The Palestinian bid for statehood: commentary and analysis (Part One)

Palestinian statehood: Pros and Cons–Part Two here.

The New York Times weighs in today with a endorsement of the international consensus and status quo: yes, the US should actively support negotiations with the Palestinians based on the same principles they have always been based on. Here is a summary of their position and a few details:

The United States and its Quartet partners (the European Union, the United Nations and Russia) should put a map and a deal on the table, with a timeline for concluding negotiations and a formal U.N. statehood vote. The core element: a Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders with mutually agreed land swaps and guarantees for Israel’s security.

To get full U.N. membership the Palestinians have to win Security Council approval. The administration has said it will veto any resolution — ensuring the further isolation of Israel and Washington. If they fail in the Security Council, the Palestinians have said they will ask the General Assembly for enhanced observer status as a nonmember state. Even the more modest General Assembly vote, which the Palestinians are sure to win, would pave the way for them to join dozens of U.N. bodies and conventions, and could strengthen their ability to pursue cases against Israel at the International Criminal Court. But Israel would still control Palestinian territory, leaving the Palestinians disaffected after the initial euphoria.

For further insight and perspective on the debate:

Noam Chomsky:

RA: Some call for a two-state solution between Palestine and Israel, while others call for a one democratic state solution. Which is more workable for you?

NC: It is not a choice. I have been in favor of the what’s called a one-state-solution or binational state solution for seventy years and, so ok, I’m in favor of it. I am also in favor of peace in the world and … getting rid of poverty. There’s a lot of things I’m in favor of.

But if you are serious, you say, “how do we get from here to there?” That’s the question. We can all say it’s a wonderful idea. In fact I don’t think one state is a good idea, I think there should be a no-state solution that should erode the imperial borders. There’s no reason to worship French and British decisions on where to draw borders. A no-state solution would be much better, but again we ask, how do we get there?

Over the past seventy years I have been involved, there have been different ways in which you could move to that direction. Circumstances change, so your tactics change and under current circumstances, in fact since 1975, there is only one way that has ever been proposed, and that is in stages, through a two-state solution as the first stage. If there’s another way, nobody’s told us. They can say “I like this outcome,” but they don’t tell us how we get there. Now that’s as interesting as someone [who] says I’d like to have peace in the world.

See also this video, especially from 42:00 and following:

Ali Abunimah

Abunimah sees the bid for statehood as a) a distraction from on-the-ground activism; b) an implicit endorsement of the corrupt leadership of the Palestinian Authority; and c) a commitment to institutional constraints that he finds unacceptable.

He sees the outcome of that statehood bid as inevitably empty, like getting your name on the door plaque without getting to move in.

He points out that the recent decades of official discourse and diplomacy under the “peace process” mentality and the “road map” agenda has been more about words than deeds, and has been intensely biased toward Israeli interests. Under the “peace process” Israel has in fact entrenched its position significantly. Abunimah sees the statehood bid at the UN as basically part of this shell game.

Lastly, Abunimah points out that the PA is unrepresentative, and should not be allowed to represent the Palestinians at the UN.

[One might reply on this point that the vast majority of states at the UN are severely lacking in democratic representativity, but that having the rights of a state can still have a positive outcome for the population, bringing it under the jurisdiction of the UN.]

Abunimah writes:

Guy Goodwin Gill, professor at Oxford in Public International Law (his full legal opinion here)

Historically, the PLO has been the sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, internationally and within the United Nations [UN]. Now it is to be the state. Who, though, is the state, and what are the democratic links between those who will represent the state in the UN and the people of Palestine? An abstract entity – a state – is proposed, but where are the people?[…] But states which are imposed, top-down, or which are crated without an exercise of the popular will are, by definition, not representative. […] I recognise that there is an urgent, pressing need for statehood, particularly in the face of the intransigence of other parties, but I am also concerned that the essentials of modern statehood – democracy, representative government and accountability – may be sidelined, if not sacrificed, perhaps to the long-term disadvantage of the people at large.

Mohammed Rabah Suliman

Behind these criticisms lie doubts that many Palestinians have about the upcoming move to declare a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines. Some tend to question the functionality of a state in the besieged Gaza Strip and the heavily colonized West Bank, a state totally dependent on foreign aid.

Others reasonably cast doubt on the credibility of the UN to secure the viability of this state, if recognized, and safeguard it against Israel’s expansionist policy. Some call it a blatant concession that terminates the right of return of Palestinian refugees all over the world. And some view it as yet one more act of treason by the PA — a move that would involve turning our backs on the 1.5 million Palestinians living in dire conditions and facing constant discrimination inside the apartheid State of Israel.

Ilan Pappe

We are all going to be invited to the funeral of the two-state solution if and when the UN General Assembly announces the acceptance of Palestine as a member state. […] The charade will end in September or October — when the Palestinian Authority plans to submit its request for UN membership as a full member — in one of two ways. It could be either painful and violent, if Israel continues to enjoy international immunity and is allowed to finalize by sheer brutal force its mapping of post-Oslo Palestine. Or it could end in a revolutionary and much more peaceful way with the gradual replacement of the old fabrications with solid new truths about peace and reconciliation for Palestine. Or perhaps the first scenario is an unfortunate precondition for the second. Time will tell.

Palestine was always the land between the river and the sea. It still is. Its changing fortunes are characterized not by geography but by demography. The settler movement that came there in the late 19th century now accounts for half of the population and controls the other half through a matrix of racist ideologies and apartheid policies. […]

If the relationship between Jews and Palestinians is to be reformulated on a just and democratic basis, one can accept neither the old buried map of the two-state solution nor its logic of partition. This also means that the sacred distinction made between Jewish settlements near Haifa and those near Nablus should be put in the grave as well.

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2 Responses to The Palestinian bid for statehood: commentary and analysis (Part One)

  1. Andrea says:

    Thanks for this post. Could you clarify why the two-state solution would be “dead” if Palestine becomes a member state of the UN? Would the inequities/illegalities of Israel’s involvement with it (control over it) just become unsustainable, a joke or abomination, if it has nominal equal rights as a state? On that note could you clarify why it’s a non-solution in the first place? Is it because the populations are literally too mixed, too many Israeli settlers in “Palestine” and too many Palestinian refugees/original inhabitants in “Israel” to separate them out?

  2. Pingback: The pros and cons of Palestinian statehood cont’d (Omar Barghouti) | Political Crumbs

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