State Declaration: The Palestinians’ agonizing choices

on 23 Comments

The US and its Quartet partners want Palestinian-Israeli negotiations concluded by August 2011, coinciding with the date of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s plan to declare a state. To convey the complexity of the issue, and the Palestinians’ fundamental dilemma in their quest for freedom from Israeli occupation, below I list the positives and negatives of declaring a state and offer my interpretations and conclusions of how events may unfold.  (Keep in mind as you read the arguments for declaration that – though the Israelis, supported by the US, insist on a “disputed” status for certain territories including East Jerusalem – the Palestinians have every right to seek statehood/UN membership because the territories, according to international law, UNSC resolutions, and the Fourth Geneva Convention, are illegally occupied.) 

The Argument for Declaration:

  • The “international community” already recognizes the right of the Palestinians to a state on the 1967 borders; a declaration of statehood is not revolutionary but a logical follow up, including to the building of state institutions. It is preparation for the “endgame,” a final peace and settling of all disputes. Palestine’s UN membership is merely consistent with the target date, August 2011, of the state’s completion. UN membership, in case of failure of talks, is the only viable alternative strategy towards the two states option. This is unlike the first declaration of statehood in 1988, which was more symbolic than substantive and in which formal UN membership as sovereign state was not sought
  • State building in the run up to declaration proves the Palestinians can run their own state, reject violent methods of resistance, and apply non-violent methods of resistance including public relations, BDS, peaceful protests, and boycott of Israeli settlement products. The Palestinian security apparatus, delivering on the rule of law, undergirds and defends the peace strategy while allowing social and economic development to take place
  • If bilateral talks go nowhere (as of course they have so far), Palestinians will declare a state in the hope Palestine is admitted into the UN. Naturally, American recognition of such a declared state would be essential. It could be that Obama will use this as unstated leverage against Israeli obstructionism. But the administration has to publicly announce its support for such a declaration; so far it has not. The US, with view to its wars and interests in the Middle East, wishes to conclude a peace agreement quickly, cognizant that the Palestine question is at the heart of American difficulties in the Arab and Muslim worlds. This is vital for its national security
  • State declaration/UN membership may break the deadlock of the past 40 years and gain momentum for two states and bring the conflict to an end. International community may line up behind the Palestinians, that is, legally support and protect them, not take sides against Israel, because UN mediation by definition is neutral and good for both sides
  • Instead as before, in 1988 when the PLO declared a state and its acceptance of a two state solution but lacked actual sovereignty, the goal this time around, again, “if talks fail,” is several: Gain UN membership via a General Assembly recommendation to the Security Council. Obtain a UNSC resolution that gives the UN authority to determine the specifics of a two state settlement including solutions to “final status” issues, especially borders. Allow the UN to mediate a settlement after both sides submit their minimal respective positions
  • Theoretically, UN membership allows the Palestinians (the defunct PLO or PNA) to request, before a peace treaty and end-of-conflict is achieved, a multinational force presence—also beneficial to Israel’s security—and other Palestine requests to facilitate peace and normalization, all before a final peace treaty
  • Democratic, internationally supervised elections could also follow such membership and UN intervention, and whose outcome the international community must respect and support; this may have the effect of reunifying the Palestinians, Hamas and PNA, Gaza and West Bank (this is an objective assessment, not one necessarily supported by the PNA elite—and certainly not by the US and Israel—whose Fatah awaits to replace Hamas in Gaza)
  • Ultimately, UNSC mediation and intervention may avoid violence or war and maintain momentum towards the resolution of conflict, allowing even the hesitant Western Europeans to get in on the peacemaking act
  • UN takeover of achieving peace between the two parties avoids never-ending half way or transitional measures such as autonomy or provisional borders and unfinished peace, tactics the Israelis use consistently, lethally detrimental to the Palestinians whose goal is a comprehensive peace

The Argument Against Declaration:

