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Dr Musa A Keilani: Quest for independence
January 10, 2011
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The Palestinians and those who support their quest for independent statehood face a crucial week at the United Nations, where they are hoping for Security Council endorsement of a resolution demanding that Israel stop all settlement activities in the occupied territories “immediately and completely.”

It is not known whether the United States would allow the passage of the draft resolution, which says that all Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including Arab East Jerusalem, “are illegal and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”

The language is similar to those used by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and, therefore, in principle, the US should not use its veto power to kill the resolution.

US President Barack Obama is caught between a rock and a hard place. If the US vetoes the resolution, then he would incur the anger of the Arab countries and those who back the Palestinians. If it abstains, then it would anger the US’s “strategic ally” Israel. There is no question of the US supporting the resolution, as things stand now, although it is clear that the Obama administration would like it to be adopted if only as a strong message to Israel that Washington should not be expected to protect it from international censure all the time.

In the event of a miracle that would see the US allowing the passage of the resolution, Obama would come under bitter attack from the powerful pro-Israeli camp in the corridors of power in Washington. That is something Obama cannot afford, given his hopes for a second term at the White House.

Not that the draft resolution, if adopted, would make any dramatic difference to the situation on the ground in the occupied territories, where Israel is continuing to build and expand settlements. It does not have a record of obeying UN Security Council resolutions and there is no reason to expect it to do so this time around either.

At the same time, the resolution would be a reaffirmation of the international reject of Israel’s policies and the illegality of its practices in the occupied Palestinian territories. And hence the Palestinians have the option to take the draft to the UN General Assembly, where they could easily expect a majority decision in favour of it.

Efforts to secure international support for the draft resolution come parallel to the Palestinians’ quest for international recognition of their statehood within the 1967 borders. Again, an overwhelming international support for Palestinian statehood could be expected, but it is unlikely to move the US to back it.

Arab leaders and Tony Blair, the international Quarter of Middle East peace mediators, have warned of a new conflict in the Middle East if the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” remains deadlocked.

His Majesty King Hussein, in a telephone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said that “efforts for having serious and effective peace talks should continue, based on a two-state solution, which is the only way to achieve regional stability and security.”

“The deadlocked peace process threatens the entire region,” the King warned, adding that “practical steps are needed to remove obstacles facing the peace process.”

On Thursday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told Netanyahu that that Israel must reassess its policy and “initiate concrete steps to build trust with the Palestinian National Authority in a way that would allow negotiations to resume.”

He also said that Egypt Cairo opposes any new aggression against the residents of Gaza and warned that Israel’s threats against Hamas may be detrimental to the peace process and regional stability.

Blair, the former British prime minister and the Quartet special envoy to the Middle East, told CNN last week that Israel and the Palestinians will be in serious trouble if they do not begin talks in the near future.

Other Arab and European leaders have issued similar warnings.

However, Israel is not worried. It is only seeking to ward off international pressure to engage the Palestinians in good-faith negotiations. Israel cannot be trusted to have good faith in any dealing except when it comes to serving its interests and achieving its objectives.

Anyone involved in the effort for a fair and just solution to the Palestinian problem and of course the broader Arab-Israeli conflict should always remember that Israel could not be trusted to keep its promises. The only way to persuade it otherwise to have the people of Israel pressure their leaders to accept reason, justice and logic as the basis for an end to the Palestinian problem. And hence the relevance of the statement made by Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh last week that the Israeli civil society should start pressuring their government to accept a fair and just two-state solution to the Palestinian problem.

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