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The case for Palestine
Published Wednesday 28/11/2012 (updated) 01/12/2012 11:07
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Nowhere are the grievances that perpetuate violence and war more evident than they are in Palestine today. But the world’s politicians continue to dance around the problem, rather than confront it.

The recent deadly violence in Gaza is only the latest proof that people living under occupation and siege need a political horizon, and not simply a cease-fire: the case for an independent state of Palestine has never been so compelling as it is today.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's decision to proceed with plans to seek a vote this week on recognition of Palestine at the United Nations General Assembly has come despite pressure, promises, and threats from Israel and some of its Western allies. Rather than pursuing the UN route, the Palestinians, according to these interlocutors, should continue to depend on asymmetrical negotiations that have served as little more than a photo opportunity.

The UN vote (which coincides with the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People) would not grant Palestine full membership.
Rather, it would upgrade Palestine's status to a level comparable to that of the Vatican, allowing its political leaders to bring war-crime charges against Israelis to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Zionists in Palestine rejoiced in 1947, following the UN General Assembly vote for partition into a Jewish and an Arab state. It is ironic that, as rockets from Gaza reach the outskirts of Tel Aviv, those Israelis who celebrated the partition, and their descendants, do not see the importance of fulfilling the other half of the partition plan.

It is true that Palestinians, who comprised the vast majority of the population and owned an overwhelming share of the land, were unhappy with the partition plan, which awarded them 46 percent of mandatory Palestine. Today, Palestinians are seeking statehood on a mere 22 percent of the territory that had been part of mandatory Palestine until Israel was unilaterally established on areas much larger than those awarded by UN General Assembly Resolution 181 in 1947.

Palestine's quest for statehood within the borders of June 4, 1967, falls squarely within international law. The UN Security Council resolved in November of that year that "acquisition of territory by war" is unacceptable. Subsequent Security Council resolutions and international treaties have upheld this principle.

In fact, a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders is exactly what US President Barack Obama has called for. Similarly, the European Union has long advocated a two-state solution, with Palestine being established on areas occupied by Israel in 1967.

As Abbas has said, the upcoming General Assembly vote is not aimed at de-legitimizing Israel. It follows the Palestinian National Council’s declaration in 1988 of a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel. It also follows the Arab Peace Initiative, adopted by the Arab League at its Beirut Summit in 2002 (and to which Israel has yet to respond).

The Arab League initiative, which was also approved by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, embraces a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, but goes one step further, calling for a "just" and "agreed upon" solution to the thorny Palestinian refugee issue. By accepting the words "agreed upon," Palestinians, Arabs, and other Muslim-majority countries have conceded that Israel will not recognize Palestinian refugees' inalienable right to return to their homes. This should allay Israeli fears that the right of return would end Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.

Abbas will go to New York holding an even more important card. Israel’s recent brutal violence in Gaza has united Palestinians who were split along partisan lines. Leaders of Abbas' Fatah faction, which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, and of Gaza-based Hamas have been meeting regularly to implement the Egyptian-Qatari reconciliation plan. Political prisoners from both sides have been released, and a senior Fatah delegation just visited Gaza.

Hamas officials, including Mahmoud Ramahi, the leader of a bloc in the Palestinian National Council, have publicly supported the UN recognition bid. According to Mousa Abu Marzouq, Hamas’s deputy leader, his movement is not opposed to Abbas' diplomatic initiative.

An independent and free Palestine alongside a safe and secure Israel is a plan upon which the entire world agrees. Palestinians have shown that they are willing to accept minor and agreed-upon land swaps, and will be open to creative ideas for solving the problem of Jerusalem, possibly following the parameters set out by US President Bill Clinton at the end of his second term.

What is needed now more than ever is political will to give the peace process a serious boost. Obama, now free of electoral shackles, and the international community should give Palestinians’ peaceful effort a chance at life. The case for Palestine has never been so clear. A vote for recognition of Palestinian statehood is a vote for peace.

Daoud Kuttab is a journalist and former professor of journalism at Princeton University.
1 ) Arachne / Canada
28/11/2012 20:54
This balanced and comprehensive article covers many of the sticky questions that often come up when discussing the situation today in Israel/Palestine. Peace with justice is the goal for right-minded people around the world, and is the only really secure future for the Middle East as a whole. This recognition of Palestine at the UN General Assembly is not magic, but it is an important step.

2 ) @ Mr Kuttab / TRUTH
28/11/2012 21:45
-a- The Truth is more that Palestinians should make the best of a bad situation
(Jews are back on the Land of their ancestors to stay), and NOT
"continue to dance around the problem, and
-b- "World’s politicians confront the Palestine problem" far more than they should already, and they do so only because Palestinians have so freely engaged in crimes against humanity (Munich, Lockerbie, Itamar, etc.) and
war crimes (Qassam, Grad, & Fajr-5 rockets fired at Israeli cities) !!!

3 ) Ron Do / Canada
28/11/2012 23:54
The writer lives in a fantasy world. In 1988 a Palestinian state was declared on paper. It brought the Palestinians nothing. In 2012 an observer state will only be a state on paper. The state will remain landless because Palestinians have refused to negotiate peace. The Israelis, with much justification, could end the Palestine government by merely ending their Oslo obligations and annexing Area "C" and limiting to Palestinians to a state in Gaza and a state in Areas "A" and "B".

4 ) Mohammad / Palestine
29/11/2012 12:33
@2 Lockerbie has nothing to do with Palestinians... World politicians must be involved in the Palestine problem because it was world politicians that created it in the first place. @3 Why do people insist that Palestinians refuse to negotiate peace? That is not true. The problem is that the Israeli side refuses the recent Palestinian conditions for a peace negotiation - mainly stopping settlement expansion. "Hey lets resolve our differences but please stop stabbing me" "No preconditions!!"

5 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
29/11/2012 20:18
@ 4), Regarding our refusal to stop settlement building in order to get Palestinians to return to "peace" talks: You're 100% right on that. As I've said before so many times too numerous to count: Last year was a record-setting year for our settlement-building and/or announcements of future settlement expansions. This year (and next) will be another record-setting year. Separately ... Daoud, ... As a highly-respected, long-time journalist/former journalist professor, you're just (cont.)

6 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
29/11/2012 20:37
re-hashing points from previous essays. So AGAIN let me CORRECT some MAJOR errors you CONTINUE to make: 1) When Great Britain was given the Palestinian Mandate around 1921-22, ALL of Palestine existed on BOTH SIDES of the Jordan River. The British then separated the EASTERN part, called it Transjordan and then simply APPLIED the name PALESTINE to the remaining, WESTERN part. The Palestinians today are NOT seeking statehood on a mere 22 percent of the territory that had been part of (cont.)

7 ) Yehuda Solomon / Israel
29/11/2012 20:53
mandatory Palestine. They already HAVE approx. 75% OF IT with Jordan/Palestine (and don't get me bogged down with saying there are other ethnic groups in J/P now or in the past because it really DOESN'T matter). So what the Palestinians are REALLY seeking now is MORE mandatory Palestinian land. So if we agreed to that they would actually possess approx. 80% OF ALL OF original, WHOLE Palestine and WE would end up with ONLY approx. 20% of it. Got THAT ??? !!! ... and we're NOT doing IT !!!

8 ) ABE / USA
02/12/2012 23:14
In 1947 The Pals refused to take the deal! They have never wanted to share the land, let's be honest. Everything that has gone wrong over the past 60 years is ALWAYS the Zionist fault!!
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