The Great Debate

Palestinians are on the wrong path to statehood

May 27, 2011

By Alan Elsner
The opinions expressed are his own.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas seems firmly embarked on an attempt to win recognition of Palestinian statehood in the United Nations General Assembly this September but his strategy will only further delay real independence for his people.

Abbas himself outlined his strategy in an oped in The New York Times on May 16, which made it clear that achieving a state through negotiations with Israel was not his immediate aim. Instead, he intends to try to mobilize the international community to impose a peace on Palestinian terms by hounding Israel in every international forum — to isolate and weaken the Jewish state so it will be forced to settle.

“Palestine’s admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice,” Abbas wrote.

A week of intense Middle East activity in Washington, highlighted by major addresses by U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, failed to change the equation. Palestinian leaders reaffirmed their determination to move ahead with their plan.

There are two major problems with this strategy: first, resolutions at the General Assembly are not binding and have no force in international law. Palestine cannot be admitted as a full member of the U.N. without Security Council approval and the United States is virtually certain to exercise its veto if necessary to prevent this from happening.

Second, as a strong democracy with a formidable military and an economy that would be the envy of many in Europe, Israelis are not about to bow to international pressure. Even countries like China and India, which will probably cast their ritual, symbolic votes with the Palestinians in September, are unlikely to do anything that would endanger their burgeoning bilateral trade relationships with Israel. Israel-China trade was $6.7 billion in 2010 while Israel’s trade with India, excluding military exports, was around $5 billion last year and is forecast to triple in the next decade with the signing of a free trade agreement.

Of course, as usual, Palestinians will try to take advantage of a symbolic victory in the General Assembly by passing anti-Israel resolutions in other international organizations. Israel has been singled out and persecuted in such bodies for decades without any effect on its determination to defend itself. The Israeli people have withstood wars, intifadas, countless terrorist incursions and suicide attacks as well as boycotts and delegitimization campaigns — none have weakened their determination to endure.

Abbas was quick to dismiss Netanyahu’s speech but in fact there were several important concessions contained within it that might have provided a basis for a resumption of negotiations. The Israeli leader said openly for the first time that some Israeli settlements on the West Bank would have to be evacuated; he also reiterated his commitment to substantial territorial concessions so that Palestinians could build a viable and prosperous state.

“They (the Palestinians) should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people in their own state. They should enjoy a prosperous economy, where their creativity and initiative can flourish,” Netanyahu said.

Since the beginning of the peace process, the international community has always assumed that the only way to end this conflict would be through a negotiated solution acceptable to both sides. Every single step forward, from the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty to the Oslo Accords of 1993, was achieved through negotiations. Never has one party succeeded in imposing its will on the other.

By going the U.N. route, Abbas is leading his people down a blind alley. He is squandering precious time and energy on a strategy that will lead nowhere. For the sake of the Palestinians, he should return to the negotiations without delay.

Alan Elsner is the senior director of communications for The Israel Project.

Photo: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is seen during his meeting with Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair (unseen) in the West Bank city of Ramallah May 19, 2011. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

4 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS


According to Hamas (which now has an agreement with the PA), the only solution to the “Israel problem” is to get rid of Israel and the Jews who live there.

This has proven to be an impractical policy ever since Israel’s “second” coming in 1948, since its fruition depends upon a second Holocaust, which the Jews not surprisingly reject and will fight until their last person to prevent. Golda Meir often said: We Jews have a secret weapon in our struggle with the Arabs; we have no place to go.

A system of negotiation and the courts would serve both parties well, but mostly the Palestinians. At some point, hopefully soon, Palestinians will change from dancing in the streets on 911 and sending in homicide bombers (whose lives were once saved by a Haddassh Hospital).

Posted by SanjoseMike | Report as abusive

The only way the Palestinian plan works is if peace is a given. The fact that they understand that has already “changed the equation”. The idea that this has Israel and the US in a panic is encouraging.

The Palestinians have already tried to negotiate an end to the occupation. Peace agreements with Israel are useless. Israel signed an agreement to withdraw their troops from occupied lands. What the Palestinians didn’t understand at that point was the level of dishonesty on Israel’s part in the omission of the word “all”.

Peace isn’t something that needs to be negotiated, it can be pursued without permission, and the ever cherished “legitimacy” that Israel is afraid will be challenged is exactly what enables the Palestinians to very effectively “impose peace” on them.

What Israel has to offer at the negotiating table, and what they expect in return is an absolute joke. Israel is the only nation in the world that considers adhering to international law to be a major concession. Why should the Palestinians even consider giving up their legitimate rights in exchange for their legitimate rights?

