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Democracy Now! debate: Does UN statehood bid advance or undermine Palestinian struggle?

September 23, 2011 -- Democracy Now! -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to officially submit a statehood request to the United Nations in defiance of U.S. and Israeli threats... While supporters have hailed the bid as a step forward in the struggle to end the Israeli occupation and bring peace to the Middle East, critics call it a ploy by the Palestinian Authority to cling to power while undermining the rights of Palestinian refugees. We host a debate with two leading Palestinian analysts: Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the website The Electronic Intifada and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse, and Mouin Rabbani of the Institute for Palestine Studies and the webzine Jadaliyya. See also http://links.org.au/node/2453.

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JUAN GONZALEZ: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to officially submit a statehood request to the United Nations Security Council later today. The United States has vowed to veto the move.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I am convinced that there is no shortcut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace is hard work. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations. If it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians, not us, who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them, on borders and on security, on refugees and Jerusalem.

JUAN GONZALEZ: A new poll shows the Obama administration’s stance on Palestinian recognition at the United Nations is more extreme than that of a strong majority of Israeli citizens. A joint Israeli-Palestinian poll shows 69 percent of Israelis think their government should accept U.N. recognition of an independent Palestinian state. The survey also found 83 percent of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories supported the bid. Many Palestinians have expressed concern about the U.S. decision but remain committed to their goal.

KIMUR, Ramallah Resident: [translated] We have brought a lot to the table, and we have conceded a lot. We have given up on 78 percent of the land of historical Palestine for the state of Israel. What else do they want? They want us to leave. We will not leave. We will stay. And we will not be afraid of America, Israel or any other threats, whether they are to cut off donations or American aid. We will persist to remain on this land.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, Israeli Deputy Speaker of the Knesset Danny Danon praised President Obama’s speech at the United Nations and warned Israel will have a strong reaction to the Palestinian bid for U.N. membership.

DANNY DANON: There is no hope in the near future. This is the reality for the near future. Until we will not see a viable partner among the Palestinians, there will be no real, genuine peace. It is not popular to say it. We all want change, peace, tomorrow morning. It’s not going to happen tomorrow morning. We will have to wait until we will see a real partner among the Palestinians.

AMY GOODMAN: Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has said President Mahmoud Abbas will not be deterred and hopes the U.S. will not continue to be opposed to his country’s bid for statehood.

SAEB EREKAT: I would hope that the U.S. would revisit its position, because if we want to seek a Middle East that’s democratic, free, void of extremists and so on, we cannot maintain the status quo. The U.S. cannot continue treating Israel as a country above the laws of man. And that’s the truth.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more on the proposal for Palestinian statehood set to go before the U.N. Security Council, we’re joined by two guests. Ali Abunimah is the co-founder of news and analysis website, The Electronic Intifada, and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. He’s in Cleveland. We’re also joined by Mouin Rabbani in Washington, D.C., visiting scholar at the Institute for Palestine Studies. He is also co-editor of Jadaliyya ezine. Previously he worked as Palestine director of the Palestinian American Research Center.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let’s go first to Washington, D.C., to Mouin Rabbani. What is your take on what is happening today at the United Nations, Mahmoud Abbas presenting his statehood bid?

MOUIN RABBANI: Yeah, well, the Palestinian leadership today is going to deposit an application for full membership in the United Nations at the Security Council. And it seems that the Security Council, at the behest of Washington, will sit on it, while Washington seeks to garner enough votes in opposition to this proposal, so it doesn’t have to exercise a veto. And it seems that the Palestinian leadership is not going to increase the pressure by also going to the General Assembly.

I have to say I think the main issue here is not the bid for recognition or statehood. I think the key issue here is the extent to which this initiative creates space and possibility for the internationalization of the question of Palestine in all its dimensions. In other words, a beginning of an irrevocable turn away from the Oslo process, which time and again has proven that it serves as nothing more than a political cover for the consolidation of Israeli control and the deepening colonization of the Occupied Territories.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Ali Abunimah, you have been a vocal opponent or critic of this move by the Palestinians. Why?

ALI ABUNIMAH: Good morning, Juan. Good morning, Amy and Mouin.

Well, if we take what the PA, the Palestinian Authority, leadership say at face value, they say that their goal here was to try to break the status quo and to sort of return to negotiations, but on much better and more reasonable terms. That’s what they said. And if we evaluate it by those criteria, it’s been a complete disaster, because, in fact, what we saw from President Obama was a speech that was more pro-Israel than anything we have ever seen from him, which is saying something. And that was not a speech by a president of the United States addressing a world body with any sincerity about bringing an end to the conflict. That was a candidate running in an election where he is being very falsely and unfairly accused of not being pro-Israel enough. And that showed in the speech. So, the Palestinian Authority, rather than having ended the Oslo status quo, will go back home having achieved nothing and having simply demonstrated that it remains a captive of a situation where Palestinians are expected to carry out security, so-called security, for the Israeli occupation, are totally dependent on European Union and United States financing, and therefore financial blackmail, and have closed off all avenues for political action. And so, I see, really, this as a total failure.

The source of the opposition really came from a lot of Palestinians across the political spectrum who expressed fears that going to the United Nations to call for a state on a fraction of historic Palestine, without recognition of any other Palestinian rights, such as the rights of Palestinian refugees or the rights of Palestinian citizens in Israel, rather than advancing the cause of Palestine, could actually limit it and circumscribe it in the future because of unintended consequences. But it doesn’t look like that’s going to be a factor, after all, because this bid has gone absolutely nowhere.

AMY GOODMAN: Mouin Rabbani, your response?

MOUIN RABBANI: Well, you know, Ali is making the point that, for the Palestinian leadership, they’ve approached this entire issue as a tactical maneuver rather than a strategic initiative. And in that, he’s completely correct.