  • Israel might see it as a hostile move and may declare its own unilateral borders, which would include all the annexations and those lands not yet annexed, thereby preempting any possibility of the Palestinians recovering all the occupied territories including Arab East Jerusalem. (Note: This is where the Israelis are going now, anyway, except they want to sanctify their expansion with formal Palestinian acceptance in the form of a “peace treaty”)
  • Israel may revert to violence, or stage a provocation as it has endless times since 1948, to subvert any such move or momentum
  • The US, as the preeminent permanent member of the Security Council and, because of domestic politics, hopelessly one sided, would veto any such move; it may also revert to withdrawing aid and imposing punishing sanctions to coerce the Palestinians to bend, which basically means in support of what Israel wants

These arguments imply that declaring a state is smart but that it’s a bad idea because of its consequences. However, those Palestinians who reject such a declaration do so because it is fundamentally inimical to the Palestinian people and their national aspirations. Thus:

  • The US is aiming not for a peace treaty by August 2011, but a framework or accord of sorts delineating the principles, bases, and actualities of a final settlement. After that it’s negotiation time, whose goal is to come to an agreement on the myriad differences; for how long, it’s not known, perhaps years, to achieve some sort of final peace treaty. By that time Israel would have consolidated its expansion
  • Palestinian statehood, the great quest of the Palestinian people for the past 100 years, has, in effect and over the decades, been grotesquely diluted, rapidly since the 1967 occupation, from territorial sovereignty and self-determination to continuing Israeli control and domination by other means, especially via yet another perpetual transitional agreement devoid of sovereign content
  • The US, in line with Israel, is pushing “negotiations” without the framework of international law and conventions and UN resolutions, without even an acknowledgment, much less a commitment, that the end goal is ending the illegal occupation. The US no longer even requires an innocuous, temporary “freeze,” that expansion and colonization stop, including in Arab East Jerusalem, during negotiations, because of Obama’s capitulation to Netanyahu
  • The PLO and its PNA mutation could not achieve independence and sovereignty during two decades of negotiations (since 1990s Oslo), thanks to Israeli obstruction and delay; in fact, annexations and colonial settlements grew considerably during these negotiations. Now, in a miserably weaker, extremely vulnerable position, the Palestinians have virtually no chance of succeeding in ending the occupation
  • Any agreement entered into by Abbas and Fayyad, if, crucially, not put to a referendum, may thus sign away Palestinian national rights: from refugee return to borders to impaired sovereignty to a denuded state, not to mention the permanent spin-off of Gaza and its unending torment. It is vital to understand: an agreement will not change Israel’s control and expansion but may grant it the gift of end-of-conflict without much in return except surrender of Palestinian rights and freedom
  • Such an agreement, deemed satisfying to the Palestinians, will unravel international and civil society support, allowing Israel a yet freer, hidden hand with the Palestinians, now in a Bantustan state, and most probably aggravate Palestinian dependency and captivity under the guise of independence
  • The PA dutifully adheres to the US-Israeli plans to impose a settlement on the Palestinians without popular and democratic support and at the great cost of perpetuating Palestinian divisions. Its decayed, externally shaped institutions and decisions do not represent the Palestinian people’s will, in the occupied territories and everywhere else, and the Palestinians are badly in need of revitalizing democratic, participatory, and accountable institutions that could develop and unify around a strategy for liberation, focused around grass roots organizing in Palestinian society and Palestinian Diaspora communities

Why Declaring A State May Not Succeed:

I believe the Palestinian fate will unfold in the latter direction; that is, determined by the realities summarized under negatives of statehood declaration. For a unilaterally declared state/UN membership to succeed requires the following: True US neutrality—and primacy of American interests over Israel or any other party—between the two sides, and therefore refraining from veto. US commitment to international law and UN resolutions to settle the conflict. Real Israeli commitment to peace, a two state settlement based on UN resolutions, international law, and the Geneva Convention. US abdication of its monopoly on negotiations and the “peace process” to UN mediation. PA elite acceptance of the outcome of democratic elections, even if they lose. Europeans forging ahead in support of state declaration regardless of the US position. The Arab states supporting the Palestinians’ push at the UN regardless of US pressure and threats. In my opinion, these will not happen. It may happen in the next decade, when the US has economically exhausted itself in its external adventures and begins global retrenchment and whose support for Israel will take a back seat to American domestic priorities.

