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Published: Monday, 12/10/2012

COMMENTARY

Israel should back a Palestinian state, or face a risky future

BY DR. S. AMJAD HUSSAIN
BLADE COLUMNIST

Palestinians scored a victory, albeit a minor one, when the United Nations General Assembly granted them nonmember observer status last month. This is the maximum that the General Assembly is empowered to do.

Full statehood can be granted only by the U.N. Security Council. The United States, wielding its veto power on behalf of Israel, would not let that happen.

The change of status is mostly symbolic. However, it gives Palestine a pathway to join many U.N. agencies and organizations as a voting member.

It also makes it possible for Palestine to join the International Criminal Court, where it could bring charges of repression by the Israeli army in the occupied territories. The global community considers many Israeli practices in the territories to violate international law.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the vote does not advance peace, but pushes it back. He said that only negotiation could deliver a Palestinian state. Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., Ron Prosor, said Palestinians are turning their backs on peace. Most of the world community, however, believes otherwise.

In the past 10 years, world attitudes toward the peace process have changed. Most in the global community consider peace negotiations a waste of time.

Since the Oslo Accords in 1993, there have been many rounds of fruitless talks. The idea of a two-state solution remains as elusive as ever.

In the meantime, Israel, as the United States looks the other way, carries on a relentless expansion of illegal settlements on Palestinian land. Just after the U.N. vote, Israel announced new settlements in Palestinian East Jerusalem and on occupied land in the West Bank.

The general contours of an independent Palestinian state are well known. Successive U.S. administrations and previous Israeli governments have endorsed them.

The call is for the establishments of a state within pre-1967 borders, with Arab East Jerusalem as its capital. Negotiated land swaps would let Israel keep some of the biggest settlements on Palestinian land.

Even though Mr. Netanyahu has, under American persuasion, reluctantly endorsed a two-state solution, he has never put forth a concrete proposal. Negotiations without terms of reference are circuitous and self-defeating.

People who are familiar with the history and current politics of Israel know that behind the rubric of defensible borders and the facade of negotiation, there is an unyielding position that will not cede any part of the occupied land.

Negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians have been compared to two men discussing how to divide a pizza. While they argue, the party who has the pizza keeps munching on it.

In the end, there would be nothing left to negotiate. More than 500,000 settlers live on Palestinian land. Expansion continues unabated.

World opinion has changed dramatically from a pro-Israel to a pro-Palestinian stance. One hundred and thirty-eight countries voted in favor of the General Assembly resolution, with 41 abstaining. Except for the Czech Republic, all European countries voted in favor of the resolution or abstained.

The abstention vote by Germany was surprising. Germany, given the sensitivities related to the Holocaust, bends over backward to accommodate Israel. Other than the United States and Israel, seven other countries opposed the resolution.

The demographics in historic Palestine, which includes Israel, are changing. If you add 1.3 million Israeli Palestinians to the ones living in the West Bank and Gaza, their total — 5.3 million — exceeds the number of Jews living in Israel and on occupied land. Given higher birth rates among Palestinians, the gap is bound to widen with time.

The recent U.N. vote aside, there is now talk of a second option. This calls for one country stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, where Jews and Arabs could live as equal citizens. This is what the Israeli political party Likud and the settlers on occupied land would like to see — but without Palestinians.

Palestinians have been part of the landscape much longer than most Jews living in Israel today. The status quo, as it has existed since 1967, is becoming an increasingly difficult option for Israel.

At stake is the Jewish identity of Israel. As former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, it is in Israel’s national interest to make the Palestinian state a reality. He favored the U.N. vote.

Barring that, Israel will have to continue the occupation and increasingly isolate itself in the world.

‚óŹ

In my last column, I called Tea Partiers the Taliban of the Republican Party. I should have qualified my statement. They are as xenophobic and religiously intolerant as the Taliban, but they do not espouse violence. I regret the comparison.

Dr. S. Amjad Hussain is a retired Toledo surgeon whose column appears every other week in The Blade.

Contact him at: aghaji@bex.net



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