The recent agreement in April between Fatah and Hamas has paved the way for Palestinians to act unilaterally, this coming September, to ask the U.N. to declare a Palestinian State on the basis of the 1967 borders. By some estimates, Palestinians will receive 140 votes in favor, when only 128 votes will be needed. The only real question that remains is: Will a Palestinian State come into being unilaterally, or as a result of a last minute negotiated settlement between Israel and Palestine?
A non-negotiated Palestinian State will pose problems for both Palestinians and Israelis. On the Palestinian side, a state may well be recognized by the international community, but if Israeli settlements remain in place in the West Bank, and if there is an Israeli military presence there, then Palestine will be a state in name only, with no reality or sovereignty to back it up. Palestinians would probably expect that the international community would pressure Israel to dismantle the settlements and to withdraw to the 1967 borders, but such pressure could take years to bring results. In the interim, political tensions between Fatah and Hamas could resurface, as they have in the past, and if a civil war breaks out, then the international community may become far less willing to pressure Israel to comply with U.N. demands.
A non-negotiated Palestinian State would be a problem for Israel as well. The U.N. could declare the new state, based on the 1967 borders, without resolving such contentious issues as the status of Jerusalem, the settlement blocks around Jerusalem, the rights of the refugees, and the decision as to whether Palestine will be militarized. Under such circumstances, Israel would be faced with the reality of a Palestinian State, without having resolved any of the vital issues which have divided the parties for so many years. In addition, if Israel maintains the settlements and her military presence in the West Bank, then she will likely be subject to a growing campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions by the international community, in an effort to delegitimize her, and to pressure her to relent to U.N. demands.
To a certain extent, the Israel/Palestine issue is a microcosm of the Middle East as a whole. The issues which divide these two people may be unique to this particular conflict, but the ideological barriers that keep these two apart are the same kind of barriers which have kept the Middle East trapped in the past, and which have prevented the Middle East from moving forward. The impasse over borders, Jerusalem, settlements, and refugees is deep-seated, not because an equitable solution can’t be found, but because the strength of ideological conviction prevents the parties from making the necessary concession to broker a peace. Is it possible, based on current realities on the ground, including the Arab Spring, that ideological intransigence will finally give way to the need to come together, in Israel and Palestine, and throughout the greater Middle East as a whole?
The Middle East, after years of oppressive rule, corruption, and stagnation, is being asked, by the man on the street, to dismantle the old model, in favor of a Vision of Hope
, a vision of Peace, Prosperity and Freedom.
A transition of this sort is a better pill to swallow for those in power who are used to getting their way. In a similar vein, Palestinians and Israelis are being called upon to weaken the hold, to a certain extent, of ideological conviction, and to embrace the possibility that today is a new day, and that the past may no longer be a harbinger of things to come. Today hints of the possibility of fundamental change, of reaching the next stage of human development, and of becoming more than we ever dreamed possible.
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