Will this be the year that Israel accedes?

DAN-CHYI CHUA
May 18, 2011
*Special to asia!

Popular protests by the Palestinian people.Their feuding political parties coming together in the name of national unity. Does Israel stand a chance against this growing impetus for the creation of a Palestinian state?

What is for Israelis a celebration of the creation of their homeland, is for Palestinians a remembrance of the loss for theirs.

In the days leading up to the formation of the State of Israel in 1948, fighting broke out between the Arabs and Zionist militias bent on retaking back the land they considered to be theirs. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled their homes then, never to return again.

More than six decades have since passed.

For this whole time that Israel has been in existence, Palestinians have been commemorating their forced departure. They call it the catastrophe, or “Nakba” in Arabic.

This year Palestinians remembered the Nakba with even greater fervour.

Some like Dr Eyad Sarraj , a prominent Palestinian leader in Gaza, credit it to the Arab Spring, the popular anti-government movements that erupted in most markedly in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Syria.

“Chances of it happening would have been remote, if it were not for what happened in Egypt,” he said in a radio interview.

The events in Egypt had presented the Palestinians with hope, after they had given up on what Dr Sarraj called the “inability of President Obama even to stand up on his own principles to (Israeli prime minister) Netanyahu.”

The memory of the then-new US president calling out for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in Cairo two summers ago has become little more than that. Precious little progress, if any, has been made in the peace process. And this week, George Mitchell, the veteran peace negotiator Obama appointed just months after that speech, quit.

Mitchell did not explain why. But the Israelis and Palestinians each had their theories.

Israeli prime minister Netanyahu said he understood that the Palestinians had made it hard for Mitchell to do his work. The Palestinians in turn blamed it on Mitchell's difficulty in working with Obama's  foreign policy advisor, Dennis Ross, whom they accuse of being pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian.

Whatever it is, Mitchell's moved on. The other parties involved are trying to as well.

Or so it seems.

 

831 Israeli and Palestinian symbols in the Old City of Jerusalem

 

Obama is expected to give an address next week, which may or may not unveil a peace plan.

Netanyahu himself will speak at the US Congress, a platform he and his aides lobbied long and hard for. Will he say something that is deserving of the international stage he has been given?

No longer waiting to hear what Netanyahu has to say, Palestinians have seized the matter of establishing their own independent state into their own hands.

Back in mid-March, the Palestinian people stormed the streets, demanding their leaders set aside their feuds in the name of national unity.

A month later, the bitter rivals – the Fatah movement in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza  - signed an agreement to do just that. They met this week to hammer out the details.

Then came Sunday, Nakba Day 2011. The Palestinian people gathered to remember their homes they lost.

Even ignoring the hundreds taking to the Israeli border with Lebanon and Syria which some claim were instigated by Iran, there is no denying the movement of Palestinians calling for an end to the occupation of their land by Israel.

They were there, not just in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but in Israeli cities like Jerusalem and Jaffa as well.

They turned up, though they well expected to be greeted with tear gas and rubber bullets, standard ammunition the Israeli security forces use to disperse protestors.

They were joined in Cairo by thousands of Egyptians marching in solidarity onward to the Israeli embassy, stopped only by the army, which left hundreds wounded.

 

But alas, the international community is not here to serve Israel alone.

Force kept the masses at the gates, while Israel responded.

Immediately after Nakba Day, Prime Minister Netanyahu declared that Israel was willing to cede land for peace with the Palestinians, just not to this unity government which includes Hamas, a faction that refused to recognise Israel's right to exist.

So what if Palestinians voted Hamas into government in Gaza?

Israel also made it known at the United Nations that it expected the “international community” to “take action to prevent further  provocations, delivering clear messages to countries from where provocations against Israel are launched”. (See full letter to the UN regarding the incursions at its borders with Syria and Lebanon here.)

But alas, the international community is not here to serve Israel alone.   

The Palestinian leadership has made it known come September, it too will go to the United Nations. The goal will be to seek recognition  of an independent Palestinian state among UN member nations.

Then, the international community that Israel is appealing to now may vote. And they may decide in favour of the Palestinians' desire to end 63 years of Israeli occupation.

In a piece published in the New York Times on Monday, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas warned that when that happened:

"Palestine’s admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one.

It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice."

What then will Israel say?

Or the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on its borders by then be a fait accompli?

 

dan-chyi chua

Dan-Chyi Chua was a broadcast journalist, before forsaking Goggle Box Glitz for the Open Road. A three-year foray led her through the Middle East, China, SE Asia, Latin America and Cuba, and she's now grounded herself as a writer for theasiamag.com, content with spending her days in Jerusalem.

Contact Dan-Chyi