The point, rather, is, does this—does this initiative—or to the extent that it’s initiative, rather—create possibilities for a new dynamic for Palestinians to deal with the issues of occupation and self-determination and so on? And what I think you’ve seen in Palestinian society is a very broad desire to begin to move decisively away from the Oslo framework, which has been really, you know, bilateral negotiations, forever, about nothing, under unilateral American custodianship, with the U.S.—you know, Obama’s speech yesterday left even the Israelis in stunned disbelief about the extent of its pro-Israeli partisanship. So, no disagreement there. Rather, the issue is, you now have this initiative. This initiative creates possibilities, if the leadership is put under sufficient pressure by Palestinian society, to take it well beyond what the leadership intended. I think what Ali has been saying about the leadership is, more or less, essentially correct. But there—you know, the dynamic that’s created is by no means limited to what the leadership intends to do with it. And I think the key issue here is that this provides an opportunity to move away from Oslo and back towards the internationalization of the question of Palestine, where Palestinian—the issues of Palestinian self-determination are addressed on the basis of Palestinian rights as codified in a very large corpus of U.N. resolutions, rather than, you know, being codified in the pro-Israeli positions of the American administration and a Congress that has decisively gone off the deep end.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Ali Abunimah, what about this issue of bringing back the question of the—through the international community, of dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian question? I was struck a couple of days ago by an interview with Brzezinski, a former key official in the Carter administration, who said that he saw this as a possible turning point in terms of the loss of influence of the United States in the Middle East and the rise, basically, of the European powers to be—to take a lead in attempting to resolve the question.

ALI ABUNIMAH: I don’t think that’s right. On the contrary, the role the European Union has been playing has been absolutely abject in terms of trying to be sort of a deal maker to get Israel’s demands written into Quartet statements, the Quartet being the self-appointed ad hoc group of international officials that has unilaterally placed the—replaced the United Nations on the question of Palestine. And the European Union provides the largest subsidies to Israeli occupation under the guise of aid to the Palestinian Authorities. So I don’t see the Europeans playing that role.

But on the question of internationalization and changing the dynamic, I agree with Mouin that that’s what needs to happen. But, you know, listen to your—to the introduction to this debate, and we had someone called Saeb Erekat being quoted as the chief negotiator. I and the rest of the Palestinians thought that Saeb Erekat had resigned after the scandals of the Palestine Papers were revealed. And yet, there he still is, calling himself chief negotiator. I think that that demonstrates the lack of accountability of this Palestinian leadership, the lack of connection to the Palestinian people, the lack of responsiveness to the Palestinian people, particularly the Palestinian diaspora and Palestinian citizens of Israel, who have essentially been written out of the question of Palestine. And part of the disaster of the Oslo process has been to reduce and circumscribe the Palestinian cause to residents of the West Bank and Gaza—and now perhaps only residents of the West Bank, as even Gaza is consigned to the garbage can.

And what we really need to do, I think, is rebuild a Palestinian consensus and body politic based on the rights and demands of every segment of the Palestinian people, inside and outside the country, based on fundamental rights, not a demand for limited statehood, which ignores the rights of the majority of Palestinians. Can this bid jump-start that process? I don’t know. But I think there are other movements going on that have been much more dynamic and much more inclusive, such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which was dismissed as very marginal just a couple of years ago but is now sufficiently frightening and threatening to Israel, that they’re enlisting the United States government to fight it, which, of course, the Obama administration has enthusiastically volunteered to do by pledging to help Israel fight so-called delegitimization. What they call delegitimization, we call a struggle for universal rights and self-determination of Palestinians.

AMY GOODMAN: Mouin Rabbani—

ALI ABUNIMAH: So I think there are other avenues that need to be explored. And this U.N. bid, I think, has, if anything, demonstrated the dead end of a diplomatic process within a U.N. system that is so hopelessly broken and rigged on behalf of the powerful.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Mouin Rabbani, your response, but also what you would have liked to have seen President Obama say?

MOUIN RABBANI: Well, you know, Ali makes some very relevant criticisms of the Palestinian leadership, and I think one could add many more to what he’s said. And, of course, what is an essential requirement here is a reconstruction of the Palestinian national movement on the basis of an inclusive and purposeful strategy, and all the rest of it. At the end of the day, the fact of the matter is that there is this initiative at the United Nations and that Palestinians now have an opportunity to take this initiative well beyond the objectives for which it was launched by the leadership and to seek to intelligently use this initiative to promote the re-internationalization of the question of Palestine by addressing the issues of self-determination and the end of occupation on the basis of Palestinian rights as codified in international law and U.N. resolutions. I don’t think that that issue should have to wait until we get the leadership that we want or that we deserve, and I don’t think that these two elements are necessarily contradictory.

Now, in terms of Obama’s speech, I mean, you know, it’s—again, Israelis themselves reacted with stunned disbelief that an American president would give a speech at the U.N. that left even Avigdor Lieberman delighted and saying, you know, Bibi Netanyahu is now going to have to rewrite his own speech, lest he come across as less Israeli than the American president.

So, again, you know, getting back to the larger question, one of the key values of going to the United Nations and promoting the internationalization of the question of Palestine is precisely to get away from this hopelessly compromised American role in—not in resolving this conflict, but which has in fact come down to a policy of transforming Israeli impunity and promoting Israeli impunity as a central plank of American Middle East policy and basically acting in support of perpetual Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. So there can be no solution within the current framework. There can be no solution, unless the American role is replaced by a genuinely international one. And I think that going to the United Nations represents an essential first step in that direction, complemented, of course, by many other strategies and tactics, some of which Ali has mentioned. But at the end of the day, one either has Oslo or one has internationalization, and I don’t think that there’s a third option between the two.

AMY GOODMAN: We have to leave it there, Mouin Rabbani with the Institute for Palestine Studies and Ali Abunimah, co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.

Creative Commons License The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org.

Palestine: UN push a bid to save Oslo, Israel's isolation grows

Protesters in Egypt tear down the security wall protecting the Israeli embassy in Cairo, September 9. Photo from OccupiedPalestine.wordpress.com.

By Tony Iltis

September 18, 2011 -- Green Left Weekly -- “We are going to the United Nations to request our legitimate right, obtaining full membership for Palestine in this organisation”, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Ramallah-based, internationally recognised Palestinian Authority (PA), declared in a September 16 televised address.

“We are going to the Security Council.”

Abbas has acknowledged the initiative is largely symbolic and that UN recognition of Palestinian sovereignty would not translate to actual control of territory.

The BBC reported on September 16 that he “aimed to play down expectations … adding that the move would not end Israel’s occupation”. It said, “he stressed the UN move was not a substitute for negotiations.”

