Columns / Discourse / September 21, 2011

World Politics Corner: An independent Palestine?

President Mahmoud Abbas is going forward with the bid for state membership in the United Nations. The United States has said it would veto any attempt to by the Palestinians in the Security Council. The European Union wants the Palestinian Authority (PA) to continue negotiations with Israel, though the talks have been at a stand still for two years. Israel has said they will make it harder for diplomats to travel to and from Palestine, halting tax revenue transfers, or annexing areas to side step the resolution if it passes through.

Currently Palestine has “Observer Status” at the UN, a position usually held by IGO’s and NGO’s such as the European Union, Arab League and Amnesty International. This means Palestine may send delegates to UN assemblies but may not vote.

To be a member-state of the United Nations would mainly be a symbolic victory for the Palestinians, but there are some more implications for the “facts on the ground.”

After the Six Days War or Yom Kippur War, the map of Israel and Palestine changed drastically. From then on the border has morphed in increments through Israeli settlements on the Palestinian side of the border.

But if you’re not a state, how can you have borders? This is precisely what the UN bid effects most.

The State of Palestine is recognized by more than 126 countries in the UN. The UN cannot recognize states; just allow recognized states to join. So in 126+ countries there is a Palestinian State with areas of their country under occupation. To bring the Palestinian State into the UN would be an admission of its occupation by those countries that have not recognized Palestine on their own.

This creates problems for Israel, as the occupying force in this scenario. The PA has stated that they want recognition along the 1967 borders, which means the borders of Israel and Palestine will no longer be disputed. Israel will have to remove its settlements and troops form the areas they acquired in the past few decades, withdrawing a population estimated at about 500,000 Israeli settlers.

So why is it that the United States, under President Obama, the EU and other states have vocally opposed this move, especially considering that they were all pushing for the 1967 borders as a set border? Aren’t they getting what they want, a two-state solution along the 1967 borders?

The reality is that negotiations have not been going anywhere, and the release of diplomatic cables on WikiLeaks has revealed the reluctance Israel had when Palestine has acquiesced to Israeli demands, and retracted their own. And while the rest of the world can wait for the issue to stall for another few decades, Israelis and Palestinians can’t.

While many have argued that the recognition could create consequences like removing limited Palestinian rights, creating a lack of representation by Palestinian refugees around the world and removing US aid ($450 Million) that is 10 percent of Palestine’s Annual Budget.

The reservations or condemnations from foreign states may stem from the fear of giving the Palestinians and Israelis a new forum to play out their issues.

With “observer status” the Palestinians cannot sue Israel for the settlements, or general violence. If given UN membership, critics predict that the floodgates will open, and rushing in will be waves of suits against Israel. But this is not one-sided.

Israel could sue Palestine for the rockets launched by Hamas into Israel, the abduction of Gilad Shalit, or general violence, and many other issues the country has had with Palestine, instead of considering another Operation Lead Cast.

Instead of the battlefield, let them duke it out in the International Criminal Court. Or are we not concerned with the way the “negotiations” play out when it comes to the cost of human life?

Rana Tahir
Rana Tahir is a political columnist for The Knox Student, primarily covering international issues. She will graduate in June 2013 with degrees in political science and creative writing, after which she will attend the University of Denver's publishing institute.

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