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article imageOp-Ed: The Palestinian State of Mind – Symbolism vs. Realism

By Sam Halaby     Jul 27, 2011 in World
After seeing South Sudan accepted as the newest member of the United Nations earlier this month, it seems that Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas’ unilateral campaign to seek statehood in September may have given him ‘symbolic state envy’
No matter how much the international community may support a Palestinian state, such a symbolic move would not be in the Palestinians’ best interest, given all the internal issues that still exist within the PA.
Rosemary DiCarlo, the United States’ deputy ambassador to the UN, told Al Jazeera that they will not support unilateral attempts to isolate Israel at the United Nations in order to create an independent Palestinian state. This obviously implies that the US is plans to use their permanent membership status on the UN Security Council to veto the Palestinians’ bid to declare statehood in the light of stalled peace talks with Israel.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian observer at the UN, claims that with over 120 countries supporting the Palestinians quest for statehood, it is hardly unilateral. Abbas blames Israel’s unwillingness to halt settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as their country’s capital. Israel, in turn, says that as long as Abbas’ Fatah party are to be allied with Hamas (who fail to recognize and aim to destroy the State of Israel), there is no opportunity for peace between the two.
Meanwhile, within the Palestinian Authority, there is no peace. According to an interview with London’s Al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was accused of stealing public funds and not sharing information with the Palestinian Legislative Council of the Worker’s Union. Bassam Zakarneh, the union’s chairman, then accused the PA’s media of silencing statements made by him and the union.
The Palestinian Authority is struggling with a cash shortage to pay to over 150,000 civil employees due Israel withholding tax revenues due to the Fatah-Hamas agreement, as well as failure from Arab countries to make the donations these nations had previously pledged for support to the PA.
A Palestinian state at peace with Israel seems to be a much greater accomplishment, rather than a Palestinian state with pending accusations of corruption and disagreements within. Where does 'Palestine' go following the official declaration of a State in the eyes of the UN? Israel’s argument with a Palestinian state is more in the nature of the state, rather than in the existential debate. Israel has already accepted the fact that a Palestinian state can, and should, exist, following certain conditions. The Fatah and Hamas agreement tacitly tells Israel that the Palestinian Authority no longer recognizes Israel as a trustworthy partner in peace.
One could reference simple math: it doesn’t matter how many negotiating powers ally with each other, if you attempt to multiply your message with a group with zero interest in peace, then the equation will always equal zero. 1 x 0 = 0. 5 x 0 = 0. 120 x 0 = 0.
Perhaps the United States veto is a blessing in disguise, as the dream of a nation which exists symbolically in the hearts and minds of all Arabs, past and present should be a joyous and confident occasion, and not one marred by ambiguity of intentions. Would a UN-recognized Palestinian state declare a Third Intifada, as half of Israelis surveyed believe, and wage war on Israel? Would this be the catalyst that throws the Middle East into further turmoil?
Certainly, Israel may not like to leave it up to chance that the Palestinians can engage in peace talks following the declaration of a state. Knowing that Israel would use its known influence on the United States to veto the resolution at the Security Council level, any level of international support for a Palestinian state would be paying lip service to said symbolism.
Refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is no different than Lebanon recognizing its own Palestinian refugee population with, at the very least, equal social rights. The matter was proposed last year by Lebanese Druze MP Walid Jumblatt, according to Al Jazeera. It may not be exactly the same, but it is still consideration for coexistence. Sadly, this is not the case.
Symbolically, Palestinians may not want to be naturalized in Lebanon, and would rather retain their Palestinian heritage for the opportunity of right of return. Realistically, pro-Palestinian advocates in Lebanon would be better considering coexistence by offering social rights to refugees living in the country. At least, it allows a halfway-point with the issue.
Discussions on Israel’s settlements, which the international community deems as being illegal, cannot even begin until Hamas renounce violence against Israel permanently. Hamas’ symbolic actions such as firing rockets and volatile rhetoric won’t even allow the Palestinians’ to the negotiating table, let alone as a viable partner for peace.
Some may even say that if Israel was truly the war-mongering, international law-breaking tyrannical nation that Arabs say they are, then Hamas isn’t working against Israel; they’re giving Israel every excuse to continue. Human rights groups are so apt to point the finger at Israel for the blockade of the Gaza Strip, but what of the trauma that impacts citizens of Sderot, in southern Israel, because of the rockets that Hamas fires? As Arutz Sheva (Channel 7) reported, new research shows one in three adults in that area suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
All governments have their internal issues, but is it really feasible to declare a state with the implicit goal to eventually destroy another? Regardless of any peace deal with another nation, by Palestinians fixing their own internal issues, such as combating corruption and terrorism, it would create peace within themselves.
Declaring their own state in the eyes of the UN would then not only be more symbolic, but realistic as well. A symbolic Palestinian state already exists in the minds and hearts of Arabs across the Middle East and the world, but realistically, the onus is on Palestine to achieve peace first.
It’s a path to that inner peace that begins within the individual, transcends political ideologies, and manifests itself to its neighbours. Although it is very well possible that even if this process may not happen in even another 63 years, let alone in September, it is still a dream that can eventually be realized.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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