The initiative specifically limits the claim for recognition of Palestinian sovereignty to 22% of Palestine ― the Palestinian territory not claimed by Israel after it was established in 1948.

Ma’an News Agency said on September 16: “Abbas said he wanted to see a Palestinian state recognised on the basis of the 1967 lines, comprising the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, adding that this would then enable the Palestinians to return to negotiations with Israel.”

The BBC said Abbas reassured the West: “We are not heading there to delegitimise Israel, no one can do this, it is a state with full membership at the UN.”

Abbas said that should the bid be vetoed in the UN Security Council, he would turn to the General Assembly where, Xinhua said on September 16, 126 countries out of 193 support what the PA is requesting.

However, the General Assembly does not have the power to confer full UN membership. It does have the power to grant recognition as a “non-member state”, a status now held by the Vatican.

The US has already indicated that it will use its veto.

Al Jazeera reported that White House spokesperson Jay Carney said on September 16: “The Palestinians will not, and cannot, achieve statehood through a declaration at the United Nations. It is a distraction, and in fact, it’s counterproductive.”

The September 17 Independent said Israel warned, “it will consider possible retaliation which could include … even, according to some ministers, ‘annexation’ of the main settlement blocs inside the West Bank”.

Abbas has promoted the UN recognition bid as a response to the failure of the peace talks between Israel and the PA that have taken place since the 1993 Oslo Agreement. This is due to the intransigence of Israel and its Western backers.

However, the familiarity of the latest round of declarations and counter-declarations reflects that the bid is based on the same premise as the Oslo peace process. That is, the establishment of separate Israeli and Palestinian states in line with 1967 borders is the most realistic path to peace and Palestinian self-determination.

It is therefore up against the same obstacles.

In 1948, when Jewish settlers militarily established the state of Israel, driving hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their land, they did so over 78% of the country until then called Palestine.

The remaining 22% of Palestine ― the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip ― was held by Jordan and Egypt until Israel conquered it in 1967.

The “1967 borders” at the heart of both the Oslo peace process and the UN recognition bid existed for less than 20 years.

The greatest obstacle to any solution based on the 1967 borders is that they are irrelevant to the fact that all of what was called Palestine before 1948 is now under Israeli control.

Israel has shown no inclination to relinquish this control.

Since 1967, more than half of the West Bank has been annexed by Jewish-only settlements, Jewish-only roads, closed military areas, checkpoints and the “Apartheid Wall”. The wall doesn’t separate the West Bank from pre-1967 Israel, but separates West Bank Palestinian communities from each other and their land.

Current Palestinian demographics are the result of successive waves of Israeli ethnic cleansing since 1948. About half of Palestinians, more than 5 million people, live overseas, the majority in refugee camps in neighbouring countries.

Abbas’s statehood bid, like the various proposals in the post-Oslo negotiations, ignores the demand for the right of refugees to return.

Of the 5 million Palestinians inside the country, 2.5 million live in the West Bank, 1.5 million in the Gaza Strip and 1 million in pre-1967 Israel. Those living in Israel have Israeli citizenship, but with fewer rights than Jewish Israelis.

The high population density of the West Bank and Gaza reflects the high proportion of refugees from pre-1967 Israel and their descendants.

The Israeli Jewish population is also about 5 million ― about half a million live in the West Bank settlements with exactly the same citizenship rights as other Jewish Israelis.

In the West Bank, during the years of the peace process, the rate of Israeli land annexation, settlement building and demolition and expropriation of Palestinian houses increased.

This has been particularly the case in East Jerusalem. Israel has made it clear it is not willing to relinquish control of any of Jerusalem, the municipal boundaries of which have been expanded to include several West Bank villages.

Israel could create these “facts on the ground” because it is a nuclear-armed power that receives US$4 billion annual US military aid while its adversary is a subjected population.

A peace process premised on treating the two as equal parties in a conflict was always less about creating a solution than creating an illusion. Unfortunately, the UN initiative does not challenge this illusion.

Gaza blogger Sameeha Elwan, writing in a September 8 Electronic Intifada article, pointed out: “Less than half the Palestinian population live in the occupied Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the territories to be declared as the Palestinian state.

“What will happen to the other millions who live outside this territory?”

She said it was not even representative of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. “The last democratic elections for the PA took place more than five years ago. The refusal by the US and Europe to respect the results of that election has led to the severe fragmentation of both Gaza and the West Bank, leaving Palestinians with two governments, neither of which is representative of the total interests and will of the Palestinian people.”


The Western dismissal of Abbas’ statehood bid showed the same undisguised pro-Israel bias that characterised the international mediators role during the Oslo peace process. But in the region, the Palestinians have become less isolated.

Israel’s diplomatic relations are in crisis with what were its two most significant allies in the region until recently.

On September 2, Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador and the suspension of all military ties.

This was in response to Israel’s refusal to apologise over the Mavi Marmara incident in May last year. Israeli troops shot dead nine unarmed activists in international waters who were trying to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

On September 9, Egyptian diplomatic relations with Israel were effectively broken, not by the government, but by the people.

Protesters tore down the wall protecting the Israeli embassy and stormed the building, removing embassy files. Israel's ambassador and diplomatic staff fled Egypt by plane.

Protesters were enraged by Israel's killing of three Egyptian border guards, and the refusal of the Egyptian government to expel Israel's ambassador in response.

Since the 1979 Camp David Treaty, Egypt has been Israel’s closest regional ally.

The leaked “Palestine Papers” published by Al Jazeera in January, as well as documents published by WikiLeaks, showed former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak and his secret police chief Omar Suleiman played key roles in conspiring with Israel and the West in using the peace process to thwart Palestinian national aspirations.

However, this collaboration contrasted with the pro-Palestinian sympathies of the Egyptian people. That made the mass uprising that toppled Mubarak and Suleiman this year a dangerous development for Israel.

The military government has maintained Mubarak’s pro-Israel stance, but has proved less able to contain popular feeling.

Popular feeling boiled over on August 18 when Israel killed the border guards.

During Mubarak’s rule, 23 border guards were killed by Israel with no consequences.

This time, the mass protests and embassy storming forced the evacuation of all 86 Israeli staff.

As the Ramallah-based PA seeks to save the discredited Oslo process through a diplomatic manoeuvre at the UN, the Egyptian people have taken matters into their own hands. They have helped reveal Israel's isolation in a region whose people are waking up.

