Palestinians can still negotiate after the UN declaration

Despite the overblown Israeli hype, Palestinians are not holding their breath as to what will happen in September.

By DAOUD KUTTAB
August 21, 2011 21:17
4 minute read.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations

PA President Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Chip East)

 
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The writer is general manager of the Palestinian-based Community Media Network.

In their frantic efforts to stop the Palestinian leaders from going to the UN, Israeli officials and propagandists present their case in a misleading fashion.

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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has called on the Palestinians to hold direct talks, and even offered to meet Palestinian officials anywhere if they choose these direct talks instead of taking unilateral action.

On the surface of it, this position seems logical, but if one digs just beneath the rhetoric, it becomes obvious that the position is a continuation of Israel’s policy of obfuscation.

Palestinians have been in direct negotiations with Israel since the Madrid peace conference in 1991. Despite the signing of a five-year interim agreement in 1993, which was supposed to lead to an independent Palestinian state, Palestinians are nonearer a state today than they were back then.

With the exception of some administrative and municipal controls and autonomy in major populated areas, the Israeli occupiers continue to control the movement of people and goods in Palestinian areas, and between those areas and the rest of the world. This military control is a 44-yearold unilateral action that contravenes international law and violates the spirit and text of important multilateral and bilateral agreements.

Not only have direct talks failed to produce the desired results, their continuation has also contributed to masking widespread acts of land thievery.



Palestinian lands continue to be confiscated, Jews-only settlements continue to be built (Defense Minister Ehud Barak just approved close to 300 housing units in Ariel) and the security wall strangles the Palestinians. The International Court of Justice at The Hague has ruled that the wall built inside Palestinian territory is illegal.

US and Israeli officials tried different ways to dissuade Palestinians from following through with their plan to obtain statehood at the UN.

Both carrot and stick (more stick) have been dangled in an attempt to get Palestinians to change their minds, but for once, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the rest of the Palestinian leadership seem determined.

It is still not clear which route they will follow. Will they go to the Security Council on September 20, when the Lebanese government holds the presidency of the council, and ask to be recognized as a state? Media and political reports have repeatedly stated that the US will likely veto such a request. Addressing the Palestine National Council two weeks ago however, Abbas said that no US official had directly told him so.

It is also possible that before or after a Security Council vote, the Palestinians will go to the UN General Assembly.

The assembly cannot recognize a state (the way the Security Council does), but if two-thirds of its members agree, they can recognize Palestine as a state with observer status, similar to that of the Vatican. After such a vote – and the Palestinians are confident that they have the two-thirds majority – the Palestinians might invoke the rarely used United for Peace resolution, which the General Assembly is entitled to approve.

If such a resolution receives a positive vote, the international community will be obliged to begin sanctions against any party denying Palestine the right to be a fully sovereign state.

THE PALESTINIANS’ desire to obtain a UN vote on statehood (in whatever form) does not mean they cannot have direct negotiations with Israel. Palestinian spokesmen, including Abbas, have said they see no reason that representatives of the newly approved state cannot negotiate with representatives of Israel.

What is not clear is whether after September the Palestinians will be represented by the PLO, the Palestinian Authority or some other entity.

The PA, established as part of the Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the PLO, is certainly the address that most of the world recognizes , and it will most likely be that way after the UN vote.

Threats by Israel that it would stop recognizing the Oslo Accords were quickly withdrawn when it became clear that this would not deter the Palestinians and that, in fact, Oslo does more for Israel (security coordination, areas A, B and C) than it does for the Palestinians.

Despite the overblown Israeli hype, Palestinians in the occupied territories are not holding their breath as to what will happen in September.

Israel and its army will continue to rule Palestinian territories no matter what the international community says. Palestinians can and will have direct talks with Israel regardless of what status they hold after the UN vote.

It is accepted by all concerned that the Palestinian move at the UN will not, by itself, bring about a Palestinian state. But this move, which reflects Palestinian and international aspirations, will strengthen rather than weaken the Palestinian position when it returns to the talks.

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