jewish and Palestinian lives that have been lost in this conflict, and the fictitious solution of declared statehood certainly won’t prevent further blood from being spilt. It may in fact encourage it.
UN vote is a quick fix
UN vote is a quick fix
The upcoming vote on a Palestinian state that will take place on September 20th is an attempted quick fix, an example of the international community dodging responsibility in order to force progress on an intractable conflict. This approach will be a serious mistake. Fortunately for those countries, the implications of such recognition probably won’t result in violence, bombings, shootings or the loss of innocent life in their respective countries like it will here in our region.
Abbas, Erekat and others have claimed that the current UN bid is not meant to isolate Israel. However, unless the UN bid is retracted - which several senior leaders of the PA have recommended – both countries will be isolated: Israel from the international community, and Palestine from realizing its true aspirations of sovereignty and self-determination.
I am a firm believer in the two-state solution, but not at any price. The right of return, Jerusalem, recognized borders, freedom of movement, settlements, security and commerce issues will only be resolved through collaborative negotiations, not symbolic recognition or empty declarations. As long as both parties are guilty of refusing to return to the negotiating table, it will be to the detriment of all of us who desire to see a peaceful end to this conflict.