Daily Archives: September 19, 2011
Two posts ago on September 6, I wrote
that the Palestinians were frustrated and expressed a certain amount of
sympathy with his frustration. Numerous commentators and pundits have made
the same point. Yet it remains the case that the UN resolution to declare
Palestine a state is seriously problematic and going to cause more trouble than
it’s worth. The list below just briefly highlights the potential problems:
- It will void the Oslo agreement,
which held that all decisions must be the result of bilateral negotiations
between Israel and Palestine. Even though Oslo is moribund, it provides a
framework for discussion and expectations. Sets of agreements that have
stimulated cooperation (such as security) will be in jeopardy.
- It will inflame both the Israelis
and the Palestinians (albeit for different reasons) but could still result in
violence. The proposed Palestinian state will be like no state imagined by
Israelis. It will make it difficult for Israelis to control their own religious
sites, settlement blocs, and various other resources. This declaration could
create a very difficult atmosphere that triggers an Israeli or a Palestinian
- Whatever borders the resolution
declares will automatically define Israel as an occupier with no jointly
recognized outlets for resolution. But on the Palestinian side it would fix
their boundaries and make future boundary negotiations difficult. A unilateral
declaration of any boundary is by nature illegitimate.
- The Palestinians will give up
their claim of being a stateless people, a status that has benefited them. The
Palestinians lose their international moral standing if the conflict becomes one
of simply border disputes. The PLO, according to one Palestinian consultant,
will lose its legal status as a representative of the Palestinian people. After
a state is declared refugees outside the boundaries of that state would be left
- There is at this moment minimal
unity between Hamas and Fatah and hence the Palestinian state will include
about 40% of the West Bank. This leaves portions of the West Bank, East
Jerusalem, and Gaza, in the hands of Hamas. This is nothing but a combustible
situation that could explode at any time.
- Interestingly, it is the Israelis
who have typically been blamed for acting unilaterally. It is now the
Palestinians who are acting unilaterally and if they set expectations that
cannot be met and the situation will be even worse.
- The current security on the
ground is a real success for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is essential
for any progress and has been the result of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation. If
the UN resolution results in the loss of this cooperation, then everyone’s
efforts will have been in vain.
- It’s curious that in 2003 the
Palestinians were offered the opportunity to establish the state first, and
negotiate final status agreements later. They rejected this proposal because
they figured that they would lose negotiating power by establishing a state
without final status issues being resolved. Now, they have reversed course and
are pursuing this very goal but doing it outside the confines of agreements
with others. This seems to be to their own disadvantage.
- The majority of Israelis support
a two state solution. The two state solution is very important and the only
sensible solution which can guarantee the national identity and dignity of both
sides. But such a solution must be the result of direct negotiations and
agreements between Israelis and Palestinians. This unilateral action
jeopardizes the two state solution, and might cause an Israeli diminution of
Israel puts its friend the United States in a difficult position and increases
the alienation and isolation from the Arab world. But the Palestinians are also
alienating a potential friend in the United States. Currently, the US is more
supportive of Palestinian interests than ever before. This unilateral
resolution interferes with the Palestinian US relationship.
Palestinian frustration with Israel –
Netanyahu in particular and the right-wing coalition – is justified. And the
two state solution is the only way to preserve the idea of real peace. It’s
crucial that the two states be established and Israel begin the process of
developing itself as a Jewish state alongside the Palestinians. The existence
of two states serves the interests of both parties – not to mention the
positive implications for the Middle East and the world. The two sides must
find a path back to negotiations, paths that cross one another and do not head
off on their own.
Next week, a modest solution proposal.