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FISK ON PALESTINIAN UN BID

23 September, 2011
FISK ON PALESTINIAN UN BID

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-a-pre...

by Robert Fisk

The Independent

Today should be Mahmoud Abbas’s finest hour. Even The New York Times has discovered that “a grey man of grey suits and sensible shoes, may be slowly emerging from his shadow”.

But this is nonsense. The colourless leader of the Palestinian Authority, who wrote a 600-page book on his people’s conflict with Israel without once mentioning the word “occupation”, should have no trouble this evening in besting Barack Hussein Obama’s pathetic, humiliating UN speech on Wednesday in which he handed US policy in the Middle East over to Israel’s gimmick government.

For the American President who called for an end to the Israeli occupation of Arab lands, an end to the theft of Arab land in the West Bank – Israeli “settlements” is what he used to call it – and a Palestinian state by 2011, Obama’s performance was pathetic.

As usual, Hanan Ashrawi, the only eloquent Palestinian voice in New York this week, got it right. “I couldn’t believe what I heard,” she told Haaretz, that finest of Israeli newspapers. “It sounded as though the Palestinians were the ones occupying Israel. There wasn’t one word of empathy for the Palestinians. He spoke only of the Israelis’ troubles…” Too true. And as usual, the sanest Israeli journalists, in their outspoken condemnation of Obama, proved that the princes of American journalists were cowards. “The limp, unimaginative speech that US President Barack Obama delivered at the United Nations… reflects how helpless the American President is in the face of Middle East realities,” Yael Sternhell wrote.

And as the days go by, and we discover whether the Palestinians respond to Obama’s grovelling performance with a third intifada or with a shrug of weary recognition that this is how things always were, the facts will continue to prove that the US administration remains a tool of Israel when it comes to Israel’s refusal to give the Palestinians a state.

How come, let’s ask, that the US ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, flew from Tel Aviv to New York for the statehood debate on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s own aircraft? How come Netanyahu was too busy chatting to the Colombian President to listen to Obama’s speech? He only glanced through the Palestinian bit of the text when he was live-time, face to face with the American President. This wasn’t “chutzpah”. This was insult, pure and simple.

And Obama deserved it. After praising the Arab Spring/Summer/ Autumn, whatever – yet again running through the individual acts of courage of Arab Tunisians and Egyptians as if he had been behind the Arab Awakening all along, the man dared to give the Palestinians 10 minutes of his time, slapping them in the face for daring to demand statehood from the UN. Obama even – and this was the funniest part of his preposterous address to the UN – suggested that the Palestinians and Israelis were two equal “parties” to the conflict.

A Martian listening to this speech would think, as Ms Ashrawi suggested, that the Palestinians were occupying Israel rather than the other way round. No mention of Israeli occupation, no mention of refugees, or the right of return or of the theft of Arab Palestinian land by the Israeli government against all international law. But plenty of laments for the besieged people of Israel, rockets fired at their houses, suicide bombs – Palestinian sins, of course, but no reference to the carnage of Gaza, the massive death toll of Palestinians – and even the historical persecution of the Jewish people and the Holocaust.

That persecution is a fact of history. So is the evil of the Holocaust. But THE PALESTINIANS DID NOT COMMIT THESE ACTS. It was the Europeans – whose help in denying Palestinian statehood Obama is now seeking – who committed this crime of crimes. So we were then back to the “equal parties”, as if the Israeli occupiers and the occupied Palestinians were on a level playing ground.

Madeleine Albright used to adopt this awful lie. “It’s up to the parties themselves,” she would say, washing her hands, Pilate-like, of the whole business the moment Israel threatened to call out its supporters in America. Heaven knows if Mahmoud Abbas can produce a 1940 speech at the UN today. But at least we all know who the appeaser is.

PA goes to UN without Palestinian consensus behind it

Rami Almeghari
Gaza Strip
20 September 2011

Palestinians in Gaza City watch Mahmoud Abbas’ live address on the UN statehood bid.

(Mohammed Salem/Reuters)

We have been living under occupation for more than six decades now and we believe it is time for the international community to help us realize our dream of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.”

What is this UN bid? Is it meant to restore our rights, mainly the right to return of millions of refugees worldwide? Will a UN recognition of a Palestinian state on 1967 border lines allow us to take care of our Palestinian brothers and sisters in neighboring Arab countries like Jordan and Syria?”

These are the words, respectively of Luay, a 42-year-old Palestinian Authority employee and Iman Qaddada, a 22-year-old university student, both from Gaza City.

Luay, who did not give his last name, and Iman were reacting to the Palestinian Authority’s effort to seek full UN membership for a Palestinian state in New York this month.

While the PA has not published any text describing what a Palestinian state would mean practically, it is expected to ask the United Nations for recognition and membership for a state within the territories occupied by Israel in 1967: the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Together, these territories comprise just 22 percent of historic Palestine.

US leads efforts to block UN bid

The bid, mobilized by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas and backed by the Palestinian Authority, most of the Arab states and some others, is aimed, according to Abbas, to move beyond the current “peace process” impasse.

In a televised speech last Friday, Abbas said that “the move aims at internationalizing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict after more than two decades of bilateral Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have failed to achieve a two-state solution.”

However, Abbas maintained that he is willing to go back to the negotiation table with Israel regardless of what happens with the UN bid.

Upon arrival at the UN, where Abbas is expected to make a speech on 23 September, the PA delegation will be likely met with Washington’s veto power. US officials have said repeatedly that they will block any PA request for statehood at the UN Security Council.

The US government, according to media reports, were attempting to lobby enough UN Security Council members to vote against the Palestinian move to defeat it without the US having to use its veto.

Washington insists that a Palestinian state can only come about through negotiations, despite the fact that almost two decades of such US-brokered negotiations have failed to achieve any progress, and the Obama administration’s efforts over the past two years have resulted in complete failure as well.

Israeli retaliation withheld for now

Ghassan Khatib, spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, told The Electronic Intifada that the PA’s endeavor is meant to help resolve the conflict.

I think the essence of the Palestinian move is an attempt to attract the international community to get involved in helping Palestinians and Israelis observe implementation of the international vision of peace that is based on a two-state solution,” Khatib said by telephone. “If the international community admits Palestine to the United Nations, then Israel has to show more sensitivity to international legitimacy, so Israel must agree to negotiating a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders.”

