The second week of May saw a lot of debate on the larger issue of Middle East peace and in particular the Palestinian plan of statehood recognition from the UN General Assembly. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis have been lobbying on their behalf and advancing arguments for and against the above proposal. Based on the ground reality it is likely that in September the international community will be deciding about Palestinians’ statehood.
Against this backdrop comes the May 19 speech of president Obama on U.S. Middle East policy. Israel has rebutted the speech objecting to the 1967 lines as the starting base for negotiating borders. This opposition from the prime minister Netanyahu has even proved instrumental in influencing Obama’s clarification on 1967 lines. President Obama had to clarify saying that he did not mean to go back to June 4, 1967 status quo for demarcating the borders. The Palestinians were also disappointed at Obama’s emphasis that they should not seek unilateral recognition from the UN.
A cloud of mistrust still exists in the Middle East where both the Israeli and the Palestinians have not overcome their suspicions of each other. Their lack of confidence in the evenhandedness of Obama administration in dealing with the peace process in the Middle East has further created hurdles. The Palestinians feel that expansion of Israeli settlements is designed to annex their territory to preclude the emergence of a Palestinian state. The Israelis are alarmed at recent unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas groups. Their worries are also due to Arab transformation depriving them of reliable partners in the neighborhood.
Under the present circumstances the Palestinians believe that UN recognition of their independence will provide them a leverage to pursue their legitimate struggle peacefully. Although the passage of a resolution by the UN General Assembly as desired by the Palestinians will not change Israeli deployment on the ground, the moral pressure on the occupying power will certainly increase. Tody Karon writes that, “Israeli security establishment has always seen mass unarmed civil disobedience as far more threatening than rocket fire or suicide bombers, because military responses to non-military challenges weaken Israel’s diplomatic and political standing”. Should the Palestinians engage in peaceful struggle in the wake of UN declaration, it would mark a more definitive break with the past.
President Obama has insisted that the Palestinian statehood would not be attained by a UN resolution but the history of recognition testifies otherwise. The territories of the Palestine were divided between the Jews and the Arabs through the 1947 UN Partition Plan embodied in the resolution of the General Assembly. Israel’s unilateral declaration of independence on May 15, 1948 too affirms that UN can create a state.
Therefore, Henry Siegman contends that UN’s recognition of Palestinian statehood would not conflict with or preempt negotiations of the permanent status issues, which would have to be resolved between the parties. Blocking the UN move would indeed be at odds with president Obama’s own articulation of two-nation solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.