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Daoud Kuttab
Daoud Kuttab
Daoud Kuttab is a former Ferris professor of Journalism at Princeton University.
Failed peace talks led Palestine to the UN
Palestine's plan to declare statehood in the UN is the only nonviolent alternative to failed negotiations.
Last Modified: 07 Jul 2011 08:40
Palestine has no peaceful alternative left in their struggle for independence except for the UN [GALLO/GETTY]

Israeli government officials and much of the Israeli population seem to be dead set against Palestinians going to the UN for recognition of an independent Palestinian state. The Palestinian attempt to obtain full membership in the UN has been called "an attempt to delegitimise Israel", a "unilateral act", a "crime", and even "a declaration of war" against Israel.

If negotiations are not producing any results, and if the Palestinian leadership is looking for a nonviolent alternative to failed peace negotiations, what else is there to do but to ask the world's highest international body to intervene?

The idea of becoming a permanent member of the UN originated in the UN itself - by none other than the president of the United States.

Speaking at the UN General Assembly on September 23, 2010 President Obama said he hoped that "when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations - an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel."

Since that time, the peace talks have failed once again because of Israel's refusal to extend the moratorium on building illegal Jewish-only settlements in the areas designated for the Palestinian state. This refusal continued despite generous promises made by the US to Israel if it agreed to extend the settlement freeze for a mere three months so that the negotiations could resume.

This rejectionist attitude of the Israeli government continued last month in Washington. Binjamin Netanyahu publicly refused the call from President Obama for negotiations to begin immediately on the basis of the 1967 borders with mutually agreed land swaps. 

Palestinians accepted this basis for talks and were said to be willing to forge the request for a settlement freeze in order to begin negotiations on the basis of Obama's position.

Despite all these setbacks, the Palestinian president still hopes for a negotiated settlement. Speaking on Palestine TV on June 24, Mahmoud Abbas said that if an acceptable basis for negotiations is offered, Palestinians would prefer that over going to the UN. No such offer has since been made to Palestinians.

And here lies the problem.

Who doesn't have a 'partner for peace'?

If the American-stated basis for talks is rejected by Israel - bearing in mind the Palestinian leadership's strong refusal of violence - what other nonviolent alternative is left for Palestinians?

It is true that a UN vote on Palestinian statehood will not, by itself, bring about an end to the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian areas conquered by war in June 1967. At the time, UN Security Council Resolution 242 stated that "it is inadmissible to occupy land by force".

Jews of Palestine danced in the streets of Tel Aviv after approval from the UN General Assembly vote in 1947 to partition the Palestinian mandate into a Jewish state, and an Arab state. It is ironic now that Israelis are rejecting the recognition of Palestinian statehood to a much smaller territory than that which was originally assigned to the Arabs.

A vote in the UN General Assembly is the start of a process that will eventually lead to the implementation of the internationally recognised two-state solution. Nations that support Palestinian statehood are not signaling de-legitimisation of Israel. They are simply insisting on the recognition of Israel in its internationally accepted 1967 borders and not its de facto borders that violate the sovereignty of another people's land, air and seas.

As a state recognised by the UN, Palestine can negotiate borders with its neighbours and once agreed, an orderly exit of Israeli troops can be implemented. At the time, Israel said that its occupation in 1967 of Arab lands was part of a defensive war and that it would withdraw for peace.

While Jewish-only settlements built in occupied territories in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention belie this claim, with goodwill it is possible to find ways to deal with the issue of settlers who will find themselves on the Palestinian side, once the issue of borders are resolved.

The Palestinian leadership continues to insist, in word and deed, its commitment to the security obligations that it has previously agreed to. Under this obligation, there are no violent alternatives to ineffective peace talks.

Since the famous 1993 White House handshake, Palestinians have been hoping for freedom and independence. Israel has postponed, obstructed and obfuscated every legitimate bilateral and multilateral effort to reach a negotiated agreement.

In that sense, going to the UN is not a declaration of war. On the contrary, it is insistence on a nonviolent path towards a permanent peace.

Daoud Kuttab is a Palestinian journalist and former Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University. Follow him on twitter.com/daoudkuttab

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

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