What the Obama Administration May Be Up To:

The apparent ambiguous, low key, but not publicly and officially declared, support of the Obama administration for Palestinian state building and declaration of statehood is real and not real. Embroiled in two wars and sensing a decline in its global primacy, the US military and national security require an equitable resolution to Israel-Palestine, but no US government, because of domestic politics, will draw a line in the sand with the Israelis. The US’s most likely purpose for supporting the Palestinian deadline is to pressure the intransigent Israelis to compromise, and the US doesn’t require much from its erstwhile ally. It’s always easier for the West and authoritarian Arab states to (literally) sacrifice the Palestinians than confront the Israelis. A peace deal would give Obama a great lift with the Jewish establishment in the 2012 presidential elections, because after all, hypothetically, Israel would have come to such peace of its own volition. However, the last thing the US wants is reversion of the conflict to UN mediation. Under UN mediation, the international law and UN resolutions the US abandoned regarding Palestine (since at least Clinton’s time), to Israel’s favor, will be reclaimed. Under US auspices and monopoly, on the other hand, a peace settlement, more easily imposed on the Palestinians, can potentially include Israel’s annexations and colonies (not just “land swaps”) and subsume true Palestinian economic and political viability, much less the issue of refugee return. For Israel, what’s better than such an end of conflict, with the Palestinians recognizing an Israel now in control of 90 percent of historic Palestine and enjoying carte blanche “right” to attack its wretched neighboring Palestine state when it deems fit, as a right of self defense, against “terrorism”? So the US is desperate to conclude a peace deal, or a framework leading to such, through bilateral Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, hence—with Hillary’s constant refrain that only through negotiations can a Palestinian state be founded—its immense pressure on Abbas and company to stay the American-determined course. The Palestinians, on the other hand, are trying their level best to realize their UN option of statehood and membership without eliciting US hostility and active opposition. This is the consequence, for the PNA, of committing itself to the elusive benevolence of Israel’s congenital advocate.

The Real and Imminent Danger for the Palestinians:

As I’ve emphasized on numerous occasions elsewhere, what the Palestinians must concern themselves with most of all is staying on the land, internalizing this as a basic survival imperative. Second, they absolutely must not revert to violent resistance or armed struggle—capabilities they lack as effective political tools anyway—for that would be the green light for Israeli obliteration and erosion of external sympathy and support. Third, they must frame their struggle for what it is, as one for human rights and freedom. The historical Zionist momentum to dispossess them completely is at its most frightful, culminating moment. It’s as potentially dangerous as 1948, especially because of the Zionist fear and urgency of demographic parity and even, according to some demographers, already actualized Palestinian demographic superiority in historic Palestine. The Palestinian people in the occupied territories and elsewhere need all the organized political and moral support that global civil society can give.

The Palestinian Conundrum:

In light of the ineluctable shrinkage of Palestine, its progressive loss to relentless Israeli expansion and colonization for the past 63 years, it’s agonizing to think that something must be done before the Palestinians lose everything as the Israelis are racing against time to gobble up as much as they could.  Therefore, what if one thinks the unthinkable, a last desperate course if nothing, including obtaining UN membership, pans out; and that is, for Palestine to pursue statehood/UN membership even if the American/Israeli imposed cost is a denuded state, a Bantustan?  Realizing a sovereign state, regardless of how weak and small and un-sovereign in practice, affords, at minimum and ideally, the Palestinians legal and political safeguards against Israeli depredations and expansion. Also, over a couple of decades, Israel-Palestine may evolve into a bi-national, federated, or closely cooperative entity anyway because of the sheer force of demographic changes and the positive effects of peace and normalization.  For the two peoples’ destiny, inhabiting such a tiny piece of land, is inseparable. The price, of course is accepting an end-of-conflict peace treaty that gives away Palestinian territory and rights, as explained above, which render them trouble makers and aggressors should they subsequently claim the remainder of the currently occupied Palestinian territories. Another problem is that such a move would represent only the elite and a small minority of the Palestinian people, which may portend future instability. Capitulation, of course, is what the Israelis are after (short of disappearing all the Palestinians) and the Americans are busily obliging them. What the Palestinians agree to and give away, is irreversible. Again, should the Palestinians settle for anything they could get, before they lose everything, in return for a sovereign state of any proportion, abdicating the justice of international law and UN resolutions because, in any case, in the final, long term, karmic (and short term imminent demographic) balance, they’ll end up politically and economically integrating, at some level, with the Israeli Jews in historic Palestine? This is the Palestinian conundrum, and their violent subjugation to it is obscenely, morally wrong and unjust.  (This line of thought implies, inaccurately, the Palestinians have no countervailing strengths to achieve their goals, no options to counter what’s happening to them.  I’ll address this in a future post.) (14 January 2011)

