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Daoud Kuttab
Daoud Kuttab
Daoud Kuttab is a former Ferris professor of Journalism at Princeton University.
The road to Palestine is becoming clearer
The marathon of speeches the US capital witnessed last week have not been met with much enthusiasm in the Middle East.
Last Modified: 26 May 2011 14:36

US President Barack Obama  reaffirmed US support for Israel while calling for a two-state solution [EPA]

The marathon of speeches that the US capital witnessed last week have cleared the view as to what is needed for Palestinians to reach their coveted independent state. Clearing the view, however, doesn't necessarily mean that it will be easy or attainable in the near future.

People wanting to reach statehood need to be united, set clear and realistic goals as to the borders of this state and have a blueprint of how to reach statehood and not just declare it.

Hidden in the two speeches of President Obama are some clear hints of how Palestinians can accomplish their national goals.

While both Obama and Netanyahu criticised the recent reconciliation which led to a deal for a new unity government in Palestine, it is easy to see the differences between the two leaders. Obama did not oppose it but he called on Palestinians to provide answers to the demands of the international community, whereas Netanyahu simply called on Palestinians to tear up their reconciliation agreement. The internal cohesiveness of any people is an essential component for seeking national independence. No people have been able to reach statehood being divided. While the new Palestinian government will most certainly comply with international demands, the idea of refusing reconciliation will be national suicide. The Obama Administration and the international community which accepted the Harriri government in Lebanon, despite the presence of Hezbollah, can't reject the upcoming Mahmoud Abbas government made up of technocrats who are neither Hamas or Fatah members.

As to the borders of Palestine, the 1967 borders with mutually agreed to land swaps are now etched in US policy as the basis for talks. For months the international community has been awaiting the position of the Obama Administration on the issue of the territorial basis of talks. The quartet, made up of the US, the EU, Russia and the UN, postponed two previously announced meetings for fear that their adoption of the 1967 borders as the basis of the talks would cause major negative reaction from Israel.

Speaking to the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC, President Obama had to come out with full force in defending this particular clause in his earlier speech that was largely aimed at the Arab Spring. Not only did Obama criticise Netanyhau and company for distorting what he said, but the US president defended it as necessary, noting the cost of procrastination would led to further international isolation of Israel.

After Obama took this position to the pro-Israel lion's den not only did he get scores of applause but the speech produced support from an unusual source. The Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who one day earlier publicly lectured Obama on the issue of Israel's so called indefensible borders, publicly praised Obama's AIPAC speech even though it was no different at all from the earlier speech for which Netanyahu objected. Netanyahu didn't have any further meetings with the US president and there is no indication that he received any secret assurances since his public outburst at the White House.

President Obama was also clear about the other neighbhours of Palestine, namely Egypt and Jordan. This removes Israel's claims for the Jordan valley as well as any other deal with Jordan in which Palestine will be less than an independent state. International partners in the quartet immediately welcomed the demarcation and Palestinians can and must work now based on this public position.

With the people united, and with the borders of Palestine clear, what remains is how to reach the goal of statehood. President Obama is correct that going to the UN will not produce statehood. However Obama himself explained why Palestinians feel forced to go to the international body. The failure of any agreement and the overwhelming international support for a resolution are the reasons why Palestinians want to go to the UN, Obama said. While Obama's explanation is meant to encourage Israel to make a bilateral agreement with Palestinians, there is a hidden message here. While the US (for domestic reasons and the pro Israel lobby) might choose to vote against such a declaration, it is clear that the Obama Administration will understand that this is the only non violent alternative that will be left to the Palestinian leadership if the Israelis refuse to accept the now internationally accepted (including the US) basis for the Palestinian state.

However, what Obama didn't say and what Palestinians should start thinking about is what happens on the day after the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly issues the birth certificate of the state of Palestine.

The infrastructure of the state of Palestine has been well developed in recent years, most importantly under the direction of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. But the territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority is small.

Palestinians and their supporters, including many pro-peace Israelis, must be ready to use that declaration of statehood to widen the areas of control of the Palestinian Authority.

Teams of Palestinians along with Israeli and international supporters must start now laying out detailed plans of what to do in the days following the declaration of statehood. Such acts must be totally nonviolent but will for sure be legitimate because it will be based on enforcing such a declaration on the ground. While it is not clear how far such an effort will get and how much land it will reap, the preparation as well as the implementation of this idea will add to the pressure on Israel and its US patron to move the negotiating process at least to the position of a declaration of the framework for peace.

Daoud Kuttab is an award winning Palestinian journalist and a former Ferris professor of Journalism at Princeton University.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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