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And what about statehood? - Daoud Kuttab

June 16, 2011 12:43 P.M. (Updated: June 19, 2011 6:28 P.M.)
By: Daoud Kuttab
The Palestinian strategy to achieve statehood is making significance progress among certain international political circles, but it is still lacking the necessary coordination and cohesion to bear the desired results.

President Mahmoud Abbas and his West Bank Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have succeeded in detonating the familiar anti-Palestinian arsenal that Israel's public relations teams have employed against Palestinian aspirations.

The rejection by the Palestinian leadership of any form of military resistance, and the focus on building the infrastructure of a state rather than cursing the Israelis, has placed Israel in a difficult position internationally.

However, it is unlikely that Palestinian statehood can be achieved simply by following this course of action.

It is sad to admit, but US President Barack Obama is right about one thing: Going to the United Nations General Assembly and extracting a majority vote will not, by itself, end the Israeli occupation.

A UN vote, however, could be key to statehood if it is part of a wider strategy. But as this moment no such coherent and well-coordinated strategy exists.

What should such a strategy look like?

Naturally, seeking national liberation requires a united domestic front. The most prominent Palestinian factions have taken an important step in this direction by signing the reconciliation accords in Cairo in May, but it doesn’t appear that there is serious, continuous and concerted effort to unify the Palestinian people.

Certainly there is no indication that the present effort is one that can unify, politically and strategically, to the point where Palestinians will be willing to make difficult decisions requiring sacrifice in order to end the Israeli occupation.

If Palestinians can agree on the current political process and receive UN recognition in September, a question needs to be asked of the Palestinian leadership about its strategy on "the day after a UN vote."

What are the plans on the ground in Palestine to implement an international license to statehood? Are the Palestinians in the occupied territories and around the world being mobilized to take concrete steps to turn this “UN license” into a real sovereign state?

Once the Israelis accept the international will for Palestinian statehood and voluntarily exit occupied land, the Palestinian leadership must be ready to take steps to realize statehood on the ground.

The Palestinian Authority will need to disengage from Israel at all levels. Does the Palestinian Authority have alternative plans once this disengagement takes place? Has the PA coordinated with nearby Arab countries to provide for goods and services once this disengagement takes place? Are the Palestinians prepared to bear the pains of such an undertaking?

During the first First Intifada, victory gardens were encouraged as Palestinians were trying to become self-sufficient while rejecting goods coming from Israel. A plan must be designed to “liberate” zones listed as area C, which Israel has direct administrative and security control over. This discriminatory division of Palestinian lands into areas A, B and C should be declared null and void once the Oslo Accords become obsolete with the upcoming UN decision. Maybe the PA should issue land deeds and give them out to any Palestinian willing to live, farm and stay put on lands that Israel continues to occupy.

No such preparation is taking place.

And what about security disengagement? Has the issue of breaking up security coordination been studied? What are the alternative scenarios? Will Abbas give orders to the security forces to defend the newly declared borders of a recognized state?

Much more effort is also needed regionally. Will countries and peoples in the region be asked to help Palestine realize their statehood? Will Jordan and Egypt be asked to help provide essentials, such as fuel, electricity and basic food products? How will such materials be made available? Will the Palestinian leaders ask these neighboring Arab countries to secure the borders?

Finally, what is the international strategy? The PA has been producing relatively good results in some countries, but this is being done almost entirely without strong and constant coordination with solidarity movements. Once Israel refuses the UN declaration of Palestinian statehood, these movements will be crucial to applying a crippling boycott and divestment campaign. The experience of the boycott of the apartheid South African regime after the UN vote needs to be replicated internationally.

Israel and its supporters might be able to pressure governments, and the US Congress, but are unable to stop the vast civil society, people-based international support that needs to be garnered.

The realization of Palestinian statehood needs a holistic internal, regional and international strategy. Such a strategy will require leadership, national unity and sacrifice.

Daoud Kuttab is general manager of the Community Media Network, Amman, and a former Professor of Journalism at Princeton University.
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