Palestinian UN bid: an end to the conflict or a recipe for disaster?

Over the last few months we have seen a rise in the number of countries among the international community declaring recognition of the state of Palestine within the 1967 borders, the last of which was St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

This move by the international community is based on the presumption that a two-state solution, namely the state of israel proclaimed in 1948, living alongside a Palestinian state comprising of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, as the best approach to ending the conflict.

For israelis this would mean compliance with international law. For Palestinians this would mean giving up its territories occupied by the then newly founded state of israel in 1948 and settling for only 22% of historical Palestine weakening the right of return to the thousands of refugees and their descendants living abroad.

‘President’ Mahmoud Abbas has expressed that this would internationalise the conflict as a legal matter and not only as a political one when he goes to the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly on September 20th to seek full international recognition of the state of Palestine based on the 1967 borders. It would give Palestinians the legal backing of a full UN member-state when they make claims of human rights abuses against israel at the International Criminal Court and other bodies.

But the United States has made it clear that it will veto any bid put forward by Abbas attempting to declare an independent and sovereign Palestinian state when it passes the Security Council. The United States, a permanent member of the Security Council, has been a partial broker towards israel; the latter of which has been the target of numerous UNSC resolutions calling for the protection of human rights and condemning indiscriminate attacks, all vetoed by the former. What’s more is that according to some news sources there is a bill being passed in Congress that will cut US aid to the Palestinian Authority if they eventually make a case for ‘statehood’ at the UN, which could lead its other major donours to be forced into following the same course of action, placing the socio-economic conditions and dire humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territories from bad to worse.

It should also be noted that the Palestinian Authority’s attempt in seeking UN recognition of ‘statehood’ is undemocratic in its nature as it represents Palestinians only inside the West Bank and Gaza, excluding those living in East Jerusalem, in israel and abroad.

Furthermore, it is the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) that is internationally recognised as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people both inside and outside of the remaining Palestinian territories enjoying UN observer status. The PLO already declared the independence of Palestine in 1988. Therefore it is only right that any attempt at protecting or advancing the political or legal status of the Palestinian people as a whole that it be done via the PLO and not the PA.

Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Palestinian Authority (PA)
Founded in 1964 Founded in 1993
Internationally recognised in 1974 by UN, international bodies and MENA states as sole representative of Palestinian people both inside and outside occupied Palestinian territories Founded under terms of Oslo accords and represents Palestinian people only inside West Bank and Gaza (excluding Palestinians in East Jerusalem, Palestinians living in israel and Palestinians living abroad.
Draws its legitimacy from the Palestine National Council, the parliament in exile. Holds permanent observer status at UN General Assembly Lifespan limited by final status negotiations that were to take place in 2000 but until today have still failed to take place

Calls by the US Palestinian Communities Network, the Boycott National Committee as well as other Palestinian experts and organisations have come to a consensus that any Palestinian effort should be about safeguarding and ameliorating Palestinian inalienable and internationally recognised rights, “fundamental of which are the right to return to our homes and properties which we were forcible expelled from; our right to self-determination; and our right to resist the settler colonial regime that has occupied our land for more than 63 years.

The process of de-democratisation and the de jure fragmentation of the Palestinian people as a whole would be further reinforced should Abbas’ bid succeed with the PA’s position strengthened and thereby replacing the PLO as the holder of Palestine’s seat at the UN.

Although the Palestinian Authority is responsible for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza it has no control over the majority of these territories. For example, it has no control over its borders, its air space, its general security, currency, fiscal or monetary policy, natural resources or foreign policy. It does not determine citizenship and any trade that takes place only takes place with israel or through israel passing israeli checkpoints and israeli ports. Also it does not have its own military to defend itself leaving Palestinians within the West Bank and Gaza at the control and whims of the Israeli Occupation Force’s (IOF) military force such as checkpoints, unreasoned detentions, closures, curfews and military incursions.

The essential infrastructure and environment is lacking for a fully-functional independent state. Over the years, israel has created facts on the ground, destroyed institutions, water wells, energy resources, finance, transport, communications, trade as well as many other economic sectors and industries. This heavy dependency on the occupying power that has denied their basic human rights over the decades and which has deliberately impoverished the Palestinians gives very little choice to the occupied at the moment and ability to emerge with an independent and sovereign state on the 1967 borders.

Palestinian socio-economic development necessary for a functioning sovereign state has been further constrained by dividing and trapping Palestinian cities and villages in the West Bank due to israel’s construction of Jewish-only settlements with a network of by-pass Jewish-only roads, a process known as bantustanisation considered illegal under international law. The movement of Palestinian people and goods in and out of the West Bank and within the West Bank itself are also hindered by countless military checkpoints.

The process of bantustanisation has been further aggravated by the Apartheid wall which cuts deep into the West Bank. The Apartheid Wall, in breach of the UN Charter article 2.4, is made of barbed wire, concrete, electronic motion sensors and guard towers costing about US$2.8 million per km. It has resulted in land loss & resources, property destruction, forced evacuation from homes by local residents and rising unemployment hindering freedom of movement, the rights to property, health, education, work and food necessary for Palestinian socio-economic development. israel claims it to be a temporary measure for security reasons even though it has been built beyond the Green Line and cuts 16 km deep into the West Bank.

As the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza are not contiguous there is a high possibility that the state will not function as one unit and thus failure to govern will be inevitable. Besides, this move comes with complete disregard to Hamas as a democratically-elected government and thus does not represent the wishes of all Palestinian political parties and factions.

In light of the above the proposal for ‘statehood’ does not remedy the Palestinian issue; it does not give any recognition to their suffering and neither does it give recognition to their rights of the land. As Jalal Abukhater has said, “Our struggle is not a struggle for symbolic statehood; it is a struggle to gain Palestinians’ basic rights!“ Thus the only possible solution that can happen at this moment in time would be a democratic bi-national one-state solution where both israelis and Palestinians, who claim the same land, would be equal regardless of ethnicity or religion; and above all a solution that would, and should, benefit the Palestinian refugees and their descendants first and foremost.

( / 12.09.2011)

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