Palestine goes the whole hog

The Palestinians will seek full statehood at the UN Security Council next week so as to negotiate peace on a state-to-state basis. Why could that possibly send Israel and the US scrambling? Why indeed.

The Palestinians have announced they are going to the United Nations next week to seek full membership. That means going to the Security Council and not pleading for the breadcrumbs of an incremental improvement on their current permanent observer status. 

Israel has hit back immediately and the United States – an otherwise avid exporter of democracy to the Middle East - has sent officials scurrying to Ramallah to try and bully the Palestinians out of their civil and human rights once again.

What Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak labelled earlier this year as a “diplomatic tsunami” is on course timed to hit Israeli and its enabler the US in New York on September 23.

Trouble for the Palestinians is they may also be swamped. Undoubtedly they will win the moral high ground in the community of nations as Israel and the US so obviously fear. But they will face a US veto in the Security Council which will effectively send them packing with nothing concrete to show for their Sisyphean efforts. By the way, the US veto is the same one it tut-tuts China for rolling out against UNSC proposals to tackle human rights abuses in anywhere but Palestine.

The question that remains perpetually unanswered with respect to this attitude towards a state of Palestine is why? Why does Israel not want the people it rules over to have their own state? Why is the US acting in an unacceptably Kafkaesque manner by telling the Palestinians to negotiate their own state, yet can’t even come up with a formula for negotiations and, has no sway over its buddy the occupier, Israel?

Is it just that it is easier to bully Palestine because it is occupied, has little control over its own security, is financially dependent on the world because its economy is strangled by its occupier who in turn, uses the threat of non-delivery of taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority to force it to ‘behave’?

Those most vocal about warning the Palestinians off their statehood bid call it unacceptable unilateral action.

How can it be? There is nothing unilateral about years of diplomacy between the PLO and nations of the world which has succeeded in presenting the Palestinian case for justice.  Now at least 127 of 193 countries are prepared to vote to have the Palestinians admitted into the prized UN club on a fully fledged state basis.

If ‘unilateral’ is the mot du jour when it comes to this impasse in the Middle East, is the continued building of illegal settlements on land that is occupied and supposed to form the basis of a future Palestinian state not the epitome of ‘unilateral’?

Israeli  Prime Minister Netanyahu announced he is going to the UN to “tell the truth” about the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. Of course that begs the question of what he’s been telling to date, but never mind that for the moment. He qualified his statement by making sure everyone knows how brave he is to do that because the UN is not a friendly place for Israel. Ever wonder why Bibi?

It is going to be fascinating to listen to how he justifies denying the rights of the five million people who his six million rule over.

Can he not see what is going on all around him? Has he been hiding from the Arab Spring in some bunker? For that matter can the United States not see how isolated it and its ally Israel are going to be at the very UN session Obama heralded 12 months ago as the one that would welcome in the new state of Palestine?

The US has damaged its foreign policy very badly in the region with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, propping up various dictators and sending detainees off to jails in the region knowing that torture was a staple. But now its so-called “unbreakable bond” with Israel is going to isolate it further – think Turkey and Egypt for starters.

There are so many Israelis calling for Netanyahu to stop wrecking their country by steering it into further into an abyss of global opprobrium by blocking the Palestinians. Why does he not listen to them?

Does he not look back and see that particularly since the Oslo Accords eighteen years ago nothing has come of the high hopes to further the Palestinian cause. Israel has however consistently shifted goalposts and water down terms for negotiation, only to dilute them even further at each successive attempt at peace talks.

Netanyahu is now insisting on issues he knows the Palestinians can never agree to – recognition of Israel as a ‘Jewish’ state which would thereby impact adversely every Muslim Arab living in Israel; refusing to consider division of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and Palestine – the Israelis having West Jerusalem and the Palestinians the East of the city as already outlined in successive negotiation formula; and, refusing to stop settlement construction which makes a mockery of every peace negotiation held to date because it and the land requisitioned for the separation barrier steadily erode the territory of a future Palestine, producing instead Bantustans which, as apartheid South Africa finally showed, will erupt.

Which leads to further questions for Netanyahu. How long does he seriously think Palestinians can, or will, tolerate occupation? How long will the world tolerate Israel’s refusals? How long before Palestinians realise they too can be part of the Arab Spring – after all would it not be even more justified to stand up to an occupying force than one’s own resident dictator?

The Palestinian leadership has not always been clear in its direction but it has remained committed to negotiations for reasons not the least of which are to prevent a diplomatic fall out with the US.

Now it has had enough and puts a very simple proposal forward. The Palestinians have had international endorsement of their programme to build a state infrastructure which the PA has done as best as any state could do under occupation. Even the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund recognises that.

To survive the leadership has to deliver for its people. That is true of any leadership which Netanyahu may soon find out for himself as he did when previously ousted in 1999.

The time has come to bring to an end the ridiculous lop-sided negotiation situation where an organisation - the PLO – negotiates with a nuclear capable state which happens to occupy Palestinian land, and, those negotiations are ‘mediated’ by the United States which has committed its unbreakable support for the stronger of the ‘negotiators’.

Negotiations are not off the Palestinian table.  It is just the PLO believes negotiations will be a lot more significant, and hopefully successful, if they are held state-to-state.

Kafka consistently comes to mind in the somewhat oxymoronic label of Middle East peace. However this is the real world and the reality is so unjust it must surely be impossible to defend in any credible, legal or political way before the United Nations – the very body that answered Israel’s unilateral plea for statehood in 1949 after Ben-Gurion’s 1948 unilateral declaration of Israel’s independence.

 Enough is enough if the parties are genuinely interested in Middle East peace and next week in New York provides a first real step back to negotiating for such peace.