Historical dates often emerge by sheer coincidence. In 2009, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad formulated an operational goal for his tenure: by 2011 he wanted to build institutions that would justify the proclamation of a Palestinian state. This would not just have symbolic value, as PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat's statement in 1988, but would carry practical implications. Fayyad's efforts have commanded international admiration. The West Bank is indeed run in a way that meets many criteria for successful statehood. As opposed to the past, funds are used responsibly and accounting standards are transparent. The security forces -- originally trained by U.S. Lieutenant General Keith Dayton -- are remarkably effective. Both the Palestinian population and the Israel Defense Forces rely on them more than ever. Hence, September 2011 began to crystallize as a realistic date for the founding of a Palestinian state.
Talk about this bid has built enough momentum to be something of a fait accomplit in international diplomacy and among pundits. President Obama has publicly opposed such a move repeatedly and even raised it as an issue with European leaders. It will undoubtedly put him in an unpalatable position. As U.N. General Assembly President Joseph Deiss explained, full membership in the U.N. can only be achieved when there is a majority recommendation from the U.N. Security Council, where the U.S. has Veto power.
September 2011 is a train the Palestinians can no longer jump. If anything, they should build up towards this as an historical event. One of the catastrophes of Palestinian historical memory is the Black September of 1970, in which more than ten thousand Palestinians were killed in Jordan. Abbas might well claim that he is moving towards the Palestinian "White September," in which the U.N. General Assembly formally recognizes Palestine. In another ironic twist of history, Palestinians may well turn this into a historic date comparable to the status that November 29, 1947, has for Israel, when the U.N. General Assembly voted for the partition of Palestine.
-Carlo Strenger is a professor of psychology at Tel Aviv University and serves on the Terrorism Panel of the World Federation of Scientists. He is the author of numerous books, most recently The Fear of Insignificance: Searching for Meaning in the Twenty-first Century. He blogs at "Strenger than Fiction" on Haaretz.com.