Yet Israel itself is totally opposed to the bid, saying it would constitute a setback to long-standing peace talks between Israel and Palestinians.

On the ground, Israel has threatened to withhold tax money it collects from Palestinians on behalf of the PA, and further expand its settlements in the occupied West Bank and even declare a state of emergency, in addition to the military rule that has governed Palestinians living under occupation for decades.

Israel contends that the 1967 borders are “indefensible.” Nevertheless, the international Quartet for Middle East peace involving the United States, United Nations, the European Union and Russia, demanded that Israel refrain from any action until the results of the UN bid are clear. Israel has so far complied.

No consensus among main Palestinian factions

In the Gaza Strip, which has lived under a tight Israeli siege for the past four years, Palestinian political factions have different views regarding the UN bid.

The Hamas party — which administers Gaza and remains divided from Abbas’ Fatah faction, which has limited authority the West Bank — says it neither accepts nor opposes the UN move.

We in the Hamas party consider the September bid as an individual step that is not based on any national Palestinian consensus and that it would not bring anything to the Palestinian cause,” Sami Abu Zuhri, a spoksesperson for Hamas in Gaza, told The Electronic Intifada.

It also poses a threat to the national Palestinian rights, including the right of return. Such a step would likely negate previous UN resolutions like resolution 194, which guarantees the Palestinian people’s right to return. I do not believe that the Palestinian people want a seat at the UN, but rather they want freedom and self-determination on their own land,” Abu Zuhri added.

Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian faction, embraces armed struggle against Israel but is adhering to a current ceasefire. It rejects the UN move and considers it untimely, as Dawood Shehab, the group’s spokesperson in Gaza, explained.

In 1988, late Palestinian president [Yasser Arafat], declared a Palestinian state [during the Palestinian National Council meeting] in Algeria and more than 120 world countries recognized that state and so what?” Shehab said.

Like Hamas, Shehab said his group views the UN move by Abbas “an individual move without national Palestinian consensus.”

Shehab raised a number of other questions that have caused considerable doubts amid a broad spectrum of Palestinians: “What about the future of the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] under a Palestinian state declaration, what about the problem of Palestinian refugees, what about the right of return?”

Shehab added, “All Palestinian factions within the PLO have aimed at liberating Palestine, not establishing a state; a state comes after liberating Palestine.”

Leftist Palestinian factions, which belong to the Abbas-controlled PLO, back the September bid, based on a longstanding position that Palestinian-Israeli peace talks should go through the UN.

Rabah Mhanna, who is one of the political leaders for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in Gaza, appeared neither pessimistic nor optimistic about the statehood move at the UN.

We consider the UN bid as a part of our ongoing struggle against the Israeli occupation,” Mhanna said. “Going to the UN should not end up with improving the bilateral peace negotiations under US patronage.”

Yet even Mhanna expressed doubts.

Such a diplomatic battle requires first and foremost a Palestinian consensus,” he added. “However, we are concerned that a Palestinian state with a Palestinian government will be dealt with as an alternative to the Palestine Liberation Organization.”

Such a Palestinian consensus, as The Electronic Intifada’s interviews with various factions and broader debates indicate, is decidedly lacking.

A cause greater than a Palestinian state

Much of the doubt comes from concern of the potential effects of the PA’s move on the rights of the Palestinian people. Dr. Naji Shurrab, a Gaza-based political analyst, told The Electronic Intifada that moving the cause to the UN would not likely bring about a concrete progress.

Shurrab pointed out that the UN had passed numerous resolutions affirming Palestinian rights and the illegality of Israeli colonization over many decades but none had ever been enforced.

Given this history, Shurrab wondered what fate would await millions of Palestinian refugees worldwide if the UN recognized a Palestinian state limited to within the 1967 lines.

Would the UN would allow the return of millions of Palestinian refugees to the boundaries of historical Palestine, from which these millions of people were displaced by Israel in 1948?” he asked rhetorically.

I think that the Palestinian cause is greater than the Palestinian state,” Shurrab said. “I am not fully optimistic about such a state. The recognition of a Palestinian state would require Palestinians to recognize an Israeli Jewish state.” This could further risk Palestinian rights, as 1.5 million Palestinians live within Israel itself.

Shurrab also worried about the impact on support for the Palestinian cause. “I am afraid that this would allow the Arab states to free their hands of the Palestinian people’s problem,” he said. “So the Arab states would say then to the Palestinians, you now have your own state, which we helped you to attain, so you can rely on yourselves.”

Just days before Abbas arrives at the UN, it is clear that many Palestinians remain at best doubtful that the promised confrontation in New York will do anything to advance their rights and aspirations.

Rami Almeghari is a journalist and university lecturer based in the Gaza Strip.

As If There Is No Occupation

http://www.merip.org/mero/mero092211

As If There Is No Occupation
The Limits of Palestinian Authority Strategy
by Nu'man Kanafani | published September 22, 2011

For many months, the streets of downtown Ramallah, seat of the Palestinian Authority (PA), have literally been heaps of earth. Workers have labored intensively to replace water and sewage pipes, repave roads, lay beautiful carved stones at roadsides and install thick chains along the edges of sidewalks in order to better separate pedestrian and automotive traffic. Shopkeepers have been told to reduce the size of their storefront signs; specially designed electricity poles jut skyward. Not every town resident is impressed. As they navigate the mounds of dirt, cynics joke: “The PA is covering the road to self-determination in asphalt.” “We have the sewers; all that’s left is the sovereignty.” “The streets of Ramallah are paved with white stones -- who needs Jerusalem?”

Behind the ironic jests of urban intellectuals, and the despair of Palestinians who watch the daily expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, lies a real dilemma for the PA. Some improvement of infrastructure is necessary to facilitate economic growth and ease living conditions for West Bankers, but the undertaking of such projects can also be taken as tacit PA recognition of Israel’s “facts on the ground.”