23 Responses

  1. seafoid
    January 19, 2011, 10:14 am

    “agonizing to think that something must be done before the Palestinians lose everything as the Israelis are racing against time to gobble up as much as they could. ”

    Whatever political decisions are made, half of the people in Erez Israel are Palestinians and do not have the same rights as the Jews who live in the space. In many ways Israel is a fantasy. The notion that 78% of the space is Jewish is a fantasy. The structures in place today are a fantasy.

    It doesn’t really matter what the Palestinians do next year. Israel won’t allow a state. The process isn’t finished. It has to work itself out. Israel will only release its cold grubby hands from the land when it is too late.

    The notion that an entire people’s fate is dependent on the rushed decision of a corrupt elite under pressure from a corrupt occupier is naive. The sun will rise in 2015 and Palestinians will still be without their rights and until this core situation remains unresolved there is no long term future for Jews in the Middle East.

    Israeli Jews are like the Christian minorities of the region. Overly dependent for their status on powers that fail.

  2. seafoid
    January 19, 2011, 10:25 am

    I would be more concerned about the future prospects of middle class Israeli Jews who have built their lives in this place inside a system that is running out of time.

    You coasted along
    To larger houses, gadgets, more machines
    To golf and weekend bungalows,
    Caravans when the children were small,
    the Mediterranean, later, with the wife.
    You did not go to Church often,
    Weddings were special;
    But you kept your name on the books
    Against eventualities;
    And the parson called, or the curate.
    You showed a sense of responsibility,
    With subscriptions to worthwhile causes
    And service in voluntary organisations;
    And, anyhow, this did the business no harm,
    No harm at all.
    Relations were improving. A good
    useful life. You coasted along.
    You even had a friend of two of the other sort,
    Coasting too: your ways ran parallel.
    Their children and yours seldom met, though,
    Being at different schools.
    You visited each other, decent folk with a sense
    Of humour. Introduced, even, to
    One of their clergy. And then you smiled
    In the looking-glass, admiring, a
    Little moved by, your broadmindedness.
    Your father would never have known
    One of them. Come to think of it,
    When you were young, your own home was never
    Visited by one of the other sort.
    Relations were improving. The annual processions
    began to look rather like folk-festivals.
    When that noisy preacher started,
    he seemed old-fashioned, a survival.
    Later you remarked on his vehemence,
    a bit on the rough side.
    But you said, admit, you said in the club,
    ‘You know, there’s something in what he says’.
    And you who seldom had time to read a book,
    what with reports and the colour-supplements,
    denounced censorship.
    And you who never had an adventurous thought
    were positive that the church of the other sort
    vetoes thought.
    And you who simply put up with marriage
    for the children’s sake, deplored
    the attitude of the other sort
    to divorce.
    You coasted along.
    And all the time, though you never noticed,
    The old lies festered;
    the ignorant became more thoroughly infected;
    there were gains, of course;
    you never saw any go barefoot.
    The government permanent, sustained
    by the regular plebiscites of loyalty.
    You always voted but never
    put a sticker on your car;
    a card in the window
    would not have been seen from the street.
    Faces changed on posters, names too, often,
    but the same families, the same class of people.
    A Minister once called you by your first name.
    You coasted along
    and the sores supperated and spread.
    Now the fever is high and raging;
    Who would have guessed it, coasting along?
    The ignorant-sick thresh about in delirium
    And tear at the scabs with dirty finger-nails.
    The cloud of infection hangs over the city,
    A quick change of wind and it
    Might spill over the leafy suburbs.
    You coasted along

    John Hewitt.

