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Hichem Karoui: You don’t have to veto
August 20, 2011
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The Middle East Quartet (United Nations, Russian Federation, United States, and European Union) has just issued a statement on August 16, 2011, regarding Israel’s planning of construction in the West Bank. Plainly said, the Quartet refused Israel’s recent announcements to advance planning for new housing units in Ariel and East Jerusalem, reiterating a position it had already expressed in March 12, 2010. Two points have been particularly emphasised in the new statement: a) Unilateral action by either parties will not be recognised by the international community; and b) Jerusalem is one of the core issues that could be resolved only through direct negotiations.

If only such statement could be enlarged to tackle the issue of the Palestinian appliance for the UN full membership in September, so to tell us whether, yes or no, this is a legitimate endeavour. But the Quartet seems completely inefficient on this matter, and the reason is obvious to everyone: the United States is blocking any progress on this issue and threatening to veto the project in the UN Security Council.

Evoking the legality or illegality of the Israeli and US stances regarding this issue seems so far useless: they did not really care about the fact that the Oslo Accord’s five-year interim phase has ended in 1998, and much less so about the sound legal opinion asserting that from the standpoint of those accords, the PA should have been dissolved. Of course, how could it be dissolved without a legal entity, such as an independent state, to take over?

The PA continued not because the Palestinians wanted it, but because neither Israel nor the Western governments and particularly the USA were willing to see an independent Palestinian state replace it in 1998. For them, this issue was neither legal (since they made sure not to link it to the Oslo accords), nor even political (for example, possibly decided through a vote in the UN), but solely and uniquely a security matter.

While the US-Europe stance in 1998 against Arafat’s planned unilateral bid for an independent state might have some justification from their perspective, today the whole political configuration has changed.

In 1998, Bill Clinton was still hoping for reaching a peace deal. In Israel, Ehud Barak was in power with majority support. He had room to pursue a peace deal, but did he? Today, as defence minister he has become part of a right wing government with an extremist agenda and could be of no use to any peace movement as he lost credibility even in his own party.

Netanyahu’s government seems to reject even the basics of negotiations, as shown in his speech to the US Congress in May: no compromise on Jerusalem, no deal on refugees, and no 1967 borders. The very definition of “negotiations” as a voluntary process designed to manage a conflict involving a joint decision-making exercise, implies that you are willing to accept compromises on all issues related to the conflict. You cannot just say: there will be no discussion or compromise over such or such question. If you do, it means you are rejecting negotiations.

Well, this is actually the position of the Israeli government. — A position that the United States should be wise not to encourage or support. However, threatening to veto the Palestinian project of appliance to the UN full membership in September is just equal to encouraging and supporting Netanyahu’s extremist government. The Obama administration is under no obligation to do so.

Do we need to remind anybody that the legitimate demand of independence is not a recent “political trick” to annoy Israel, but the fundamental historical claim of the Palestinian national movement since its inception in the 1930’s? At the time, the British government published a White Paper restricting Jewish immigration and offering independence for Palestine within ten years, — a promise that has never been fulfilled because of the war.

The goal of establishing an independent state has been denied to the Palestinians, because Israel’s propaganda continued to claim there is no such a people as the Palestinians, according to the Zionist slogan: “a land without people for a people without land.” Yet, all the key-documents of the PLO since the adoption of its National Charter in 1968, emphasise the need for an independent state as a ultimate objective. Actually, the history of the Palestinian struggle would make no sense without such an objective.

Indeed, it is this very PLO with whom Americans and Israelis have been dealing now since years. So, what did hinder them from recognising the legitimacy of the Palestinian claim to an independent sovereign state?

The answer is: security. It may be evenly paranoia, will to power, or bad faith.

Even with a confirmed nuclear strike force (not to mention the US umbrella), reinforced by several accords with the United States that go back to Reagan’s Strategic Agreement, Israel is still claiming that a UN support to an independent Palestinian state is a threat to her national security.

Such a claim is a hoax.

Are we still in 1947, 1967, 1973... when Israel could pretend that it was facing hostile forces from several Arab states, and the US would rush for help? The records speak for themselves: Camp David Accords; State of Palestine Declaration of Independence (1988); Madrid Declaration; Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Authority; Protocol on Economic Relations; Gaza-Jericho Autonomy Agreement — (Cairo Agreement); Agreement on preparatory transfer of powers & responsibilities; Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace; Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron; The Wye Memorandum; The Sharm El Sheikh Memorandum; Mitchell Report; The Arab Peace Initiative; Middle East Road Map; etc.... How many official declarations and signed agreements does the Israeli government need to be certain about Israel national security? And what assurances does the US government need more than all these documents former American presidents or officials had sponsored and sometimes co-signed?

There is no security for Israel if there is no security for the Palestinians. This is the plain truth. And there is no way to convince us that supporting the Palestinian application for the UN full membership in September may entail serious turmoil in the region or preclude future negotiations. Negotiations could not continue with Netanyahu’s “veto” on their core-issues.

As to turmoil, it is called “Arab spring” and it may extend into a third intifada, triggered this time by an American veto.

So, if the US does not feel comfortable with voting ‘yes,’ abstaining would be wise and much appeasing to the whole Arab-Islamic world.
_______________________________________________________
The author, an expert on US-Middle EAst relations, is based in Paris

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