Increased Palestinian activity
After the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations process broke down last year, the Palestinian National Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas launched an active campaign to get unilateral recognition for Palestine as an independent state.
As a payoff, several countries recognized Palestine within the 1967 borders.
Furthermore, a recent report by, Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said the Palestinians are “technically ready” to form their own state. A quote from the report provided by Serry’s public relations office said that “in six areas where the UN is most engaged, government functions are now sufficient for a functioning government of a state.”
In comments about the report Serry called attention to the fact that Israel needs to take specific steps in order for Palestinian government institutions to develop further.
Also, the West has significantly hardened its position towards Israel. In particular, the American and European media focus constantly on the heavy pressure that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is receiving from Western leaders. They demand that he announce a plan for resuming negotiations with the Palestinians, end the occupation and establish a Palestinian state.
Moreover, the mood of Israel’s main advocate on the international stage—the United States—has changed significantly.
Earlier this month the White House announced through US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that President Barack Obama intends shortly to reveal his plan for settling the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Under his plan (according to “informed sources” of the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot), Washington hopes that the opposing sides will sit down at the negotiating table for talks that should open by discussing the borders of the future Palestinian state.
Of course, the White House is well aware that such a proposal is unacceptable to Netanyahu, who has frequently said that it only makes sense to begin demarcating borders after solving the security problems.
As a carrot, therefore, Obama is promising Israel that it will vote against a unilateral declaration of Palestinian independence during the UN General Assembly session.
However, Israel will only receive that bonus if the Israeli government confirms that it has no fundamental objection in principle to proclaiming the independence of an Arab state of Palestine based on the 1967 borders, along with an exchange of territory (restoration of land parcels to the PNA equal to the size of the occupied territories) and, more importantly, making East Jerusalem the capital of the future Palestinian state.
Netanyahu’s game of preemption
On the whole, the situation is becoming less beneficial for Israel every day.
Moreover, the American Los Angeles Times newspaper concedes that if Israel remains stubborn the Mideast quartet may for the first time (!) endorse a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.
What does the current Netanyahu government propose doing to avoid becoming a “pariah” in the world while at the same time retaining voters’ confidence?
On the eve of Passover, Netanyahu spoke at a meeting with Likud party activists in which, among other things, he stressed that Israel wants real peace with its neighbors but is unwilling to sign a “meaningless agreement.” He also said he would demand that partners in peace talks recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Apparently, however, that is all just propaganda and campaign rhetoric. At the same time, the Israeli media has been playing up reports that when Netanyahu speaks at a joint session of the U.S. Congress on May 24 (at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner) he intends to announce the unilateral withdrawal of Israel Defense Forces from the West Bank and the unilateral evacuation of some settlements from there (except for large facilities).
Areas B and C (which are under complete or partial Israeli control) will be transferred to the complete PNA control and will become Area A.
The government reportedly plans to begin carrying out that program within a few months and will implement it over a five-year period.
This Initiative is an obvious attempt by Netanyahu to preempt and mitigate the impact of a possible UN proclamation of Palestinian independence based on the 1967 borders.
Moreover, the Israeli government is well aware that in the absence of negotiations such PR initiatives can convince Western countries not to support a unilateral proclamation of Palestinian independence.
However, Netanyahu’s office obviously is also counting on the purely legal aspects of the issue.
Placing hopes on the “letter of the law?”
According to international law, borders must be determined by mutual agreement between interested parties (except when pre-existing borders are inherited by new states), and no UN body has the authority to set borders—especially since a UN resolution recognizing the Palestinian state will not automatically give Palestine membership in the United Nations, where it currently has observer status.
In addition, as part of the procedure by which a new Palestinian state would acquire UN membership ex parte, the PNA leadership must formally declare its independence, and that would contradict the 1993 Oslo Accord and the 2003 Roadmap.
Also, full UN membership for Palestine is only possible with Security Council approval.
The UN Security Council may recommend UN membership for Palestine only if it meets several international criteria: the existence of an effective and functioning government, a permanent population, a defined territory and a capability to conduct international affairs. Although a state may have borders that have not been finalized, it must have effective control over its borders.
Therefore, some Israeli experts (particularly analysts from the Institute for National Security Studies) have optimistically concluded that the Israeli-Palestinian borders and the future Palestinian state can only be established by an appropriate agreement between the parties to the conflict.
Nowadays, however, when the Westphalian system is crumbling before our eyes and the basic principles of international relations are changing radically, there is no point in counting on the “letter of the law.”
Obviously, unless something out of the ordinary happens under pressure from the US-led international community, Israel will eventually have to accept a UN decision that proclaims a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.
It is still difficult to say whether Israeli society is up to the challenge (however, a group of Israeli intellectuals symbolically signed a “declaration of Palestinian independence” on April 20 in Tel Aviv). It is already showing signs of a split over the issue of Palestinian independence.
If it is not up to the challenge, then perhaps by the end of the year we will witness yet another “revolution” in the country Netanyahu loves to call “an island of stability” in the Middle East.
Source: New Eastern Outlook