A problem pregnancy

Despite the PA’s planned September coming-out party at the UN, we can expect only more travails ahead.

United Nations flags_521 (photo credit: Istock)
United Nations flags_521
(photo credit: Istock)
This coming July 9, South Sudan is slated to declare its independence and be welcomed into the family of nations. This new country is being born out of decades of conflict and suffering, as the Christians and animists of the south have been brutalized by the Islamist regime in Khartoum. Roughly two million South Sudanese have died as a result of war, famine and disease, while another four million have been displaced.
Many of these refugees are now streaming back home, some with newly acquired skills and a keen desire to help build their new nation. There are still hurdles to overcome, as the South Sudanese Authority must negotiate with its former masters over their common border and a sharing of the land’s rich oil resources.
But South Sudan’s recent referendum on independence was an inspiring exercise in democracy and a ringing endorsement of freedom, as nearly 100 percent of the populace voted for seceding from the North. Its impact on nearby countries has been widely overlooked, as just a few months later peoples throughout the Middle East erupted in an unprecedented wave of longing for liberty from tyrants and political reforms.
Yet what a disappointing moment it will undoubtedly be for Palestinians to witness the poor and brutalized people of South Sudan celebrating their independence and especially their release from the cruel hand of dictator Omar al-Bashir, now a fugitive war criminal. To hear the Palestinians tell it, they, too, have suffered from a ruthless oppressor called the “Israeli occupation” and are no less deserving of nationhood.
Actually, there have been many peoples celebrating their newfound sovereignty ever since the PLO first laid claim to statehood in 1964. No less than 73 nations have been admitted as new members by the United Nations since the 1967 Six Day War. Some were freed from Soviet dominance, others emerged from colonial rule by the Western powers, while still others arose out of bitter conflicts and civil wars. Yet all are now full-fledged members of the fraternity of nations.
So why, it must be asked, are the Palestinians still on the outside looking in? Is history simply passing them by?
The answer is that Palestinian nationalism has always been a problem pregnancy for the whole world. The state of Palestine was stillborn in the wake of the 1947 Partition Plan, and again with the PLO’s Algiers declaration of 1988. Even with broad international backing and Israel’s most accommodating offers, it failed to gestate again at Camp David in 2000 and at the end of the Annapolis process in late 2008.
And the reason for this is that the Palestinian nationalist movement has always been motivated more by a need to destroy the Zionist enterprise, rather than focusing on building a state of its own. The international community has been trying to hand the Palestinians a state for decades, but they have refused so long as it means the conflict is over and Israel remains intact.
Palestinian Authority leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad contend they have now corrected course and concentrated on developing the institutions of statehood in time for a September coming-out party at the UN. Yet at the same time, they have led a global campaign to delegitimize Israel, encouraging boycotts and sanctions against her abroad while feeding anti- Israel incitement at home.
Both PA leaders also have refused to consider a compromise on the right of return, which continues to be a thinly-veiled formula for Israel’s destruction. Finally, Abbas has also decided to reengage with Hamas for the sake of national unity, a path that inevitably leads away from statehood.
Nevertheless, much of the international community is prepared to ignore these self-defeating actions and press ahead toward Palestinian statehood, despite the heightened risks for Israel of a region in rudder-less turmoil. There is even increased talk among European officials of an imposed solution.
So we can only expect more wrenching labor pains ahead in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which are looking ever more like the Bible’s depictions of the birth pangs of the Messiah.
Parsons is media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org