Sunday, September 11, 2011

Palestine: 'The Only Way Ahead'

By Musa Keilani
 The Palestinian leadership is now doing what it should have done decades ago: give up hope that it could expect real help from othersto secure a just peace agreement with Israel.
Israel calls the shots in the US political establishment to the point that Washington will browbeat any country that expresses support for the Palestinians’ quest to establish an independent state of their own. And the Palestinians always depended on the US to help bring about a breakthrough in the process that always hit hurdles because of Israel’s obstinate insistence that any peace agreement should be according to its terms. That leaves no room for the legitimate rights of the Palestinians.
So it is time for the situation to be shaken up, and the Palestinian leaders have realised it. That is why they remain determined to take their cause for statehood to the United Nations despite all kinds of direct and indirect pressure from Israel and allied countries.
The US is threatening to cut off much-needed financial assistance. Israel is threatening to scrap all past agreements, including those governing economy and trade. The threat went so far as to announce the possibility of a unilateral annexation of parts of the West Bank, starting with the Jewish settlements there. Israel has also warned that there could be no negotiation on the status of Arab East Jerusalem, which remains under its occupation.
The Palestinian leadership under President Mahmoud Abbas should simply ignore these threats and warnings because the outcome of hypothetical negotiations with Israel would produce the same outcome, since the Palestinians do not have the option of applying political pressure on anyone.
Washington is now engaged in an effort to convince Abbas to give up the bid for UN recognition of Palestinian statehood and UN membership. It is clear that the Palestinian quest will be countered and killed by a veto in the UN Security Council. So the best option is to go for non-membership status that would allow the Palestinians entry to all UN-affiliated agencies and organisations and take their case at these fora, including filing a case against Israel on charges of violating their rights and committing crimes against humanity.
There is another option.
The “Uniting for Peace” UN Resolution 377 of November 1950 states that the General Assembly could override the veto-wielding members of the Security Council if they exercise their veto power in a case where there appears to be a threat to world peace.
It states: “.... if the Security Council, or the permanent members, fail to exercise their primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security in any case where there appears to be a threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression, the General Assembly shall consider the matter immediately with a view to making appropriate recommendations to members for collective measures, including in the case of a breach of the peace or act of aggression the use of armed force when necessary, to maintain or restore international peace and security. If not in session at the time, the General Assembly may meet in an emergency special session within 24 hours of the request.... Such emergency special session shall be called if requested by the Security Council on the vote of any seven members, or by a majority of the members of the United Nations.”
So, the consequences of the Palestinians presenting their case to the General Assembly, where they definitely have majority support, are embarrassing to the US and Israel, which will be further isolated.
An overwhelming General Assembly endorsement of the Palestinian quest will force the Israeli hand. If Washington does not act upon it, it will be further exposed as an Israeli ally posing as an honest mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A US veto at the Security Council will also be in stark contradiction of its stated support for the Palestine Partition Plan of 1947, which called for Jewish and Palestinian states to be created in Palestine.
There is no ground whatsoever to argue today that the Palestinians do not have the right to seek statehood. The most outstanding change in the situation of 1948, when Israel was created, and today is that Israel has military control of all the land that was assigned to the Palestinians by the UN and is refusing to return it and allow the creation of an independent Palestinian state there.
The Palestinian leadership under Abbas is in the right direction. Abbas today enjoys far more support among his people because of his firm position defying all pressure. Other groups, including Hamas, could not really challenge his credibility because he is publicly seeking a state for Palestine, whether secular or Islamic.
Abbas should not allow himself to be lured away from the UN quest by efforts to convince him to engage in peace talks with Israel or drop the bid for statehood. The time is ripe to scramble the elements at play by creating new facts, such as presenting the bid for statehood at the UN and exercising whatever legal options are available to support this bid. That is the only way ahead.

This commentary was published in The Jordan Times on 11/09/2011

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