  3. Potsherd2
    January 19, 2011, 10:54 am

    Thorough analysis, except for the problem of Gaza.

    What is the worst-case scenario for a state declaration? That Israel will declare its own borders?

    Even that would be progress, as Israel has hitherto refused to admit that the word “borders” exists. But an Israeli declaration of borders need not be considered irrevocable. The borders of states can change. Perhaps this would be the beginning of real negotiations between the states.

    Alternatively, if Israel declares that its borders extend to the Jordan, you have a de facto one-state soution, which Israelis have always considered a threat to the “Jewish state.”

    But for Israel to declare war on a Palestinian state created with the assent of the UN GA would be going, even for Israel, too far and certainly bring on sanctions. The echoes of the “five Arab armies” would be too loud.

  4. Jim Haygood
    January 19, 2011, 1:49 pm

    ‘Any agreement entered into by Abbas and Fayyad, if, crucially, not put to a referendum, may thus sign away Palestinian national rights: from refugee return to borders to impaired sovereignty to a denuded state, not to mention the permanent spin-off of Gaza and its unending torment. What the Palestinians agree to and give away, is irreversible.

    EXACTLY! This is a huge danger of declaring statehood. The landlocked, noncontiguous Palestinian state, largely dependent on Israeli infrastructure, is categorically not viable. But should it declare statehood, Israel’s stance will be that Palestine has forever relinquished its claim to territorial contiguity, a seaport, an airport, control over its borders with other states, demolition of the Wall, and so forth.

    Attempts to claim that the declaration of statehood was made under duress would be unavailing, since no one is forcing Palestine to assert statehood now.

    In any negotiation, you can never get more than you ask for initially. Should Palestine pursue the risky course of declaring statehood, the declaration itself should contain Palestinian demands for the right of return, territorial contiguity, control over its own seaports, airports and border crossings with neighboring states, demolition of the wall, and reparations from Israel, which I would expect to total in the hundreds of billions of dollars. These assertions should be incorporated into the constitution or basic law of the Palestinian state, to counter the predictable Israeli stance that the Palestinian state irreversibly waived all claims to any territory, right, privilege or payment that it did not possess as of the date of its founding.

    My sense is that Palestinians ought to keep their options open. If the long-term future should turn out to be a single state, then a Palestinian state would be just a transitional stage in a two-state solution that proved unworkable, and imposed high costs in the process.

    Apartheid South Africa went through a similar phase, when the outnumbered Afrikaner Nationlists created Asian and coloured ‘junior Parliaments,’ while seeking to denationalize blacks in bantustans in order to nullify the black demographic majority. Black collaborators were found, as Zackie Achmat outlines below. But Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress never accepted the legitimacy of the bantustans; never assented to being denationalized from their own land and territory.


    Today, most of our university students would struggle to name even five homeland leaders. But the activist generations and our parents will never forget Gatsha Buthelezi, Kaizer Matanzima, Lennox Sebe, Cedric Mphephu, Alan Hendrickse, Armichand Rajbansi, Lucas Mangope and many others who collaborated with the apartheid state. Every one of these chiefs were based in the old homelands: Lebowa (North Sotho, also referred to as Pedi), QwaQwa (South Sotho), Bophuthatswana (Tswana), KwaZulu (Zulu), KaNgwane (Swazi), Transkei and Ciskei (Xhosa), Gazankulu (Tsonga), Venda (Venda) and KwaNdebele (Ndebele).

    The power of homeland leaders over people was not fake. Unless you voted for their one-party “regimes”, kissed their hands, gave them money — your access to land, education, health and other social services were restricted. Most damning is the power they exerted over women, girls and young men. African women in most rural areas never became adults with full legal personalities. The system of chiefs, homeland “self-rule” and “independence” was also a part of the violence against our people. Inkatha chiefs killed thousands of ANC supporters who then had to defend themselves. All Bantustan jails were filled with activists while their police shot and beat people indiscriminately during protests.

