Thursday, July 14, 2011

Unilateral Palestinian State Will be a Non-Starter

Already, about 100 nations across the world have come out in recognition of an independent Palestinian state, including, most recently, Turkey and more might be coming onboard until September, when the United Nations General Assembly will vote for the creation of an independent Palestinian State within the 1967 borders.
Symbolism aside, if there is one thing the Palestinians have not learned in four decades of fruitless peace talks, it is that if ever they hope to have a state of their own, it will only be through realistic negotiations with Israel. A UNGA vote might give them a temporary field day in joyful manifestations, but when the curtain goes down
reality will again erase all the hope for a workable solution.
Here are some of the reasons, why a unilateral move will create a non-starter situation, that will never work:  Even if the UNGA passes a resolution, calling for the creation of an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, it will still remain a landlocked entity, fully dependent on Israel's goodwill to provide access to Mediterranean ports- that Palestine will depend on for its import and export. Palestinian dependence on water supply also rests on Israeli sources which themselves suffer acute shortage and will more and more rely on desalination plants- hardly accessible under the circumstances which will prevail if Palestine is unilaterally created. A simple look at the West Bank map will show that a non-negotiated unilateral Palestinian statehood, call it what you will, presents an impossible geo-political place which can be ruled by central administration. Even if we discount the Jewish settlements, its remaining territory is partitioned, and subdivided into cantons, without directly controlled links between them, a situation that would scarcely be a state worthy of the name.

To be more specific the Palestinian West Bank presents a disaster: Geopolitically it is practically divided into two parts, a northern part with Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem and Qalqilya as Palestinian enclaves, and a southern section with Bethlehem, Jericho, and Hebron. In between there is Jerusalem, that has now been expanded eastwards to such a degree that it encroaches upon the Judean Desert and cuts the Palestinian territory in half. The Jordan Valley, that should normally mark the natural boundary between the future Palestine and the Kingdom of Jordan, is practically a military zone, and Israel has already made it clear that it does not intend to demilitarize it. In other words, the future Palestine will be a land-locked State, surrounded completely by Israeli territory.  And there is more: Although the Israeli and Palestinian economies are intertwined, Palestinians are far more reliant on the Israeli economy than vice versa. Eight-seven percent of all Palestinian exports are to Israel and more than 73% of Palestinian imports come from Israel. And the Palestinian Authority is already undergoing a serious financial crisis. According to Prime Minister Salam Fayyad the PA cannot even pay its employees because of what he said was “the failure of donors, including our Arab brothers, to fulfill their pledges.” The Palestinian Authority has accumulated a deficit of more than $500 million in 2011.
Searching for an alternative, to overcome the landlocked situation,  using Jordan's Aqaba port instead might be useless, as any transports would have to cross the Jordan River bridges, which Israel will continue to control- moreover it is highly doubtful, if the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan will welcome such a move, fearing more Palestinian influence on the already large population of Palestinian origin, including Islamic radicals among them, causing dangerous instability in the Kingdom.
Half of the Palestinian population is concentrated in the Gaza Strip, cut off from the West Bank and ruled by the Islamic radicals Hamas, which not only places at its aim the ultimate destruction of Israel, but opposes any Palestinian state ruled by its arch rival the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) headed by Abu Mazen. Moreover, Hamastan, which was created in a violent coup d'etat in 2007 is virtually at war with Israel, bombarding it's territory constantly with rockets and mortar fire. Having already won the controversial 2006 elections, should they win the oncoming ballots once more- the would destabilize any newly created entity in the West Bank and resort to terror against Israel- which will inevitably lead to all-out war, resulting in  catastrophic consequences and final hope to any Palestinian liberty. The latest attempt to unify Hamas and Fatah into a joint Government, has so far failed even to agree on a prime minister to lead it and as long as Hamas regards the destruction of Israel as its main agenda, peace with such a "unified" Palestinian authority seems totally out of the question for any Israeli government.
But should the UNGA assembly vote come to be and a huge majority will support this unrealistic creation, Israel too will come under severe political and perhaps even economic pressure. The real value of the vote will depend on which nations will give their "yes" to the proposal. The Arab and Muslim world nations are certain to adhere to their traditional anti-Israel stance, but whether Europe and especially the majority of the G20 countries will join will depend on the United States attitude and how much influence it will have on the proceedings. It will be up to Israel's diplomacy effort during the next few months to gain as much support among its remaining friendly nations to prevent a political disaster from occurring, both within it's political survival, while maintaining it's sphere of global influence. With the revolutionary turmoil engulfing its neighbors and the waning influence of Washington's Obama administration, Israel will feel more and more isolated in the coming months, with the specter of a massive support for a Palestinian statehood, backed by the United Nations placing the Jewish State in a highly precarious diplomatic situation.
"'We are facing a diplomatic-political Tsunami that the majority of the public is unaware of and that will peak in September,' said Ehud Barak, Israel’s defense minister, at a conference in Tel Aviv last month. 'It is a very dangerous situation, one that requires action.' He added, 'Paralysis, rhetoric, inaction will deepen the isolation of Israel.'”

And there is good reason for concern, even if the UNGA recognizes the "non-starter" Palestinian statehood coming September.  With this vote, which will have similarity with the November 1947 Lake Success vote for the establishment of the Jewish State, the majority of  so far official ownerless real estate in the West Bank occupied by Jews will come under 'de jure', if not 'de facto' under nominal jurisdiction of the UNGA created entity. So far, most this land had no official owner and was regarded 'occupied under military administration' since 1967m before this it was occupied by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the last 'owners' were the Turkish ruled Ottoman Empire, the law of which still adheres to much of the legal proceedings. Realistically seen, it might not make any difference, as it is highly doubtful that substantial changes will come into being as long as bi-lateral negotiations will try to solve this enigma. With the entire Arab Middle East in turmoil, even the leftist Palestinian "well-wishers" in Israel can hardly envisage the mass evacuation of the Jewish settlers in the West Bank and cede it to an uncertain fate with what may well become a Islamic Hamas ruled neighbor- its rockets targeting most of Israel's coastal cities and strategic installations.

But Israel cannot afford to sit quietly by and await such a dominant majority to vote against it's strategic interest either and something has to be done- an fast to try and  eliminate, or at least, defer the oncoming UNGA vote. It will demand a change of diplomatic policy without delay and come up with new and convincing proposals, which insisting unchanged, on Israel's security interests, renew, for example, the 2000 Camp David proposals, which agreed to gradually cede nearly 90% of the West Bank to Palestine ( then under the late Yassir Arafat- who turned down the generous offer and started the Intifada instead). With the new leadership under Abu Mazen and Salam Fayyad, this could lead perhaps to serious negotiations towards an acceptable solution. Bearing in mind the letter written by then president George W Bush to Ariel Sharon ( 14 April 2004), quote "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities", a mutually accepted settlement of the border might even be achieved.

The Palestinians have nothing to gain by winning a relatively insignificant vote in the oncoming September general assembly, it will get them nowhere in their quest for a feasible independent statehood that can function. For Israel the ongoing Arab revolutionary fervor sweeping the Middle East urgently requires a unity coalition, like the one, which then prime minister Levi Eshkol created on the even of the 1967 Six Day war crisis. Let some wise statesmanship, "Churchill-like"- save the day before it is too late.