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Declaring Palestinian Statehood

Salam Fayyad.

Palestinian political figures, said to be frustrated with the pace and trajectory of peace talks with Israel, have increasingly made noises about taking matters into their own hands and unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state.  In practical terms, this means implementing Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's plan for Palestinian independence first unveiled in August 2009. According to that plan, the Palestinians would devote two years to developing the infrastructure of their embryonic state, including in areas under full Israeli control, at the conclusion of which the Palestinian state would be a fact on the ground lacking only international recognition.

Relevant Links
The Kosovo Strategy  Dan Diker, Jerusalem Viewpoints. Analyzing the Palestinian plan of unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state.
A Dangerous Precedent  Vuc Jeremic, Japan Times. Writing in 2008, Serbia’s foreign minister warns of the perils of legitimizing the doctrine of imposed solutions to ethnic conflicts.

How exactly would they secure that recognition? Once their fledgling state was in place, the Palestinians would take their case to the UN while also seeking the de facto endorsement of Western powers, especially from within the European Union. In going down this path they would be following the lead of the breakaway province of Kosovo that in 2008 unilaterally declared its independence from Serbia. That declaration was the culmination of a twelve-year process that began with the 1996-99 war between Muslim Kosovars and Christian Serbs and followed eight years in which the region was administered by the United Nations. Even though fewer than 40 percent of UN member states now recognize Kosovo's independence, the U.K., France, Germany, and the U.S. were quick to grant official recognition, and from Kosovo's perspective these are the countries that count. The Palestinians agree.

And where did Palestinians get the idea of imitating Kosovo? Not on their own, it seems. Instead, like so many mischievous and reckless ideas of our era, this one was the gift of European diplomats. According to Saeb Erekat, the senior Palestinian negotiator, the notion was first proposed to the Palestinians in 2008 by Javier Solana, the EU's foreign-policy chief, and was soon echoed by others. Adding fuel, a 2009 EU document raised the possibility of unilaterally recognizing east Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. More recently still, the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, averred that "one cannot rule out in principle" Security Council recognition of Palestinian independence.

One might be forgiven for questioning this unwonted passion for "cowboy" action on the part of Europeans otherwise famous for their devotion to multilateral solutions for complex international problems. The key would once again seem to be Kosovo. More particularly, the key would seem to lie in the diplomatic lessons drawn from that earlier conflict by one Richard Goldstone—the same Goldstone who in 2009 would lead the notorious UN "fact-finding" mission on the Gaza conflict. In 1999-2001, Goldstone chaired the Independent International Commission on Kosovo; according to his own account, one of the main lessons of that war was, precisely, the need for strong-willed, preemptive, diplomatic action by the "international community" on behalf of those whose human rights are being violated.

As with Kosovo then, so with Palestinians now—or so the reasoning appears to run. Preemptive, unilateral action must be the international community's  weapon of choice when the principle of self-determination meets the "internationalization of human rights."

It would be all too easy to point to the hypocrisy of European advocates of this sort of behavior, what with their long history of expressing shock and disapproval at any American or Israeli resort to "unilateralism" (in, be it noted, self-defense). It would be no less easy to point to their selectivity in picking the beneficiaries of their high-minded solicitude. Pacifying the Muslim Kosovars with statehood was an obvious move for Europeans rattled by the potential of spreading violence on their doorstep, and an especially opportune one at a moment when the Serbs had been successfully branded as international pariahs. The parallels with Israel and the Palestinians, as attractive as they are facile and false, must have seemed irresistible.    

The Netanyahu administration takes the threat of Palestinian unilateralism seriously, and has reportedly asked for a U.S. commitment to veto any initiative in that direction at the UN Security Council. One might add that, around the world, countries like India, China, Russia, and perhaps even Spain and Turkey, all of which face the threat of restive minorities within their borders, have much to fear if unilateralism gains further validity as a tool of international diplomacy. Where Israel in particular is concerned, the push for a UN-backed imposed solution takes its place among several recently opened fronts in the political war on the legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty. The fact that such mischief-making could result in threatening the stability of European states themselves, if not the entire global order, is just further testimony that, when anti-Israel passions are in the air, anything goes.

