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Wild Card: U.S. recognition of Palestine's independence

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post

“Pessimism,” “doomed to fail” and “waste of time” – these words and phrases litter the reporting and blogging on the current talks between Israel and the Palestinians. One can only hope to be pleasantly surprised and hear that by the end of next summer they will be deemed a success. But seeing as how the pessimists seem to be a majority, now may just be the time to think of creative ways to end the stalemate.

One possibility would be for a third party to change the rules of the game. This would fundamentally change the status quo and force the two sides to act accordingly.

Hints about it have been popping up in the media in the past few weeks, but no dares say it out aloud, for various reasons.

Yossi Alpher, a former Mossad executive, points us in the right direction:

“Where the negotiations could conceivably be useful (and safer) for all concerned is if the American sponsors steer them toward reinforcing and facilitating the one success story they can point to: the Palestinian state-building effort in the West Bank… This in turn would ease the political endgame of international recognition for a Palestinian state – which is projected by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad for next August when, coincidentally or not, the administration and the Quartet want the new negotiations to be completed.”

There it is, right under our noses. The talks are to conclude next summer and coincide with the end of Fayyad’s two-year program, begun last August, to ready Palestine for statehood. Will he declare a state then, regardless of whether or not the talks succeed? Fayyad has already denied reports that he will, and surely if a state is to be announced – shouldn’t President Mahmoud Abbas be running the show? Moreover, Abbas himself has clearly stated that a unilateral declaration is not on the agenda. Can they even think of going ahead with such a move before any attempt at reconciliation with Hamas? These and many other questions remain unanswered.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (Photo: Flickr / World Economic Forum)

Daoud Kuttab states in The Washington Post that it is simply no longer relevant whether or not the talks produce a state:

“If the talks fail because of Israeli obstructionism, Palestinians will have no choice but to declare their state unilaterally and hope the world will recognize it. Those Americans who witness Palestinian conduct in the negotiating room over the coming year will have to decide whether to recognize the state or keep this conflict festering.”

IF THE talks do fail and there are increasing signs of a future American recognition of a state, the gridlock could begin to unravel.

Just two weeks ago at the UN, President Barack Obama said a Palestinian state could be attained by next year. Also, there have been reports of secret agreements between Obama and Fayyad concerning a future declaration.

Obviously, there is no way Obama can come out today and support such a move; the talks would have to officially fail first. There’s also internal US political issues that must be taken into consideration, predominantly the looming midterm elections.

This is the time for the peace camp in Israel and abroad to jump on the wagon and begin applying pressure on the American administration to publicly approve a unilateral declaration, should the Palestinians choose to go down that route.

Such a declaration would prompt immediate reaction from both sides. These reactions, unfortunately, could also bring bloodshed, including violence between settlers and Palestinians, an Israeli incursion and/or annexation of land that would cut a future Palestinian state into unsustainable cantons, and numerous other unpredictable scenarios. Yet despite the risk of violence, the opportunity to finally break the gridlock is surely a better option than continuing the bloody status quo of more than 40 years.

Whether or not the talks fail, and whether Fayyad and Abbas can work out the differences between them, the next stage for the peace camp must be a global grassroots campaign demanding that the US administration, along with the European Union, recognize Palestinian intentions to declare a state next summer.

The grassroots movement must begin here and now, so that this declaration will not prove to be a damp squib, like past Palestinian declarations. It can start right here – on this piece of paper, through the blogosphere, Facebook, Twitter – all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Fayyad may claim a unilateral declaration is not on the agenda, but he’s getting things ready on the ground for the summer of 2011.

Now all he needs is you, me and Obama.

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    1. Extremist Zionist

      There is no chance of a unilateral proclamation of indepedence by the Palestinians. This is for several reasons.
      (1) It is a violation of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 which call for negotiations between Israel and the Arabs regarding the territories Israel captured in the Six-Day War.
      (2) It is a violation of the Oslo Agreements which prohibits unilateral changes in the juridical status of the territories by either Israel or the Palestinians
      (3) The Palestinian Authority is nowhere near economically self-sufficient. I believe that something like half the operating budget of the PA comes from US and EU handouts.
      (4) The Palestinians would have to act as a responsible state in the international arena, and I don’t believe they want to do this, they view themselves as a “revolutionary movement”.
      (5) The Palestinians do not control much of the territory they are in, both parts under Israeli control, and, more importantly, they don’t control the Gaza Strip which is under HAMAS control, and HAMAS would oppose a declaration of a state on only part of Palestinian territory.

      It isn’t going to happen.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Hello Extreme Zionist,

      I agree with you only on point 5, which I referred to in the post itself. Reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah is key for this to work.

      As for 1 and 2, both sides have violated so many agreements, who’s counting anymore.

      As for 3 – what do you base this on? And do you think this is factor that would deny independence? I’m not so sure.

      As for 4 – that’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it. But you’re putting words in their mouth.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Israel is guilty of more UN resolutions violations than any other country in the world – do you really want to start pointing fingers now as to whom is violating what? The US invaded Iraq over 9 UN resolutions – at last count, Israel has over 69. When do we Americans get to kick some Israeli ass? They sure have it coming!

      Reply to Comment
    4. Extremist Zionist

      Chicagosmonster’s UN resolutions that he is referring to are General Assembly resolutions which are not binding. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 ARE binding. Any international recognition of a unilaterally declared Palestinian state would require the UN Security council to formally repeal 242 and 338, and there is no basis for believing that would happen. Since this act would unilaterally violate the Oslo Agreements, Israel would then also not be obligated by them and could do things like annex the territories the settlements are located on or change the security and economic relations between the two sides. A real can of worms. That’s why the Palestinians will not do this.

      I should add another why the Palestinians won’t do it. If they did set up a unilateral state, many people around the world would say “good, you now have your self-determination which you have been supposedly fighting for. This is the end of the Arab/Israeli conflict”. But the Palestinians can NOT end the conflict because this would leave the refugee question unresolved and with the Palestinians having no more leverage. Since the Palestinian goal is to force Israel to accept the refugees, they would not want to be in a situation when the world would say they have no more grievances.

      Reply to Comment
    5. […] Part I The first essay where Obama is called upon to use the Wild Card and endorse Palestinian unilateralism Part II French FM and President Abbas hint towards a future Palestinian state Part III Egyptian FM joins the party Part IV The NYTimes puts the Wild Card on the agenda Part V Right wingers get nervous about unilateralism Part VI Peace talks die, a call for Obama to think again about the Wild Card http://972mag.com/wild-card-part-vii-eu-sets-the-ground-for-recognition-of-palestine/ […]

      Reply to Comment