For the first time in many months, Palestinian spokesmen appear to indicate a revisit of their political strategy towards liberation and independence.
It is not clear what the new ideas are, but it is obvious that Palestinian plans focusing on a September landmark seem to be in question.
The present Palestinian strategy is based on the idea that by the fall of 2011, Palestine will be accepted in the United Nations as a full member. The date corresponds to the two-year plan launched by the Palestinian president. In August 2009, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced a unilateral plan to establish a de facto Palestinian state in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. following a two-year state-building process. The date was picked up by the US President Barack Obama in his speech at the UN General Assembly last fall, where he said that the United States hopes that Palestine will become a full member of the UN by the fall of 2011.
Palestinian diplomats began working on securing international support for such an eventuality. Latin American countries announced recently their recognition of Palestine within the 1967 borders. Some European countries raised the level of Palestine’s diplomatic mission and Norway’s foreign minister, on a visit to the region last week, said that his country – an EU member – will recognise Palestine irrespective of what happens on the negotiations front.
Despite these obvious accomplishments, the Palestinian political leadership is concerned that without the US’ and the EU’s willingness to recognise the state of Palestine, all the other countries’ recognitions will be worthless. The thinking is that without the US, international recognition will not sway the Israelis to allow such a state to exercise true sovereignty.
Palestinians were upset this week when the Quartet (the US, the UN, EU and Russia) postponed a March 15 meeting in which it was supposed to declare its support for Palestinian statehood within the 1967 borders. One of the reasons the Quartet took this decision was the carefully released press leaks from the office of the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, about some new initiatives he is planning to unveil during his upcoming visit to the US.
Israel arrogantly refused to send its envoy Yitshaq Molkho to the recent Quartet meeting held in Germany for fear that his mere presence when such a declaration is made would somehow commit Israel to the 1967 borders.
Some Palestinian leaders are expressing fear that the entire unilateral declaration might be a trap that Israelis might accept and thus feel relieved of their obligations to make serious concessions.
An Israeli security experts speaking at the recent Herzilya conference expressed such an Israeli position. He argued that if Palestinians declare a unilateral state without Israel’s agreement, the new entity will have control on much smaller areas than those of the 1967 borders and that would relieve Israel of its international obligations as an occupying power.
Speaking on the Voice of Palestine Radio on March 9, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Malki hinted to this issue by saying that there are two schools of thought among Palestinians. Voice of Palestine said that the Palestinian Central Council (which is the liaison body between the Palestinian National Council and the PLO Executive Committee) will be meeting soon to discuss this issue.
Supporters of the Fayyad plan note that the Palestinian prime minister has never called for a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, but rather for a unilateral declaration of a de facto state. The idea is that such a state would have all the institutions of a state without the de jure recognition, which would relieve Israel of its responsibilities.
A more radical approach will also be discussed in the upcoming Central Council meeting, namely the fact that if serious talks do not produce agreements on borders by next fall, the Palestinian Authority should simply dissolve itself and turn over the keys to the Israeli occupiers. The idea is that unless Israel bears the full cost of and responsibility for occupation, it will not be able to make constructive and fair compromises towards the end of its military occupation.