The coming Palestinian State

A flurry of international actions favoring Palestinian statehood came in the last weeks of 2014. Most came from European parliaments. On a parallel track, in December 2014 the Palestinians submitted a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council. It calls for a peace deal with Israel within one year and an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories by the end of 2017.

Jordan submitted the draft resolution on behalf of the Palestinians on Dec. 17 to the 15-member U.N. Security Council. The Jordanian ambassador confirmed that U.N. would not rush voting on the resolution, saying the Palestinians were open to negotiations on the text.

Analysts and pundits have debated whether such resolutions, often vetoed by the U.S., are an exercise in futility or worse a potential trigger for violence by a rejected Palestinian public. Whether the U.S. vetoes this proposed resolution or not, there is diplomatic value in its presentation and merit in publicizing the large number of member states that support it.

For the Palestinians, relying further on Israel and the U.S. is not a viable option. In allowing Israel to make all issues negotiable rather than bargaining within limits previously set by previous U. N resolutions and international law, the U.S. has made an untenable concession to the Israelis. Furthermore, under Prime Minister Binyimin Netanyahu, the Israelis have repeatedly used negotiations as cover for further land confiscation and settlement construction, barriers to any just peace.

The Palestinians see the most satisfactory solution as internationalizing the conflict. This is exactly what happened in 2014 as a wave of support came from the international community. This month, the European Parliament adopted a resolution recognizing Palestinian statehood in principle. A total of 498 parliamentarians voted in favor, while 88 were against.

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This followed Ireland’s parliament approving a resolution calling on its government to recognize the state of Palestine formally, on the basis of the 1967 borders. French senators also backed the symbolic resolution.

In October, Sweden was the first Western EU member (and 135th of the world's 193 nations) to recognize Palestinian statehood officially. Similar nonbinding motions have recently passed the legislatures in the UK, France, Belgium and Spain.

Three of Israel’s greatest living authors, Amos Oz, David Grossman and Abraham Yehoshua, added their names to an 878-signature petition calling on European parliaments to recognize the State of Palestine.

This month also a declaration adopted by consensus among 126 of the 196 parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention rebuked Israel for violating its responsibilities as an occupying power through its settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians must take advantage of this groundswell of international support to explain their understanding of statehood and to identify the parameters of a final peace settlement. Although these details are common knowledge among diplomats, they need to be understood by the wider public, especially in the United States.

In sum, they expect a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders; minor and mutually agreed land swaps and border adjustments to incorporate into Israel proper the larger Israeli settlements adjacent to the 1967 line; a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem coupled with an agreement allowing free and unimpeded access for Jews, Muslims and Christians to their holy sites; and a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue based on the Arab Peace Initiative and U.N. Resolution 194.

Most European countries, including the European Union, would almost certainly support this. Even the U.S. would be hard pressed not to do so.

A constructive solution to avoid a U.S. veto would be to adjust the wording of the submitted draft resolution to one where there is no two-year deadline on the withdrawal of Israeli occupation forces but instead a deadline for conclusion of a peace deal, along with defining the parameters of a peace deal as being based on the 1967 borders. This should be both acceptable to the U.S. and an historic step on the road to a final peace settlement.

As the Israeli political commentator and author Gideon Levy wrote in Haaretz Dec. 12: “The American veto of anti-occupation resolutions in the UN Security Council has been essentially a veto of justice, and it has corrupted Israel by enabling it to run riot. Every Israeli patriot must now hope the United States will wean itself from its imbecilic automatic veto policy. … Anyone who fears for this country’s [Israel’s] future must hope the world will demonstrate real involvement and rescue it from its dead end.”

[Jesuit Fr. Drew Christiansen teaches social ethics at Georgetown University. Ra’fat Aldajani is a Palestinian-American political commentator and businessman.]


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