Take, for example, the road between Ramallah and Bethlehem. The direct route between these two important West Bank cities goes through Jerusalem and is just over 18 miles long. But Jerusalem is a forbidden city for West Bank Palestinians, who must take an alternative path, a narrow road winding for 34 miles over a treacherous mountain pass. Palestinians call it Wadi al-Nar (Hell Valley). Improving the road would make it safer, bringing obvious economic benefits, but could also be taken to imply that the PA accepts Israel’s decree that Jerusalem is a no-go zone for West Bankers. Given that the Palestinian national movement envisions East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, the question is sensitive indeed. Should the PA widen the road or abstain? Should the PA renovate the heart of Ramallah, knowing that it lacks true sovereignty there and cannot prevent Israeli army jeeps (or tanks) from driving downtown and back out at will?
A New Paradigm

Mahmoud ‘Abbas, the PA’s nominal president, and Salam Fayyad, its nominal premier and finance minister, have decided to rebuild the dangerous Ramallah-Bethlehem road and spruce up the city center. (‘Abbas’ term as president expired in 2009, but has since been arbitrarily extended. Fayyad heads the PA’s appointed administrative apparatus in the West Bank; the premier and finance minister of the elected Hamas government sit besieged in Gaza.) They are undeterred by critics who argue that the PA roads are “cementing the Israeli occupation” and are complementary to the Israeli-built network of bypass roads linking the West Bank settlements to each other and to Israel proper. [1] The choice to upgrade the infrastructure symbolizes the entirety of the new approach adopted by ‘Abbas, and particularly Fayyad. In 2009, the pundit Thomas Friedman called it “Fayyadism,” “the most exciting new idea in Arab governance ever.” [2]

What is this “Fayyadism”? At one level it is personal. It refers to merits rarely attributed to a Palestinian (or any Arab) politician: integrity, honesty and competence. Salam Fayyad, a former International Monetary Fund economist, is lauded for his understated personal style, a quiet demeanor that Friedman hastens to compare favorably to that of Yasser Arafat. As political theory and practice, however, Fayyadism is a far more controversial. The political scientist Nathan Brown sums up many of the objections in the title of his essay on Palestinian politics: “Fayyad Is Not the Problem, but Fayyadism Is Not the Solution to Palestine’s Political Crisis.” [3]

Fayyad’s political vision, underwritten by ‘Abbas, is to reverse the time-honored sequence of priorities for the Palestinian national movement. Previously, the Palestinians have demanded that Israel and the international community recognize and protect their rights, whether the right of return for people made refugees in 1948 or the collective right to self-determination, before getting involved in the nitty-gritty of governance. In the eyes of ‘Abbas and Fayyad, this strategy has not only failed to secure the Palestinians’ basic national rights, but has also brought disaster to the Palestinian cause. As the weaker party by far, the Palestinians cannot beat Israel on either the physical or diplomatic battlefields, so they should stop trying. As Fayyad’s sympathizers are fond of saying, “If you want to defeat Mike Tyson, you don’t invite him to the boxing ring but to the chessboard.”

The new strategy has several elements, including the creation of state institutions before the attainment of sovereignty. The idea is that having properly functioning institutions is a precondition for, rather than a consequence of, political independence. National rights can be secured by a proven record of discipline in building and maintaining these institutions and by honoring signed agreements. Rather than waiting for peace to bring the long-awaited economic dividends, relative prosperity and the rule of law will bring peace.

The most controversial element of the new paradigm is that it assumes the abandonment of all forms of armed struggle as a means of pressuring Israel to accept Palestinian rights. President ‘Abbas tirelessly assures all who want to hear it, and even those who do not, that a “third armed intifada” is out of the question. His approach posits that, if the PA builds institutions, revives the economy and adheres to contractual agreements in letter and spirit (even while the other side does not), international and Arab pressure will force Israel to recognize Palestinian rights. These rights, as ‘Abbas understands them, are clearly stated in the Arab Peace Initiative adopted by the Arab League in 2002: The Palestinian side will end the struggle in return for an independent, economically viable and sovereign Palestinian state on the basis of the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and a “just settlement” of the refugee problem. The PA has gone much further, making clear that it is ready to accept land swaps, so that West Bank settlement blocs can be annexed to Israel. Among still other concessions, ‘Abbas and his team have indicated they will also agree to a purely symbolic return of refugees to Israel proper and borders guarded by international forces.

And what about Hamas, the Islamist party that since mid-2007 has been ruling the besieged Gaza Strip? Hamas has not renounced “armed struggle” as a means of securing Palestinian rights and has not recognized Israel in the unambiguous language the US and its allies demand. But the devotees of Fayyadism are not worried: When their new strategy ushers in economic wellbeing and a resolution to the conflict, Gaza will fall by itself, like an apple from the tree, into their hands.
Preconditions

It has been clear from the beginning, however, that deploying the new strategy -- and, eventually, checkmating Israel on the chessboard -- would require Israel’s consent. Israel would have to step back from forward deployments to allow PA security forces to rein in the lawlessness that prevailed after the second intifada in West Bank cities. It would have to limit, if not totally stop, its army’s frequent incursions into PA-administered areas in order that the PA might enjoy some credibility and popular respect. Finally, Israel would have to ease its restrictions on the movement of people and goods and guarantee the flow of clearance money (the taxes that Israel collects on behalf of the PA and stopped transferring in full to PA coffers at the beginning of 2006). The success of the new strategy also required an understanding with the international community to secure the continuous flow of aid and to train the PA’s security personnel, both to enforce law and order and to put an effective end to militant operations against Israel and Israeli settlers.

Most of these preconditions have been, more or less, achieved. The lawlessness in West Bank cities began to subside in 2005, largely because activists of the intifada were put on the PA’s payroll. To stop Israel’s military interventions, the PA maintained close security cooperation with the occupying power. This level of cooperation has subjected the PA to harsh criticism, particularly because it has not been totally successful in stopping the Israeli army’s incursions, the latest of which was a large-scale sally in the middle of the month of Ramadan.

Fayyad and ‘Abbas have attempted since 2007 to generate momentum in the West Bank for the establishment of the state of Palestine, speaking in terms of anticipation and preparation. Over and over, while cutting ribbons on projects large and small in almost every village in the West Bank, Fayyad has repeated the message: “We ought to be ready, and we will no longer accept open-ended negotiation, with respect to either time or ultimate goal.” He has tried to mobilize Palestinians behind his vision for the country and, at the same time, worked to build up his own constituency after the dismal finish of his Third Way party in the 2006 legislative elections.

