Sunday, September 25, 2011

Palestinians Still In Limbo

By Musa Keilani
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday that he will reject a peace blueprint if it doesn't demand that Israel stop building settlments.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in UN that he will reject a peace blueprint if it doesn't demand that Israel stop building settlments.

The Palestinian leadership under President Mahmoud Abbas took a historic step by formally requestingthe UN to recognise Palestinian statehood.
The Palestinians should have done that much earlier since it was clear that Israel had no intention to negotiate a fair and just peace agreement with them based on their legitimate rights upheld by UN resolutions, starting with Resolution 181 of 1947.
The Palestinians were encouraged to start the Oslo process, as political thinker and analyst Adnan Abu Odeh says, by Sadat who regained the occupied Sinai through American sponsorship of direct negotiations with Israel. Certainly one important factor was the fall of the Soviet Union, the real patron, political supporter and military provider of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
The Palestinians assumed they could follow Egypt’s example and win back their territories without realising the dramatic changes in the power politicsfollowing the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. They should have made Arafat realise that the desert terrain of Sinai is not geopolitically or religiously sacrosanct to the Jews as Jerusalem.
The Palestinian move now, and after 20 years of direct talks, has been prompted by despair and frustration over Israel’s stonewalling and adamant stand that any peace accord should be based on its terms and conditions. Furthermore, the world political powers seemed to go along with the Israeli position.
The Palestinian decision to demand that the UN reaffirm its own decision, taken in 1947, is mainly aimed at breaking the status quo.
According to US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, the UN Security Council is likely to start debating the Palestinian bid for membership this week. US President Barack Obama already told Abbas that if he insisted on submitting this bid to the UN Security Council, the US would use its veto power to kill it.
The Palestinian problem will continue to remain on the front burner of international conflict demanding a solution as the situation in the occupied territories deteriorates and might presage a third Intifada, which will add more fire and bloodshed to what is witnessed in Damascus, Yemen, Libya and Iraq.
Under a previous proposal, the Palestinians were supposed to simply submit their request to the UN and do nothing towards seeking a vote for one year, during which they would resume negotiations with Israel. Then, French President Nicolas Sarkozy came up with another proposal for the UN to give the Palestinians an observer status position, similar to the Vatican’s.
The French proposal stipulated one condition: that the internationally backed roadmap for peace be implemented within one year. Israel turned down the French proposal, saying it was not viable and not coordinated with the US or the European Union.
The Israeli rejection of the proposal is a reaffirmation of the reality that Israel does not want peace and does not expect any agreement to be reached with the Palestinians in one year, or many years beyond that, during which the demography and geography of the occupied territories will have been transformed so much that there will be little left to negotiate.
Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Jerusalem total now more than the Jewish population in Palestine in 1947, when Israel was founded.
An Israeli offer to resume direct negotiations was yet another ploy to stall the Palestinian move at the UN. Abbas said on Thursday that he had no knowledge of the Israeli proposal.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused the Palestinians of“defiant and obstinate behaviour”, whereas he, himself, imposed conditions on the outcome of negotiations: no return of Arab East Jerusalem, no to the rights of the Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war to return and no to giving up any Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. Furthermore, he wants to impose Israel’s own security arrangements with the Palestinians, including control of the Jordan Valley and of all access to the Palestinian territories. These positions and demands are the main reasons for the deadlock in peace negotiations.
The Palestinians went ahead with their move at the UN in order to force the international community to recognise that they can no longer take the Palestinians for granted and let Israel continue to behave as if they were following a different set of rules.
The expected US veto of the Palestinian bid at the UN will embarrass the United States in front of an overwhelming majority in the international community. Not that Washington would mind it much, but Israel will face further isolation and that is not acceptable to the US.
It is difficult to see how things will get ahead from here, but the Palestinian leadership has added a dramatically new element to the equation.
Israel can be expected to come up with more ideas and proposals, but the Palestinians should not allow themselves to be lured into any of them without ironclad guarantees that fairness and justice will be at the basis of any peace agreement and that they will enjoy their legitimate rights, including the right to set up an independent state with Arab East Jerusalem as its capital.
-This commentary was published in The Jordan Times on 25/09/2011

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