Refocus on Negotiations to Resolve Israeli-Palestinian Impasse

Though not unexpected the Palestinian request for statehood has been decided at the UN. The chapter of membership application submitted by the President of the Palestinian Authority (PA) is closed now. The Palestinians are supposedly not disheartened by this latest development knowing in advance that their membership bid had the least chances of success under the present circumstances.

The Obama administration had been declaring publicly that it would like to see the resolution regarding the membership application of the PA, if tabled before the UN Security Council, vetoed down. In consideration of this, there is no reason why the Palestinians would believe that they would succeed in their membership campaign.

In the aftermath of the Palestinian UN membership bid, which the present U.S. administration had perceived as an unilateral approach of the Palestinian Authority disregarding negotiations with Israel, the other party to the seemingly irresolvable conflict, also was effortful to explore the possibilities of even blocking the resolution from being taken action by the UN Security Council.

As per the rules of procedure pertaining to the Security Council a minimum of nine votes are required for any resolution to be presented for action by the council. With the U.S., Britain, France among the permanent members and Germany plus a few other non-permanent members on the opposition, the hopes of the PA to have the resolution concerning its membership to be acted upon by the UN were dashed. The lack of consensus to deal with the Palestinians’ membership application was made public a few days earlier in New York.

Although the Palestine Authority is not deprived of its alternative policy option to pursue at the UN General Assembly, it is not as yet decided if the Palestinian leadership will be proceeding with the proposal of upgrading its observer status. The important question remains whether observer option will facilitate the stalled negotiations for achieving peace in the Middle East. In view of the increasing sympathy for the Palestinians’ genuine cause for their homeland with internationally-recognized boundaries in accordance with UN-approved two-state solution, the Palestinian Authority is likely to garner enough votes in the UN General Assembly.

The second week of May, 2011 marks a special event for holding constructive debate on the larger issue of Middle East peace. The U.S. president Barack Obama had expressed his optimism of seeing a new Palestine state by now when he was delivering an address to the sixty-fifth session of the UN General Assembly in September, 2010.

19th May, 2011 policy speech of president Obama on Middle East peace televised to the American public was considered to be a landmark step in the field of establishing durable peace in the region. That address was calculative in timing as the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was planning to visit the U.S. in the third week of May. The significance of what Obama spoke then lies in the fact that it offered the details of basic parameters for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

For each American administration including Obama’s the issue of finding comprehensive solution to this conflict has remained as a serious foreign policy challenge. The leadership of the U.S. has been crucial in obtaining peace in the Middle East ever since the 1956 Suez War, which ended with American primacy established following the decline of  British power.

The above policy on the Middle East was cognizant of the Arab Spring, which has resulted in demonstrable changes in the political landscape of the countries in the region where authoritarian presidents have been toppled through people’s uprising. America faced widespread criticism in the beginning for not supporting the Arab revolution when it started in Tunisia in January, 2011. It was alleged that the U.S. was abandoning its principled stand on universal freedom and democracy. Happily now the Obama administration has been supporting ongoing public uprisings in Syria albeit showing bias in favor of Bahrain.

The U.S. has publicly mentioned its inclination to make the 1967 lines as the basis for restarting negotiations on border, one of the core issues dividing the Israelis and the Palestinians. However, president Obama has added that there should be an agreement on swapping territories by the Israelis and the Palestinians. The expansion of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories remains as the bone of contention for restarting the stalled negotiations to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. Mahmud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, has  recently declared in the wake of his failed UN attempt that Israeli settlements should stop to create environment for them to sit for a dialogue to establish peace.

Unfortunately, the Israeli prime Minister has announced that his government would speedily expand settlement in Jerusalem for revenging the PA’s unilateral move at the UN. Furthermore, his declaration of blocking tax returns due to the Palestinian Authority and stopping to issue VIP passes for the senior Palestinian leadership will likely spur tension in the region. The collapse of the Palestinian Authority prompted by such reprisal will not be in the interest of Israel itself. If the moderate Fatah leadership under Mahmud Abbas is removed from power, Israel will have no negotiating partner and radical elements in the Palestinian group may scuttle the fragile peace.

Perhaps, the former Israeli Foreign Minister and leader of the opposition Kadima Party has expressed her frustration at the incumbent prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu whom she has accused of turning a blind eye to the issue of Israeli-Palestinian conflict by imprudently diverting attention to Iran taking into account the present ground reality.

In connection with PA’s UN membership drive the 31st October, 2011 UNESCO’s (cultural agency of the UN) vote to admit the Palestinian Authority as its member resulting in the loss of 22% of agency’s budget due to American decision to hold its assessed annual contribution, the situation in the Middle East is becoming more fluid. Since the escalation of tension will harm the strategic national interests of America, the preeminent leader of the world, it is imperative for the Obama administration to refocus on negotiations for bringing the conflicting parties to a dialogue.

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