The mobilization has taken an official textual form as well. In August 2009, Ramallah’s Interim Thirteenth Government announced its program under the telling title: “Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State.” The program specified the steps that each ministry and PA agency would take to ready itself for the establishment of the state of Palestine by 2011. In mid-April, the same government published the sixth National Development Plan (2011-2013) under the no less revealing title: “Establishing the State, Building Our Future.”

What is the outcome of all this activity? The PA can brag about a number of achievements. The gross domestic product has seen remarkable growth, particularly in the West Bank. Real GDP growth in the Palestinian territories was no less than 9.3 percent in 2010, at a time when the average rate in the Middle East and North Africa was less than 4 percent. In contrast to previous years, the PA was able to pay the salaries of its 146,000 employees in the West Bank almost on time (the good record of meeting payroll obligations came to an end in July). Last, but not least, the UN Development Program, the IMF, the World Bank and the European Union have all issued reports praising the PA for its commitment, financial transparency, delivery of public services and economic policies. The IMF has even labeled the PA’s finances a model for developing countries in terms of transparency.

This rosy picture hides several worrisome trends, however, particularly on the economic front. Worse, the PA has little, if anything, to brag about on the political front. The goal of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state does not appear any closer to fruition or even any more attainable.
Resource Gaps

The economic concerns can be classified under two headings: sustainability and distribution of gains across society. The aggregate GDP growth, as an April 2011 World Bank report puts it, “does not appear sustainable. It reflects recovery from the very low base reached during the second intifada and is still mainly confined to the non-tradable sector and primarily donor-driven.” Palestinians are better off than they were in 2006, in other words, but worse off than they were before the fall of 2000. Per capita GDP in the West Bank and Gaza was $1,500 in 2010, about 8 percent lower, in real terms, than the level in 1999. And without heavy external subventions, the growth would be substantially less: According to OECD data, total foreign aid to the Palestinian territories amounted to $3.03 billion in 2009, or about 60 percent of the GDP.

The economy of the West Bank and Gaza suffers from huge resource gaps, with regard to investment and commodity imports: domestic savings fall 44 percent short of investment, and imports exceed exports by 50 percent (both ratios are relative to GDP in 2009). These two gaps imply that the Palestinian economy consumes far more than it produces. The trade balance deficit exceeded $3 billion in 2010. In the past, these gaps were filled by the remittances of Palestinians working in Israel and the Gulf countries. But they are filled now mainly by foreign aid.

External aid creates conditions akin to those in oil-producing countries. Like oil revenue, aid is windfall money -- what economists call “rent” -- that allows countries to consume without producing. Dependency on rent leaves behind negative economic, as well as social and political, effects. Governments become less accountable to citizens because they do not have to collect taxes; services become something granted from on high rather than a public good, based on tough tradeoffs and paid for with collected taxes. On the economic level, the huge inflow of aid, along with the proximity of the West Bank and Gaza to the developed economy of Israel and the resulting distortions in prices and wages, explain why growth in the Palestinian territories has been almost exclusively confined to the service sector and construction of residential buildings. Services and trade account now for over 70 percent of the GDP in the West Bank and Gaza. The share of exports to GDP is only 12 percent, one of the lowest ratios in the lower middle-income countries of the world.

At the same time, foreign aid amounted to 47 percent of the total revenues of the PA’s current budget. Another 37 percent comes from the customs clearance money that Israel collects on the Palestinians’ behalf, by the terms of the 1994 Paris Protocol that is part of the Oslo accords. By right and by treaty, this money belongs to the Palestinians. But since the mid-1990s, and picking up with the outbreak of the 2000 intifada, Israel has impounded the funds every now and then as a punitive measure. (Israel transfers no money to the Hamas government in Gaza.) These two figures are sufficient to demonstrate the vulnerability of the PA’s finances. A delay (politically motivated, some suggest) in the arrival of aid from Arab countries in July forced the PA to pay only 50 percent of the salaries of its 146,000 public employees. The payroll amounts to $1.56 billion annually, accounting for 35 percent of the PA’s recurrent expenditures. When the extra 23,000 people employed by the Hamas government are included, public-sector employment accounts for about one quarter of total employment in the West Bank and Gaza.

The second problem looming on the horizon is the uneven distribution of the benefits of growth. The growth in GDP has not been accompanied by a parallel increase in employment or a reduction of poverty rates. Poverty is a major social problem, with 26 percent of Palestinian large families (and 38 percent of Gazans) spending less than $640 per month on basic needs in 2010. And despite the GDP growth of 2010, the official unemployment rate barely declined -- falling by 0.6 percent in the West Bank and by less than 1 percent in Gaza. In 2010, the unemployment rate was as high as 24 percent overall (17 percent in the West Bank and 38 percent in Gaza).

The Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute estimates that the private sector needs to create no fewer than 30,000 new jobs every year just to keep the staggering unemployment rates constant. The estimate assumes that the present labor participation rate of 41 percent also remains constant. The labor participation rate is the proportion of the working-age population who are employed or unemployed and looking for a job. Palestine’s rate is very low compared with most middle-income countries, in which the average proportion is 60 percent.

It goes without saying that the Palestinian economy must generate far more than 30,000 jobs per annum if unemployment is to be reduced. When one considers the needs to limit the public-sector payroll, to absorb the 78,000 Palestinians currently working in Israel and Israeli settlements, and to allow for a rise in the labor participation ratio, the size of the challenge becomes even more obvious. The high overall unemployment rate masks still more causes for concern. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics labor market survey for the first quarter of 2011 reveals three alarming facts: Unemployment is highly concentrated in the 15-24 year-old age group. Unemployment among these young people is as high as 40 percent. Second, unemployment is precipitously high among university graduates -- logged at 33 percent for graduates of teachers’ colleges, 24 percent for graduates in computer studies and 31 percent of graduates in mathematics and statistics. Third, unlike what pertains for men, the higher a woman’s education level, the harder it is for her to find a job.
The Ceiling

The above economic problems are not all structural, although some definitely are. The call to build up the economy as if the occupation does not exist, a call that was eagerly promoted and generously financed by international actors, has faded away. There is, after all, a limit on how much an economy can grow when 60 percent of its rightful natural resources (located in Area C, the portion of the West Bank still under full Israel control) are beyond its grasp. The severe policymaking constraints on the PA and the extraordinary degree of risk and uncertainty, even regarding as simple a thing as moving from one West Bank village to another, express themselves in the negative economic trends. “We hit the ceiling,” PA officials are apt to say. “Not much more can be done for the economy under the present constraints.” The World Bank took its time but finally came to the same conclusion. “Ultimately, sustainable economic growth in West Bank and Gaza can only be underpinned by a vibrant private sector,” says the Bank in an April 2011 report. “The latter will not rebound significantly while Israeli restrictions on access to natural resources and markets remain in place, and as long as investors are deterred by the increased cost of business associated with the closure regime.” With its myriad of checkpoints, and the ability to erect more at any moment, Israel throws up constant obstacles to commerce and business travel.

