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The Heart Says ‘Yes’ the Mind Says ‘No’ to the Palestinian Statehood Bid, Part 1

This is Part 1 of a 3 part series. Watch for Part 2 next Monday, October 3, 2011.

Margaret Gangte

Reality check on international support: BBC News for Middle East dated September 16, 2011, released a poll, conducted by GlobeScan, of 20,446 citizens in 19 countries to test public opinion on Palestinian statehood; it announced 49 percent positive response and 21 percent negative response with the remaining as not responding. Although interesting, the poll does not constitute world public opinion by any definition, not to mention it would be rather absurd to determine status of nationality through a public opinion poll. This is an international issue for an international forum of United Nations (U.N.) member governments, who will vote based on their respective bilateral position with Israel and allies. Palestine has no bilateral relations with any country; thus support from Muslim countries would be undoubtedly on religious solidarity while China and Russia’s support could be within the framework of the mid-east quartet or guided by their relations with the United States. No government would bother to examine the viability of this proposition on merits other than their own self interest.

Reality check on Palestinian support: Numerous Palestinian civil society organizations and grassroots leaders, academics, and activists have been loudly criticizing the strategy. The Boycott National Committee (BNC)—the steering group of the global Palestinian-led campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel that has been endorsed by almost 200 Palestinian organizations—warned in August that the U.N. bid could end up sidelining the PLO as the official representative of all Palestinians and in turn disenfranchise Palestinians inside Israel and the refugees in the diasporas. A widely disseminated legal opinion by the Oxford scholar Guy Goodwin-Gill argued that the PLO could be displaced from the UN by a toothless and illusory “State of Palestine” that would, at most, nominally represent only Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Others, such as the Palestinian Youth Movement—an international coalition of young Palestinians—declared that it stood “steadfastly against” the UN bid because it could jeopardize “the rights and aspirations of over two-thirds of the Palestinian people who live as refugees in countries of refuge and in exile, to return to their original homes.”

Many, like the PYM, fear that unilaterally declaring a state along 1967 borders without any other guarantees of Palestinian rights would effectively cede the 78 percent of historic Palestine captured in 1948 to Israel and would keep refugees from returning to what would then be recognized de facto as an ethnically “Jewish state.” Most discussions of the UN bid put Israel and the United States on one side, fiercely opposing it, and Palestinian officials and allied governments on the other. But this simplistic portrayal ignores the fact that among the Palestinian people themselves there is precious little support for the effort. The opposition stems from three main sources: the vague bid could lead to unintended consequences; pursuing statehood above all else endangers equality and refugee rights; and there is no democratic mandate for the Palestinian Authority to act on behalf of Palestinians or to gamble with their rights and future.

Estimated Support from Israel and the
advantage to support
: A research study by the Harry S. Truman Research
Institute for the Advancement of Peace and the Palestinian Center for Policy
and Survey Research found that 69 percent of the Israeli respondents supported
the bid. According to this report, which contradicts the report above, 83
percent of Palestinians agree to the statehood bid. The peace process between
Israel and the Palestinians has all but disintegrated over the past two
years. Foreign Affairs journal
pointed out the diplomatic  advantage, should Israel announce its support
for the U.N. resolution on the condition that the Palestinians agree to return to
the table as soon as possible and without preconditions, fully backed and
supported by the international community, and to determine the final settlement
through bilateral negotiations. However, this current bid arrangement, which
looks advantageous for Israel, does seem to have serious loopholes for
Palestinians and the effort of state development without homework for proper
bilateral framework may prove to be a catastrophe than a boon as
envisaged.

Question on legality of U.N. intervention: The issue of two state nation theories for Israel and Palestine stood unresolved and became complicated in the decade. Today, the pressure is built by peace activists and humanitarians to push for U.N. resolution. A short and brief critical appraisal could help highlight the demerits of the present conflict resolution approach. Legally, the U.N. intervenes legitimately if both the conflicting parties failed to provide the resolution. Phase II of the 2003 Quartet Road Map for Peace offered the option of creating “an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders” as a stepping stone to a negotiated permanent final-status agreement. Israel agreed and had offered Palestine statehood, the offer was rejected by the PLO leader. After rejection, what legal justification can be applied to seek intervention of the U.N. body now? Based on this evidence, U.N. legal intervention will lack ground to justify the intervention.

Watch for Part 2 of this 3 part series next Monday, October 3, 2011.

Margaret Gangte is the director of the Ministry of Defense for the Government of India. Email: [email protected]

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