Recognition of Palestine: closing in on Israel but reviving the Undead Two State con-trick
Four South American countries have now added their voices to recognise a notional Palestinian state. Five others are tipped to follow, including Chile which has the largest Palestinian population outside the Arab world. What is this about, and how does it impact on the fight for a single state?
1. This goes beyond recognition of the viability of the efforts of the Ramallah supremo Salam Fayyad to establish “the infrastructure of a state” in advance of negotiations. Nor is it a pat on the back for his police force. Israel has exclusive control over 60% of the West Bank and keeps a stranglehold on Gaza. Without the land held by the settlements, without the Jordan valley, the land around East Jerusalem with its huge Jewish-only towns, and without control of the roads and water, any talk of recognition is simply a statement of moral support, and as it doesn’t even extend to economic pressure on Israel to bring it about, it could be seen as just hot air.
2. What it does do, however, is strengthen, in the diplomatic arena, the Palestinian negotiating position that says a division of the country should be one that returns Israel to its pre-1967 territory, that its capital should be in East Jerusalem and that it should have sovereign control over its lands, borders, population registry and air space. This affirmation of what a state of Palestine would involve is deeply unwelcome to Israel.
3. If it catches on (and Labour cabinet minister Ben Eliezer thought that within a year “the whole world” could join in) it would leave Israel isolated, with Washington further embarassed and angry. It would open doors for BDS to go for Sanctions, ease the growing clampdown on international Palestine solidarity activists, and raise morale. These would be real, material gains for the Palestinian struggle. Symbols, though limited in one respect, can play a big role in history.
4. The recognitions show that many in the “international community” are totally fed up with Netanyahu’s games. But they are not so much intended to by-pass negotiations, rather, to re-start them, by scaring Israel to stop its manic building projects so that the PLO can return and talk about borders and land swaps. If this happened (which is less unlikely if there’s a governmental shake-up) it would lead us back into another indefinite “two state process” morass, but made worse by the dangerous delusion that the international cavalry is at last riding to the rescue and that such talks could be meaningful. But if the PA leadership really does try a unilateral declaration of independence (known as UDI back in the days of Ian Smith’s white Rhodesia), and declare (rightly) that Israel is tresspassing on its property, Israel will certainly retaliate.
5. “Prime Minister” Fayyad has also talked of a Palestinian state “by August 2011″, based on solid facts on the ground such as the PA police force, infrastructure projects, business parks and a “new town”. But he knows this cannot happen while the settlers and troops are still in charge, and it’s thought that his target date was meant to add weight in the negotiations rather than be a unilateral gesture or emotive nationalist razamataz.
6. Even with no economic and legal penalties against Israel, the PLO’s recognition offensive could make it clear to Israel that they really can’t get away with doing a carve-up and then marketing it as a Palestinian state, nor impose their own ground plan unilaterally in the expectation of getting the UN to sign it off: every country that signs up for recognition of the Green Line “shadow state” is a vote against that.
7. If there’s international momentum for the 1967 borders, that will change the equation within Israel, raise the internal political costs, divide Israel further and reduce support within Israel for Two States, as the vast majority of Jewish Israelis who now favour a two state solution would not support it on these terms. This narrows Israel’s long-haul political choices — beyond endless procrastination — to either a) a showdown with the settlers or b) annexation.
8. If serious sanctions do seem to be on the horizon, the option for Israel of postponing the moment of truth will be completely self-defeating as its assets diminish, even though “it appears now to be structurally endemic to the Israeli system that procrastination will invariably prevail” (Daniel Levy, New America Foundation). The cracks now appearing among the Zionist outriders overseas can only get wider and deeper with time.
9. The danger is that this piece of theatre will be a massive shot of adrenaline to the moribund Two Station solution, “solidifying the idea of a Palestinian state as inevitable” and further delaying the steps needed to build a movement for a single state. Palestinian “third option” leader Mustafa Barghouti, a good man, who repeatedly forecasts the end of the two state solution but recently told the press that as a “last gasp” he wants Palestinians to unilaterally declare a state within 1967 borders and challenge the world to recognize it. “If the world community does not accept our approach of recognizing a Palestinian state immediately in ’67 borders, and forcing Israel to accept that, you will be witnessing the death of the two-state option”. It seems that Israel is not alone in practising procrastination: unless he really means it when he says “immediately”.
10. Will any action or penalties follow? Time Magazine comments that if Washington is ambushed by a resolution that it can’t vote against, it could “soften the blow … by limiting the threats of pressure” as it has over the Goldstone Report whose recommendations have all been shelved. Barghouti himself took a resolution to the Socialist International last Spring, demanding a Palestinian state “within the year”. Will this body (which has many affiliated trade unions) adopt a high-level BDS policy when the one-year deadline is reached in July?
11. Dr. Richard Falk, major authority on international law and staunch supporter of Palestine, was asked (TV interview with Carl Arrindell, 9 Dec) for his reaction. He had this to say: “I believe that the proclamation of a Palestinian state lends a certain kind of false credibility to the idea that a two state solution is still a viable option to resolve the conflict. Maybe, in some short term way it is more satisfying than the current situation, but it is not likely to produce a political process that leads towards what I think is really the only just outcome which is a single bi-national state which is democratic and secular.
12. This political process would see the turn towards demands for civil rights, the mounting of legal challenges against the parallel legal and administrative systems governing the occupied territories, and where possible (e.g. Jerusalem’s municipal elections) an intervention at the ballot box. It would include the formation of a party, and other bodies, whose membership spans both Israelis (Jews and Arabs) and Palestinians in the OPTs, coming together on political, professional or special interests matters. There already exist dozens of prototypes of such groups, and also social, cultural and educational coexistence projects, all of which point logically (if not yet explicitly) in the One State direction. The most visible and dramatic of these is the demonstrations at the wall and in East Jerusalem: it’s a powerful statement of coexistence to brave the toxic tear gas together.
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