Note: John Whitbeck is a Harvard-educated American lawyer, now resident in Paris, whose international practice has focused primarily on the Middle East.
– Ray Close
Finally, some hope for a game-changing turn of events in the Palestine-Israel situation
TO: Distinguished Recipients
FM: John Whitbeck
Today’s ARAB NEWS editorial, transmitted below, notes, with justified optimism, the recent strong endorsements by the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund of Palestine’s readiness for sovereign statehood, which are themselves indicative of the enthusiasm of virtually every country other than Israel and the United States for actuallyachieving a two-state solution.
It should be clearly understood that, if the State of Palestine, within its full, defined pre-1967 borders, is admitted as a state member of the United Nations in September, the two-state solution will have been achieved, even if one of the two states, for the time being, is under military occupation by the other.
This would not be an unprecedented situation. It happened 20 years ago, when Iraq militarily occupied Kuwait. Kuwait did not then cease to exist as a sovereign state or as a member state of the United Nations. Quite simply, an inadmissible situation of the military occupation of a UN member state by a neighboring UN member state could not be permitted to endure — and it lasted only seven months.
While no one would expect the now almost 44-year-old Israeli occupation of the post-1948 remnants of Palestine to end that quickly — or that the United States would permit the UN Security Council to authorize member states to use “all necessary means” to end it — UN membership for the State of Palestine would instantly make the end of the occupation a question of “when”, no longer of “whether”.
Once the two state-solution has been achieved and the legal borders of each state with the other have been defined by the United Nations, the State of Israel and the State of Palestine could negotiate, in the context of a radically different balance of power, the limited land swaps and cooperative arrangements for sharing an open city of Jerusalem which will finally permit Israelis and Palestinians to physically end the occupation and to live together in peace, security and mutual respect.
Once the two-state solution has been achieved, Israel would no longer have any incentive to continue stalling and faking an interest in peace, and the true “international community” would not tolerate its doing so if it did. Israel would, finally, have every incentive to sincerely seek peace.
One may hope — even if only feebly — that some prominent people in the executive branch of the U.S. government might be capable of grasping how profoundly in the best interests of the United States and the American people it would be for this course of events to be permitted to play out — and of daring to act (or at least get out of the way) accordingly.
In the 1950’s, future president John F. Kennedy published a small volume of popular history entitled “Profiles in Courage”, in which he recalled the few (perhaps ten) instances in American history in which American politicians had actually put the interests of their country and people ahead of their own personal and career self-interest.
In September, Barack Obama will have the opportunity to write a new chapter.
Editorial: A “birth certificate”
Published: April 17, 2011
EU’s report card is reflective of growing support for Palestinian independence
When Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told donor nations in Brussels that the building blocks of a modern Palestine state were now in place, he was not exaggerating but simply echoing what the donors themselves had said, and more. Their view was that the institutions developed by the Palestinian Authority were now “above the threshold for a functioning state.”
The donors were citing reports prepared by the World Bank, the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund. They were endorsing a UN report which says that in six key areas in the West Bank — rule of law, the economy, education, health, social protection and infrastructure — “government functions are now sufficient for a functioning government of a state.” In particular, the IMF noted decreased dependence on aid and increased budgetary transparency.
This is hugely important. That Palestinians have been praised as ready for independent rule accelerates their drive toward statehood recognition. With peace talks with Israel dead, Palestinians have been pursuing a UN vote on statehood in September — a goal that seems more likely after this upbeat assessment of the PA’s ability to govern a sovereign state.
The Palestinians chose September 2011 as their day of judgment, and did not do so haphazardly; the date is a pointed rebuff to the United States. Five months from now, statehood could be announced on the very date President Barack Obama chose as his finishing line for a peace agreement. The Palestinians might get there, but upon their own initiative, and after having taken an entirely different route. They are bypassing Washington and Tel Aviv and directly seeking the blessings of the international community.
This unprecedented potential unilateral declaration of independence has Israel in anxious mood and mode. As such, whether out of desperation or in line with its usual policy to grab land, Israel continues to perform the one major act that stopped the peace talks in the first place: It has continued its settlement building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The UN report issued in Brussels noted that since September 2010 Israel has given the green light to 1,700 Jewish settlement units while continuing demolitions of Palestinian homes and evictions of Palestinian families, especially in east Jerusalem. Fearing the worst, fearing the Palestinian side will unilaterally declare independence, and win its case, Israel is going flat out trying to turn as much Palestinian land into Israeli territory, so that come September, a possible state will be that much smaller.
Naturally, what Israel opposes, so does the United States. Thus, the US blocked a meeting of the Quartet that had been tentatively scheduled to take place Friday in Berlin to discuss, and hopefully endorse, the outlines of a peace settlement proposed by Britain, France and Germany. And in February, the US vetoed the Security Council resolution that would have condemned illegal Israeli settlements and demanded an immediate halt to all settlement building.
Fortunately, the Palestinians are not going it alone. The veto spurred Britain, France and Germany, who supported the measure, to issue a joint statement expressing serious concern about the stalemate in the Middle East peace process. And now the EU’s glowing report card is reflective of growing support for Palestinian independence.
Ahead of the possible UN vote on statehood, the Palestinians have gained a crucial boost from the IMF and World Bank. They are calling the endorsement a “birth certificate” for statehood.
Perhaps sooner than anyone expected, the nascent state shall indeed be born.
© 2010 Arab News