Thursday, June 30, 2011
The Palestinian Third Way
By Daoud Kuttab
The Palestinian leadership is more committed than ever to obtaining statehood through the United Nations General Assembly. But despite this commitment, there is worry that success in New York might not necessarily mean success in Nablus or Hebron.
There are many reasons the UN route is the correct strategy for Palestinians today. Under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority has convincingly addressed Israel’s security concerns. Israeli and US military officials are on the record as praising the success of the Palestinian security in dealing with anti-Israel violence.
The Abbas security doctrine also extends to the issue of incitement. Palestine TV witnessed major changes that saw its viewership increase and the Israeli complaints about its content disappear. Emotional video clips praising martyrdom were replaced by public service announcements shot in Gaza reflecting the importance of the family.
The Palestinian ministry of education has become so successful and focused on its mission that USAID is willing to publicly praise and financially support it.
At the day-to-day administrative level, the technocratic government’s head, a vibrant former World Bank official, Salam Fayyad, has become a model prime minister in the entire region.
Yet despite all this positive effort, Palestinian leaders have been unable to move the negotiating process. Despite the fact that the Abbas leadership has successfully addressed all legitimate Israeli concerns, the peace process has not moved at all.
Palestinians have been so successful in removing every mine Israel placed on the way to statehood that the right-wing Israeli prime minister is left with the lame excuse that Palestinians must recognise the Jewishness of Israel for Israel to “allow” the creation of a Palestinian state.
Having done so much to prove “worthy” to Israel and the international community, and coming out empty handed, it wouldn’t be strange if the Palestinian leadership gave up on the peace process and returned to military resistance, or simply threw the keys of the Palestinian Authority in the face of Israelis. No one would blame Abbas if he said the Palestinian leadership will no longer do Israel’s dirty work and protect it from the anger of a people under a 44-year occupation.
But Abbas refused to take this route. Instead of succumbing to hatred or giving in, the Palestinian leadership has chosen a third way.
Lack of progress in the peace negotiations that began in 1993 forced the Palestinians to think of another nonviolent way in which to bring about the desired change. Asking the international body to intervene in the stalemate that occurred because of the Israeli intransigence is a recognition of the failure of the US and the Quartet to bring about the end of the Israeli occupation. By appealing to the world community, Palestinians are changing the rules of the game as set by Israel.
No longer will the rights of Palestinians continue to be held hostage to the US or its pro-Israel Congress. The entire world is now asked to make a statement concerning this conflict. Ironically, it was in this same world body, the UN General Assembly, that Israel began its process towards statehood. The partition plan approved in 1947, which declared Israel and a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as an international city, is now the focus of the Palestinian strategy.
The Palestinian aspiration for statehood is based on the 1967 borders, which is a much smaller area than that allocated in 1947 for the Arab state.
The right to an independent state is now accepted by the international community. Even Israeli leaders are on record as supporting it by their acceptance of the two-state solution.
The US and the world community also supported the recent calls by US President Barack Obama that the Palestinian state be based on the 1967 borders, with mutually agreed-to land swaps.
This Palestinian third way is perhaps the very last nonviolent effort that will be attempted in order to accomplish Palestinians’ inalienable right to self determination. If this path is blocked, there is no telling which route the Palestinians will take.This commentary was published in The Jordan Times on 30/06/2011