There is no fair and just outcome for Palestine to be had at Israel’s negotiating table. In the past, this situation only served to frustrate the peace process, maintaining the constant state of despair that leads to violence, and the cycle would continue. Ending the cycle of violence requires a bit of insight, foresight and an honest understanding of motivations and power.

Nothing has ever advanced the prospect of peace more than the growing ease of global communication that we enjoy today.

In what can only be described as a profound display of willful ignorance, in the interest of Israel’s security, Netanyahu and Obama have attempted to crush the Palestinians’ confidence in global diplomacy in hopes of convincing them to return to their position of despair at the Western backed negotiating table.

Clearly, they still fail to grasp the simple undeniable reality that this is a new era. The propaganda that has propelled them into this precarious position relied heavily on the relative isolation of each nation and the ability of the mass media to control the flow of information. Yes, propaganda was rather effective back when TV was high tech, but the world has clearly changed.

Posted by JamesHovland | Report as abusive

“Since the beginning of the peace process, the international community has always assumed that the only way to end this conflict would be through a negotiated solution acceptable to both sides. Every single step forward, from the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty to the Oslo Accords of 1993, was achieved through negotiations. Never has one party succeeded in imposing its will on the other.

By going the U.N. route, Abbas is leading his people down a blind alley. He is squandering precious time and energy on a strategy that will lead nowhere. For the sake of the Palestinians, he should return to the negotiations without delay.”

I disagree with your assessment. Palestinians are wise to gain what ground they can, especially when making moves that put them on a moral high ground (which has worked for countries that have been handed land in the past). Abbas is using a peaceful approach that serves to illuminate any tactics on the part of Israel that could be construed as aggression against peace (e.g. building settlements). Netanyahu can talk whatever game he likes, but in the end, his actions are what speaks.

Also, if anything, the “peace process” has proven itself a farce. The outcome is always the same, it falls apart. The essential problem continues to persist; you have a state imposing itself on a significant % of the population that has a desire to be independent, and the state, in its attempts to maintain its unity, has little to no compunction about its (often) abusive methods of maintenance.

There is a common idiom for the definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. Abbas seems to have woken up to this fact. You miss the point of what Abbas is doing. He doesn’t necessarily believe that a Palestinian state will be “imposed,” rather, he is gaining leverage that may one day support actual compromise on Israel’s part. Thus far, Israel’s attitude has been “We have the leverage, so why should we really care?”

Posted by gurari | Report as abusive

The future of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel-occupied territory the West Bank and Gaza is currently dependent on Israel finding “peace-partners” with which to negotiate a ‘solution’. The nebulous term “Peace Partners” is used because Israel refuses to admit there are such entities as ‘Palestinians’ or that they have rights to the ground on which they have lived, in some cases for centuries or to demarcate their own future independent of Israel.

The essential problem dates back to the beginning, when the UN delimited a new state of Irael, but failed to consider the fate of the rest of the territory west of the Jordan which ended up as part of the state of Transjordan, or Gaza which was assimilated by Egypt. The subsequent military cessions of these places by Israel in ensuing ‘wars’ only compounded the issue.

Whether UN resolutions have effect is only proportional to the resolution of its members to enforce them. Thus far the resolutions, made after the 1967 ‘war’to return captured territory still stand – in terms of moral suasion if nothing else. So much so that, while Israel may be doing everything that a permanent resident might do to newly-acquired territory, in the face of the UN and the world it still claims to be pursuing a ‘negotiated settlement’ of issues with indigenous populations in keeping with the pertinent UN resolutions.

In counterpoint to this have been the demonstrable unwillingness to abide by previous agreements to move the process ahead and a denial of a voice to the majority of Palestinians. Exacerbated with a national program on-going, pro-actively ‘defensive’ military suppression and rigorous economic coercion and steady encraochment into Arab lands and you have the physical manifestation that permits a marked visual distinction of the two abutting areas from space.

It is hard to believe, even given peace as a foundation, that the Palestinian ‘tribal areas inside Israel’ would not continue to be overcrowded ‘ghettoes’ providing cheap labour for Israel, a subject market for Israeli goods, a source of taxation and a target for continued property acquistion. For Israel, left to itself, cannot and will not countenance a Plaestinian state that stands on its own. That’s the only good the UN can do.

And that is why it is the best course of the Arabs under the current circumstances. There is no other viable solution to solving their problems, short of genocide.

Posted by Popsiq | Report as abusive

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