Oct 12 2011

Why Palestinians Have No Choice

Published by at 11:21 am under Articles,Palestinian politics

By Daoud Kuttab

For years, Palestinians have been searching for a strategy that can produce freedom from decades of foreign military occupation. The two apparent options that were available to the Palestinian leadership were violent resistance or political negotiations. Yasser Arafat tried both without success. Mahmoud Abbas has been adamantly opposed to violence. Since taking over as President of the Palestinian National Authority, he has worked hard to change the inflammatory rhetoric of Palestinian politics and has backed Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s efforts to build up a Palestinian state instead of simply cursing the occupation.

But all of Abbas’ peaceful efforts have failed to produce substantive movement in the stalled peace talks. While Palestinians have been in direct negotiations with Israel since the Madrid peace conference in 1991, the past two years have failed to produce any progress on the key issue of borders. The Oslo accords signed in 1993 on the White House lawn promised a five-year interim agreement, which was supposed to lead to an independent Palestinian state. But Palestinians are no nearer to a state today than they were back then.

The impasse over direct talks has given cover to Israeli expansionism. Palestinian lands continue to be confiscated, Jews-only settlements continue to be built, and the Israeli-constructed security wall strangulates the Palestinians. The International Court of Justice at the Hague ruled in 2004 that the wall built inside Palestinian territory is illegal according to international law, yet it continues to be a concrete example of the oppression of occupation.

So Abbas has chosen a third way: the U.N. Taking the matter to New York plays to Palestinians’ strength: overwhelming global support for their position. He believes international support for Palestinian statehood can change the current paradigm.

With Palestine recognized as a state — even one with observer status — Palestinians could move in various international forums (including the International Court of Justice) against the Israeli occupiers. Every country that votes for Palestinian statehood will be morally obliged to take action against any party that is denying Palestine the right to be a fully functional and sovereign state.

The Palestinian strategy is not without risks, however. Israel and the U.S. Congress have threatened financial retribution. But the Palestinian public has responded that their independence is not for sale. Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, has mixed feelings about Abbas’ statehood gambit: although not ideologically against the U.N. move, Hamas has publicly opposed Abbas’ plan because he did not adequately consult Hamas.

No one is holding their breath as to what will happen at the U.N. In his speech to Palestinians before leaving for New York, Abbas admitted that the statehood resolution alone will not bring independence; he pleaded with Palestinians not to act violently following any U.N. decision. There is no question that Israel and its army will continue to rule Palestinian territories, no matter what the international community says. Negotiations will necessarily have to take place to end this conflict.

The Palestinians’ desire to get a U.N. vote on statehood, in whatever form, does not mean that they cannot have direct negotiations with Israel. But if all goes well, these talks will no longer be between Palestinians and their occupiers but between two states seeking to manage their relations in peace and harmony.

Kuttab is a Palestinian journalist and former Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2094388,00.html#ixzz1Z9kXgNrE

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