In Arab world, support for UN gambit close to unanimous

Poll shows 8 of 10 Palestinians support unilateral statehood declaration; NOW Lebanon asks: Is this the Palestinian role in Arab Spring?

By OREN KESSLER
September 19, 2011 21:14
4 minute read.
Pro-Palestine rally at Kalandia

Pro-Palestine rally at Kalandia_311. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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Israel and the US may be scrambling to scuttle the Palestinian statehood bid, but in the West Bank, Gaza and across the Arab world a nearly unanimous consensus has formed in favor of this week’s UN declaration.

A poll released Monday by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found 83 percent of Palestinians support the unilateral declaration, and half of respondents said they would join any demonstrations that might break out in its wake.

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Elsewhere in the Arab world, the prevailing sentiment is similar.

The website NOW Lebanon carried an unsigned editorial Monday asking, “Is this the Palestinian role in the so-called Arab awakening? Perhaps. The mood in the region has changed, and the Arab street appears to have teeth for once.”

A statehood declaration, even a symbolic one, it said, “might even blunt the angry sword of Hamas and strike a blow for mainstream diplomacy... Quite how Hamas and, to a lesser extent, Hezbollah will react is anyone’s guess. The point is that this is not the time to be shamelessly and blatantly pandering to the whims of Israel and the Israeli lobby in the US.”

“From Tripoli to Cairo, the West has positioned itself as the champion of democracy and freedom. And yet on any matter to do with Israel, when push comes to shove, the big players back off,” it said.

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Also Monday, Beirut’s Daily Star newspaper editorialized, “Any world leader that claims to support aborted Israeli-Palestinian negotiations while opposing the latter’s bid for statehood is either a liar or a coward. Those seeking a way out of Palestine’s application are rapidly losing the benefit of the doubt.”

Emad Gad, heads of Israel studies program at the Al- Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, wrote, “It is very clear that the incumbent Israeli government refuses to re-launch talks to reach a political settlement.

Accordingly, this government wants to waste time and manipulate inter-Palestinian divisions, but will not begin any serious discussions that would lead to political settlement.

“A resolution by the General Assembly recognizing an independent Palestinian state is an immense achievement for the Palestinian cause, and would change the nature of negotiations with Israel from talks between an authority representing a people under occupation and the occupying state, to talks between two countries, where one country is occupying the other,” Gad added in Monday’s state-run Al-Ahram daily.

Hussein Ibish, a Lebanese- American writer and senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), is one of a handful of pro-Palestinian activists who has questioned the wisdom of a unilateral statehood declaration. In an op-ed Monday in the Abu Dhabi-based daily The National, he warned: “The potential damage to the Palestinian national interest and project can hardly be overstated. As Mr. Abbas himself has repeatedly acknowledged, a negotiated agreement is the only choice for the creation of a Palestinian state. And there is no alternative broker other than the United States.

“A crisis in relations with the Americans by provoking a veto in the Security Council is unlikely to enhance the prospects for genuine, rather than virtual, Palestinian statehood,” Ibish wrote.

“Frustration and despair could provoke an outburst of anger and even violence, turning a difficult diplomatic mess into an unmanageable political and security nightmare for Israel and the PA alike,” he continued.

“Cooler heads should prevail at the UN, but what is more important is to prevent an irrational overreaction that takes a bad situation and makes it potentially catastrophic.”

Ibish’s opposition to the PA’s UN gambit has already provoked a heated backlash.

Daoud Kuttab, a Jordan-based Palestinian journalist (and regular Jerusalem Post contributor) resigned last week from the ATFP, citing its position on the statehood bid.

“The approach to the UN was and is the most non-violent alternative that was left available to the Palestinian leadership,” Kuttab wrote on his blog Wednesday. “Denying Palestinian leaders this option is nothing more than pushing them into the hands of extremists who believe that Palestinian statehood can... be won only through violent resistance.”

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