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Analysis: Palestinian statehood bid -- suspicions and differences

Sept. 18, 2011 6:45 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 18, 2011 6:45 P.M.)
By: Rashid Shahin
Just a few days before heading to New York for full United Nations membership, suspicions about the benefit of the statehood bid continue to be debated between Palestinians.

Reasons behind differences in the Palestinian arena are understandable as they are reflecting fears related not to the present, but to the past and the experience they have had with their leadership and to their future, which they are not sure about, especially when there is no hope on the horizon.

Differences are not confined or limited only to the Palestinian arena, they extend to the international arena, of course for different reasons.

For instance, there is division stirring between EU countries. Countries opposing the Palestinian plan, such as the UK, which was responsible for the Palestinian tragedy, Germany which has it's black history during the Nazi era, and other countries like Holland, Italy and France, whose position looks hypocritical when compared with the slogans raised about human rights in their culture and the democratic values they are promoting.

The American position was announced loudly and clearly: the US will use its veto in the Security Council to frustrate the Palestinian plan.

The US is looked at as part of Israeli foreign policy, especially when it is known that the Americans are playing a major role in inciting the world against the Palestinian bid. News reports said that 70 countries were contacted by US President Barack Obama's administration and encouraged not to support the Palestinians in the UN.

That is aside from the calls made by the American Jewish lobbies and congressmen to cutoff aid to Palestinians. Even though the aid will not be stopped, as it is not only in the interest of the Palestinian people but in the interest of the Israelis and their security, such demands reflect the hypocritical American position.

The US position was not understood by many because the Americans have always alleged that they were an honest and balanced mediator between Palestinians and Israel. On the other hand, Israel started fiercely opposing the plan the moment the Palestinians announced their intention to go to the UN in a position looked at by many analysts as "blackmailing."

Analysts and observers believe that all the agreements between Palestinians and Israel aim to result in a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel.

Israel is strongly against the Palestinian UN bid, claiming that it's an attempt to de-legitimize and isolate Israel, while the Palestinians insist that their intention is to de-legitimize the occupation, not the State of Israel and to ask the world to support them in ending the last occupation in modern history. They add that the Palestinian step doesn’t contradict any peace negotiations.

Like the Americans, Israel escalates its threats against the Palestinians, saying that it will take all the needed and necessary measures to frustrate the statehood bid, including confiscation and freezing tax money belonging to the Palestinians.

Less than 24 hours after Abbas addressed his people, Israel started punishing Palestinians by closing barriers and restricting movement between Palestinian towns. Thousands of people were banned from traveling from the Bethlehem, Hebron and Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem and other towns to Ramallah.

It seems that Israel has started its collective punishment very early.

With regards to the Palestinian people who are the most affected by this plan, it is obvious that differences are very deep. Supporters say the step will enhance the Palestinian position in the UN, and will pave the way for them to be members in the different organizations of the UN, including the International Court of Justice, something which will strengthen their legal position and allow them to move more freely.

They also believe this will bring back the Palestinian cause to the UN after being "stolen" by the US, especially after the fall of the USSR, and will allow them distance from pressures made by Israel and its Western allies.

Opponents of the plan have their own reasons which they believe are very solid, especially with their suspicions regarding the credibility of the Palestinian leaders.

Since the emergence of the Palestinian issue, there were always suspicions between the Palestinians and their leaders. Opponents say leaders of Palestine have not been transparent or sincere with their people.

Many questions reflecting the fears and worries are raised by the opponents and there is no persuasive response from the Palestinian leadership.

One major question which is always raised is, what will be the destiny of the PLO? It is believed that the legal status held by the PLO since 1975 as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people will be threatened and may disappear.

Who will represent the inalienable rights of the entire Palestinian people in the UN and other international organizations if the PLO is omitted?

The right to self determination will be strongly affected if statehood is to be adopted since it is a right of all Palestinians inside and outside Palestine. "In the case of changing this status, the right of the refugees to return will be disenfranchised" some international law experts say.

What about the Palestinians in the diaspora, especially in Lebanon and Syria? How they will be looked at from a legal point of view, who will represent them?

Some other questions about UN resolutions, such as resolution 181 which calls for the partition of Palestine, and UN resolution 194 which calls for the return of the Palestinian refugees, are they going to have the same "power"?

Worries and fears of the Palestinian opponents are not limited to the above questions, debate in the Palestinian arena goes further, especially when it carries doubts about the intentions of the leadership and whether the plan to go to the UN is genuine or is merely a maneuver to improve negotiations conditions with Israeli.

In his speech to the Palestinians and to the world on Friday, President Mahmoud Abbas did not clarify many issues, including the issue of the PLO, and the right to return of the refugees. Opponents say he reiterated the same justifications and brought nothing new to the table, "the speech was full of generalities, he was not direct nor specific" they claim.

With regard to the position of the rest of the world, Palestinians are more interested in the US, because Washington said it will use the veto to frustrate the Palestinian plan. A position that they can't understand, especially when they recall Obama's words before the UNGA, in which he said that he wants to see a Palestinian state as a member of the UN.

Remarks about the position of the US became stronger, when Palestinians listened to the US's support to a state like South Sudan, and the support of Arab Spring, but when it comes to Palestine, the Americans retreat and support the oppressors.

In an attempt to prevent them from going to the United Nations. Israel, side by side with America, is practicing direct and indirect threats against Palestinians, threats which till now did not succeed in dissuading them or making them retreat.

However, despite the Palestinians' will to succeed to get their "new" status, nothing will be changed in the occupied territories, facts on the ground will be the same, the territories will remain under the Israeli military occupation, oppression of Palestinians, land confiscation, settlement building, settlement expansion, barriers, closures of the cities and towns, attacks by armed and protected Israeli settlers against Palestinians and arrests will all continue.

The Palestinian plan to go to the UN, even though is welcomed by many Arab and foreign countries, and of course by a large portion of Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, is not so welcomed by other Palestinians especially in the Diaspora.

It is believed that changing the status from an entity, PLO, to a state, Palestine, is nothing more than a symbolic or moral step. It is not going to be the cure or the healing of the Palestinian catastrophe.

If Israel is sincere in looking for a solution for the Palestinian issue, it would be advisable for the Israeli leaders to start looking for another way to solve it, that can be embodied only by the one state solution.

In other words, all plans and proposals made in order to solve the conflict, by Palestinians or by Israel, or by who ever else, will be a transitional solution, as the ember will remain beneath the ash, and things are liable to explode at any moment.

Rashid Shahin is a writer and journalist based in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
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