It is hard to believe that Fayyad, the skilled ex-IMF economist, was not aware from the start of the “ceiling” that Israel’s occupation imposes on the Palestinian territories’ economic recovery. It seems, therefore, that all the talk of building institutions and economic booms was aimed at buying time. Fayyad hoped that if the PA stabilized the economy, demonstrated good will toward Israel and enforced law and order, then international pressure, particularly from the Obama administration, would persuade Israel to deliver an end to the occupation. The Europeans and the Arabs went along because none of them has a better strategy and all are tired of being “payers but not players” in the Israeli-Palestinian theater.

Fayyad can proclaim his mission accomplished with regard to institutional readiness. The PA has passed the world’s test with honors, and the examining committee was none less than the UN Development Program, the IMF, the World Bank and the EU. An IMF report in April declared that the PA is “now able to conduct the sound economic policies expected of a future well-functioning Palestinian state, given its solid track record in reforms and institution-building in the public finance and financial areas.” The World Bank used a slightly different formulation: “If the Palestinian Authority maintains its performance in institution-building and delivery of public services, it is well positioned for the establishment of a state at any point in the near future.” Some independent observers suggest that the process of building institutions was “more authoritarian than democratic,” [4] but the more powerful judges were willing to overlook such deficiencies.

Since when, however, has the creation of states been conditioned upon institutional readiness? Who asked South Sudan if it had properly transparent institutions before recognizing it as an independent entity? Were Kosovo’s adequate? And did either of these fledgling states need to demonstrate “economic viability” before being recognized by other countries? History affirms, almost without exception, that state creation is a purely political decision that has owed nothing to these other factors. Shortages of economic or institutional viability may have played a role in dissolving states, but not in creating them or drawing their borders.

The PA’s decision to advance a statehood bid at the UN is a desperate reaction, rather than a strategic move. It comes from despair at the Obama administration’s unwillingness to enforce its own vision of a negotiated settlement of the conflict. After fulfilling its part of the deal and meeting all the conditions laid down by the US, both in President Barack Obama’s public speeches and behind closed doors, the PA has discovered that the US will not come through. The strategy of Fayyadism has arrived at a dead end. The failure on the political front will kill off its economic and institutional vision. Throughout the buildup to the UN bid, the US did little more than threaten the Palestinians with a veto at the Security Council. And Israel decided that the PA’s appeal to the most multilateral organization on earth is a “unilateral” move for which the Palestinians should be punished. Little will change on the ground after September. The Palestinians will seek, and will probably get, the majority vote they seek at the UN General Assembly, and the US and key allies will remain in Israel’s corner. The result, at the diplomatic level, will be deadlock. And the PA will face more of the dilemmas it faced in Wadi al-Nar and downtown Ramallah. But the Middle East is changing and people in many Arab countries are insisting on having more say in their governments’ policies toward Israel. The Arab street will from now on play just as important a role as the Israeli street in deciding the direction of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The pressure is mounting on Israel, no matter how invulnerable it looks now. It is far from obvious that Israel will be able to sustain the unprecedented no-state (and no-vote) non-solution it has imposed so far in the West Bank and Gaza.

Author’s Note: I would like to thank David Cobham for helpful comments and insights.
Endnotes

[1] Nadia Hijab and Jesse Rosenfeld, “Palestinian Roads: Cementing Statehood or Israeli Annexation?” The Nation, April 30, 2010.
[2] Thomas Friedman, “Green Shoots in Palestine,” New York Times, August 4, 2009.
[3] Nathan Brown, “Fayyad Is Not the Problem, but Fayyadism Is Not the Solution to Palestine’s Political Crisis,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Commentary, September 17, 2010.
[4] Ibid.

Full text of "State of Palestine" UN application

http://electronicintifada.net/blog/ali-abunimah/full-text-state-palestin...

Ali Abunimah on Sat, 09/24/2011 - 17:10

The Electronic Intifada has obtained a copy of the full text of the application for UN membership for the “State of Palestine” presented yesterday by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The package contains 5 documents that we publish here. They are:

A note from the President of the Security Council transmitting the application to other members;
A cover letter from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the President of the Security Council conveying the Palestinian application;
A “Declaration of the State of Palestine” signed by Mahmoud Abbas;
A cover letter for the application to the Secretary-General signed by Mahmoud Abbas;
The application itself - a two-page document again signed by Abbas.

Safeguarding or endangering self-determination?

It is notable that the cover letter signed by Abbas states:

This application for membership is being submitted based on the Palestinian people’s natural, legal and historic rights and based on United Nations General Assembly resolution 181(II) of 29 November 1947 as well as the Declaration of Independence of the State of Palestine of 15 November 1988 and the acknowledgment by the General Assembly of this Declaration in resolution 43/177 of 15 December 1988.

It is notable that the letter gives such prominence to resolution 181, the 1947 “partition” resolution which recommended the partition of Palestine without the consent of its indigenous people.

The partition was, as I have argued elsewhere, a negation of the right of Palestinians, as a people anticipating decolonization, to self-determination.

The full application mentions other resolutions, including resolution 194, affirming the right of return of refugees, but an initial reading of the documents shows that they mash together all sorts of concepts including “self-determination,” “statehood,” the “the vision of a two-State solution” and accord undue weight to statements of the “Quartet” an ad hoc body that had consistently undermined Palestinian rights.

In any case, these documents will certainly need more analysis.

To read the documents, go to http://electronicintifada.net/blog/ali-abunimah/full-text-state-palestin...

A Formal Funeral for the Two-State Solution

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