Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Diplomacy or Militancy? That is the Question

A UN bid for the state of Palestine has been greatly debated with a significant split in opinions amongst Arabs regarding whether or not there is an advantage to Palestinian statehood.

Amongst many critics is the claim that a statehood based on the 1949 Armistice Agreement or "pre-67 borders" removes any legitimate claims for the Right of Return of 4.5 million Palestinian refugees currently residing on the outskirts of historic Palestine, and in countries such as Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.

Naturally this would be a great advantage for Israel. So why are they afraid of a UN application if the Palestinians believe it removes legitimate claims for a large percentage of Palestinians who were invaded and violently displaced from their homes? Wouldn't removing responsibility for the refugee problem be exactly what the Zionist movement wants?

Currently Israel claims that Judea and Samaria (i.e. the West Bank) is in fact "disputed" territory rather than "occupied" territory. By this definition, it would allow them to believe they can justify land annexation which, in Israel's terms is by de facto "uncharted". This ultimately denies them seeing the reality, that it is in fact inhabited by the indigenous population of Arabs who have lived there for many a millenia.

The implication is extended further by proclaiming that there isn't any official recognition of West Bank borders because the Armistice Agreement was only just a truce, and in effect is not recognised by International Law. However there is one problem with this argument. Such a claim effectively defines Israel as a state without official border lines either, and only just an official state body.

Abbas himself has acknowledged that the final agreements for border negotiations cannot be done in the UN, so a simple bid for "official recognition" would suffice for the PA's cause with noteworthy mention that it should be based on the pre-67 borders and not defined by the borders. This creates a dilemma for Israel whereby having two recognised states as UN members with undetermined borders would result in a level playing field, and negotiations could resume between two official state bodies for any border lines.

That is completely outside Israel's comfort zone, especially when the dynamics of the region would significantly shift further away from the status quo that is sitting in their favour. That, along with the mounting pressures of international isolation could only mean political disaster for the state that already declared independence unilaterally in 1948.

On the flip side, there are those amongst the Palestinians, and Arabs in general, who refuse to believe in the legitimacy of the UN altogether because of the irony it demonstrates towards democracy from an organisation that fundamentally provides five permanent members with the ultimate power to overrule and destroy a resolution with a veto if they wish to do so.

However this argument is also flawed. Denouncing such an organisation plays a dangerous game which removes any argument proclaiming that Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank are indeed illegal, especially since they are defined as illegal by International Law based on the Fourth Geneva Convention, which is in fact endorsed by the United Nations.

There are those who also refuse to believe Israel exists altogether, and that denies the reality of confronting a very real opponent on any level. This forces the situation into a more militant scenario and as we have seen in previous attempts by Fatah's rivals Hamas, its almost like punching the Apartheid Wall with their own bare hands. Hamas have been popularly condemned for causing more harm than good to their people without any viable solution to end their plight.

While Fatah have also been condemned for the atrocities against the people of Gaza after the first and only democratic elections in the Strip, they have also been accused of rubbing shoulders with the West. This opinion has slightly changed amongst some as they heard first-hand Abbas' firm stance in front of the entire world against the diplomatic pressures made by the nations who have supported Fatah as a puppet regime. It might not have won their hearts completely, especially with memories of the betrayal exposed in the Palestinian Papers, however the evident defiance seems to have struck a chord.

With Fatah's approach through diplomacy to defy the powers that occupy the Palestinian people, and Hamas' approach through militancy to defy the powers that occupy the Palestinian people, there doesn't seem to be any other suggestions made by the critics except to play the waiting game for emerging powers in the region, which incidentally does not guarantee an honest alliance of any kind. The support of BDS movements can only provide a means to promote a general disapproval, however there are still no positive steps towards other forms of reform, regardless of whether it is to achieve a one-state or two-state solution.

A UN bid proves to be a rare political victory for Palestinians regardless of a result. A successful bid hastens the demise of legitimacy of Fatah and Hamas, who both lack the resolve to unify their establishments and their people, which in turn forces a hand for elections to take place for the official state body of Palestine; while a veto hastens the political isolation of the United States and Israel throughout the world, and especially in the EU where they have had stark negative responses for the earlier veto on halting illegal settlement activities in February. Saudi Arabia have also threatened to sanction the United States following the expected veto.

Regardless of the pros and cons of a UN bid and its effectiveness, the people must choose from a limited number of options to help achieve any kind of outcome: militancy, diplomacy or the waiting game in the hopes that some other external force tilts the balance of power in their favour before Israel annexes the entire region. This could create a limbo for the entire Palestinian population if we wait too long.

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