A Palestinian Game-Changer

Posted: November 15th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Settlements | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off
President Abbas and PM Fayad

President Abbas and PM Fayad

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has an unbalanced nature, as Israel is holding most of the economical and military power in the region, while the Palestinians have only the world’s public opinion to rely on. But lately it seems that the Palestinian Authority is able to take the game to a field in which it has the upper hand – that of public NGOs and multinational bodies. That’s what happened with the Goldstone report, and this is the context, I believe, in which we should understand the Palestinian plan to unilaterally declare independence in a couple of years.

In the last decade, both Yasser Arafat and the Hamas tried to gain political achievements through the use of force (not a new approach in the Middle East; Arab and Israelis have been doing it for a century). This effort didn’t only fail, but also handed Israel the currency it lacks the most: international legitimization for its military actions. Thousands of dead and years of suffering have passed, and all the Palestinians got was the withdrawal from Gaza, and Israel is still making them pay for it through its siege on the strip.

After losing the current military round, the Palestinians are playing a game in which Israel will find it much harder to win.

The basic idea of the Palestinian PM, Salaam Fayad, is this: if Israel will go on refusing to freeze all settlement activities and the peace process won’t reignite, the Palestinians will ask for a UN resolution recognizing their independence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as their capitol. Such proposal will enjoy an overwhelming majority in the general assembly. Things might get a bit trickier for the Palestinians in the Security Council, where the US holds veto power, but given the new administration’s support of the two states solution, it’s hard to imagine the White House blocking the Palestinian move altogether. More likely, it will push for some sort of compromise.

An Israeli diplomatic counter-attack could have stood some chances with a centrist Israeli government and a neo-conservative US administration like we had a year ago, but with the current world atmosphere and a radical right-wing coalition in Jerusalem, this effort will be doomed from the start.

Once there is a UN resolution, Israel will have to chose between recognizing the Palestinian independence and facing a demand to give the Palestinians civil rights within the state of Israel – a move which will dramatically change the demographic balance. It will also make the Israeli settlements in the West bank even less legitimate, because there will be world recognition of the land as belonging to the Palestinians.

In other words, if Israelis won’t give up something through negotiations in the near future, they will stand the risk of losing everything.

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Is this the Palestinian game changer? It’s hard to make such predictions in the Middle East, where the game never really ends. But it is a good move on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, one that will force Israelis to come up with some kind of response (read, for example, this suggestion by the extreme right columnist Caroline Glick of the JP. She is actually going for the one state solution!), and even puts some heat on Hamas. Gaza can object to a peace deal between Ramallah and Jerusalem, but what will Hamas do if the whole world finally recognizes a Palestinian Independence? Join hands with Avigdor Liberman in ignoring it?

The best case scenario for the Palestinians will be that of Kosovo, where a unilaterally declaration of independence was recognized by most of the EU. Sure, it could also end up like the 88′ declaration of independence by Arafat, which didn’t result in much, but conditions seems more promising today, and most importantly, it doesn’t look like the Palestinians have much to lose anymore.


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