Jul 05 2011

Going to the UN is a nonviolent Palestinian alternative to failed negotiations

Published by at 12:36 pm under Articles,Palestinian politics

Israelis government officials and probably half of the Israeli population seem to be dead set against Palestinians going to the UN. The Palestinian attempt for full membership in the UN is called “an attempt to delegitimize Israel,” a “unilateral act’ a  “crime”  and even ‘a declaration of war’ against Israel.

If negotiations are not producing any results, and if the Palestinian leadership is looking for a nonviolent alternative to failed peace negotiations, what else is there but to ask the world’s highest international body to intervene?

The idea of becoming a permanent member of the UN originated in the UN itself and by non other than the President of the US. Speaking at the UN General Assembly on September 23, 2010 President Obama said that he hoped that “when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations – an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel.”

Since then, the talks failed because of Israel’s refusal to extend the moratorium on building illegal Jewish only settlements in the areas slated for the Palestinian state. This refusal continued despite generous promises by the US to Israel if it agreed to extend the settlement freeze for a mere three months in order for the talks to resume.

This Israel rejectionist attitude continued last month in Washington.  Binjamin Netanyahu publicly refused the call of President Obama for the talks to begin immediately on the basis of the 1967 borders with mutually agreed land swaps.  Palestinians accepted this basis for talks and were said to be willing to forge the request for a settlement freeze in order to begin negotiations on the basis of  Obama’s position.

Despite all these set back, the Palestinian president still insists that he hopes for a negotiated settlement. Speaking on Palestine TV, June 24 Mahmoud Abbas said that if an acceptable basis for negotiations is offered Palestinians would prefer that than going to the UN. No such an offer has been made to Palestinians.

And here lies the problem.

If the American stated basis for talks are rejected by Israel, and bearing in mind the Palestinian leadership’s strong refusal of violence, what other nonviolent alternative is left for Palestinians.

It is true that a UN vote on Palestinian statehood will not by itself bring about an end to the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian areas conquered by war in June 1967. At the time the UN Security council resolution 242 stated that “it is inadmissible to occupy land by force.”

Jews of Palestine danced in the streets of Tel Aviv after approval of the UN  General Assembly vote in 1947 to partition mandatory Palestine to a Jewish state and an Arab state. It is ironic that Israelis are rejecting the recognition of Palestinian statehood to a much smaller territory than that was assigned to Arabs.

A vote in the UN general assembly is the start of a process that will eventually lead to the implementation of the internationally recognized two state solution. States that support Palestinian statehood are not signaling de-legitimization of Israel. They are simply insisting on the recognition of Israel in its internationally accepted 1967 borders and not its de facto borders that violate the sovereignty of another people’s land, air and seas.

As a state recognized by the UN, Palestine can negotiate borders with its neighbors and once agreed, an orderly exit of Israeli troops can be implemented. At the time, Israel said that its occupation in six days in 1967 of Arab lands was part of a defensive war and that it would withdraw for peace. While Jewish-only settlements built in occupied territories in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention belie this claim, with good will it is possible to find ways to deal with the issue of settlers who will find themselves on the Palestinian side, once the issue of borders are resolved.

The Palestinian leadership continues to insist in word and in deed its commitment to the security obligations that it has signed to. Within this obligation, there are no violent alternatives to ineffective peace talks. Since the 1993 famous White House handshake, Palestinians have been hoping for freedom and independence. Israel has postponed, obstructed and obfuscated every legitimate bilateral and multilateral effort to reach a negotiated agreement.

Going to the UN is not a declaration of war, on the contrary it is insistence on a nonviolent path towards a permanent peace.


Daoud Kuttab is a Palestinian journalist and former Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University. Follow him on twitter.com/daoudkuttab


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