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Justin White on November 24, 2010 at 1:20 pm (Reply)
You are correct in pointing out the treacherous hand of Europe involved in Israeli politics-both inside Israel and from outside.
LT COL HOWARD on November 24, 2010 at 9:37 pm (Reply)
This is a very intelligent article. I look forward to learning from the author the steps that Israel should be taking on the assumption that this very damaging scenario unfolds. Should Israel take steps to control its required water resources? Should Israel announce that it's land-use policy would parallel the ownership laws of the Palestinian Authority and Jordan? Israel must prepare itself for any eventuality. Israel cannot count on the goodwill of the French or even the Americans. It seems that “statesmen” are always willing to take the" high moral road" no matter how much Jewish and Arab bloodshed it will cost.
R Theodore on November 25, 2010 at 10:28 am (Reply)
1. Nationhood and Jerusalem. Israel became a nation in 1312 BCE, Two thousand years before the rise of Islam.
2. Arab refugees in Israel began identifying themselves as part of a Palestinian people in 1967, two decades after the establishment of the modern State of Israel.
3. Since the Jewish conquest in 1272 BCE, the Jews have had dominion over the land for one thousand years with a continuous presence in the land for the past 3,300 years.
4. The only Arab dominion since the conquest in 635 CE lasted no more than 22 years.
5. For over 3,300 years, Jerusalem has been the Jewish capitol . Jerusalem has never been the capitol of any Arab or Muslim entity. Even when the Jordanians occupied Jerusalem, they never sought to make it their capitol, and Arab leaders did not come to visit.
6. Jerusalem is mentioned over 700 times in the Torah, the Jewish Holy Scriptures. Jerusalem is not mentioned once in the Koran.
7. King David founded the city of Jerusalem. Mohammed never came to Jerusalem.
8. Jews pray facing Jerusalem. Muslims pray with their backs toward Jerusalem.
9. Arab and Jewish Refugees: in 1948 the Arab refugees were encouraged to leave Israel by Arab leaders promising to purge the land of Jews. Sixty-eight percent left without ever seeing an Israeli soldier.
10 The Jewish refugees were forced to flee from Arab lands due to Arab brutality, persecution and pogroms.
11. The number of Arab refugees who left Israel in 1948 is estimated to be around 630,000. The number of Jewish refugees from Arab lands is estimated to be the same.
12. Arab refugees were INTENTIONALLY not absorbed or integrated into the Arab lands to which they fled, despite the vast Arab territory. Out of the 100,000,000 refugees since World War II, theirs is the only refugee group in the world that has never been absorbed or integrated into their own people's lands. Jewish refugees were completely absorbed into Israel, a country no larger than the state of New Jersey .
13. The Arab-Israeli Conflict: the Arabs are represented by eight separate nations, not including the Palestinians. There is only one Jewish nation. The Arab nations initiated all five wars and lost. Israel defended itself each time and won.
14. The PLO's Charter still calls for the destruction of the State of Israel. Israel has given the Palestinians most of the West Bank land, autonomy under the Palestinian Authority, and has supplied them.
15. Under Jordanian rule, Jewish holy sites were desecrated and the Jews were denied access to places of worship. Under Israeli rule, all Muslim and Christian sites have been preserved and made accessible to people of all faiths.
16. The UN Record on Israel and the Arabs: of the 175 Security Council resolutions passed before 1990, 97 were directed against Israel.
17. Of the 690 General Assembly resolutions voted on before 1990, 429 were directed against Israel.
18. The UN was silent while 58 Jerusalem Synagogues were destroyed by the Jordanians.
19. The UN was silent while the Jordanians systematically desecrated the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives.
20. The UN was silent while the Jordanians en forced an apartheid-like policy of preventing Jews from visiting the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.
Len Sullivan on November 27, 2010 at 7:08 am (Reply)
As an American Christian, my interest in Israel is the history of Her people, their undivided statehood and their millennia of survival.

The roots of my Catholic faith burrow to the depth of Jewish tradition and Jewish ancestry where it traces to the Biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Without these chosen people –as history has shown, there would have been no Torah, no Talmud, no Prophets and no Bible.

The rightful claim to a singular, unfettered, undivided statehood can and must be theirs. As a historian I support their assertion to this right. As a Scripture scholar, I maintain their true, just and equitable claim for free, autonomous existence.
Larry Snider on November 28, 2010 at 8:28 am (Reply)
It seems clear to me that there exists a fundamental lack of trust between the The Netanyahu and Abbas-led governments. Beneath the surface neither people believes that a real peace agreement is possible at this time. Accordingly, Israel swung right and the Palestinians have avoided elections altogether. However, leaders resort to unilateral moves from all kinds of motivations including Ariel Sharon's unilateral dissengagement from Gaza as part of a larger dissengagement plan (that was made impossible by his stroke). I believe that the greatest threat to Israel is the lack of meaningful progress and its increasing likelihood of engendering local and even regional violence on a scale that Israel has not seen because of the increasing range and accuracy of the weapons in the hands of Hamas and Hezbollah, the fragility of the nature of the Shiite vs Sunni balance of power in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East, let alone the growing threat of a nuclear Iran.

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