When September comes

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I like to think of myself as a realist, neither overly optimistic nor pessimistic. However, part of being a realist is not exaggerating expectations or getting hopes up too high. My hope is that other Palestinians feel the same, especially come this September.

September 2011 has been earmarked as the cutoff date for what Palestinians are calling international “obligations” towards their cause. Negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis, which were re-launched in September 2010, were scheduled to end a year later at which time a final peace deal was to be reached. Consequently, the talks hit an impasse just three weeks later after Israel refused to renew its freeze on West Bank settlement construction. The September 2011 deadline for reaching a deal was endorsed by US President Barack Obama along with the Middle East Quartet Committee.

Last September, speaking at the UN General Assembly, Obama even went as far as saying he hoped that should a peace deal be reached, the United Nations could welcome a new member –” the state of Palestine.

Furthermore, Prime Minister-designate Salam Fayyad set September 2011 as the end of his two-year institution-building process after which he also said the Palestinians could declare their independent state. For his part, President Mahmoud Abbas is looking to hold legislative and presidential elections in the same month provided that Hamas and Fatah reconcile.

To say the least, September is proving to be a very busy month indeed.

With all the commotion about September, there is one thing I would ask of my fellow Palestinians, leaders and laymen alike, which is to keep it real.

I say this, not because I don’t want a Palestinian state to be established or because I don’t think the international community –” the United States in particular –” should pressure Israel into accepting a viable and contiguous Palestine – but because I see what is going on in real time. From where I’m standing, I still can’t see the Palestinian state of my dreams on any horizon, September’s or otherwise.

If anything, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is spinning some new scheme to present to the international community before September. Rumor has it that come May, he will be ready to present a new “peace offer” to the Palestinians, one which would guarantee them a state, or at least an entity that faintly resembles one. This “state” would be part of an interim agreement where “Palestine” is demilitarized and on 60 percent of the West Bank. The Palestinians have already said they would reject any interim agreement on the principle of “been there, done that” but it remains to be seen what exactly will transpire if and when the Israeli offer become official.

Right now, we Palestinians can work on two tracks. Internally, we need to achieve reconciliation in order to face the challenges and/or accomplishments September might bring. A united front is always better than a divided one, especially when demanding recognition. The second track is at the international level. The United States, Europe and the Quartet should “put their money where their mouth is,” to put it simply. The Palestinians need to make it clear that they have done just about everything in their power to acquiesce to the world’s demands and that it is high time the international community reciprocates.

September does not necessarily have to be a setup for disappointment. While a Palestinian state may not be in the offing just yet, I think if we play our cards right, September could push that ultimate goal one step closer.

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