    Our current version of history and struggle is a romantic myth with “bad Whites” and “good Blacks led by the ANC”. We forget that there were many African, Coloured and Indian collaborators who used minority rule to exploit our people. Most of them flooded into the ANC after 1990.

    It is vital that we read our history and that we understand that the struggle for democracy and social justice is never won — it is a permanent struggle. Now is the time to re-examine the role of “traditional” leaders and collaborators under apartheid. They did not go away, they entered the ANC to continue plundering the state as they plundered the Bantustans and the stooge Coloured and Indian Parliaments.

    link to


    The most flexible position to take, I would think, is that historic Palestine belongs to all its people, including most certainly the Palestinians. This position preserves the claim on a right of return, and a claim on all of the territory of historic Palestine, until it either becomes a unified state, or can be divided on a far more equitable basis than is possible under the absolute duress of military occupation. A deal concluded under the gunpoint of occupation should be regarded as prima facie invalid and nonbinding. Palestinians should refrain from actions which would legitimize an unfair deal, since their opponents will certainly treat it as irreversible, even if it’s wholly unworkable.

  5. Potsherd2
    January 19, 2011, 2:23 pm

    What the Palestinians agree to and give away, is irreversible.

    This is also the imminent danger in “negotiations” and the “peace process.” It is the reason the Obama/Netanyahu team were pressing so hard to get Abbas to sign a surrender document relinquishing the Palestinian claim to their land.

  6. seafoid
    January 19, 2011, 4:51 pm

    “What the Palestinians agree to and give away, is irreversible”

    No it isn.‘t. 1948 was not irreversible. Israel destroyed it in 1967.
    No man shall set a bound to the march of a nation. Israel puts too much store on the idea that history has ended with Israel as the end point. This is bollocks.

    When Israel decided to conquer the West Bank and Gaza in 1067 it brought Palestine back from the dead. It enmeshed the two peoples for good. And it meant that borders were ultimately meaningless. Israeli apartheid won t prevail because of a document Abbas signs or does not. The eventual fall of Israel is part of a deep process that is already several decades old and cannot be stopped.

  7. Richard Witty
    January 19, 2011, 9:06 pm

    This is a critical and revealing article, that describes the paralysis of Palestinian polity to reconcile with Israel or with each other.

    Neither Israel and Israelis, nor Palestine and Palestinians will disappear. And, if either did, it could only result from some cruelty and injustice inflicted.

    That being said, the only way that two peoples reconcile is by compromise, each acknowledging that elements of their current ideology and applied policies and practices are unjust and harmful to the other (if not themselves).

    The formula that Issa described presents no option of compromise, that Palestinians cannot in fact acknowledge to the level of consent that Israel exists, and will continue to indefinitely.

    The faith expressed by cliff, seafoid, taxi, pjdude that Israel will melt into the sea, is a false one, and in practice a self-abusive one. (Or, actually abusive of those that they propose to support in solidarity.)

    That is that they compel war that results from the inflexible application of one’s experience and political conclusions, rather than the more mature and more confident flexible application.

    Its not that Abbas has less backbone. I think that is proven false by his long life of commitment to Palestinian liberation. If anything those that carelessly advocate for maximalist positions, indicate a lack of backbone, a pursuit of short-term determination rather than long.

    The birth of Palestine is a black or white phenomena. Either it is, or it isn’t. The maximalist approach keeps Palestine at a status of “isn’t”. Those of us that desire that that shift to “is”, if only to clear our conscience, are frustrated and confused.

    • lyn117
      January 20, 2011, 1:30 am

      The formula that Issa described presents no option of compromise, that Palestinians cannot in fact acknowledge to the level of consent that Israel exists, and will continue to indefinitely.

      RW, It should be obvious to the most blind that Palestinians, in the Oslo agreements and before, acknowledged to the level of consent Israel’s existence, whatever the heck that means. The impediment to Palestine coming into existence is the Israeli occupation and colonialism in what’s left of Palestine, and their on insistence military, economic and political control over whatever bantustans they’re willing to herd the vast majority of remaining Palestinians into and call a state.

      • Richard Witty
        January 20, 2011, 5:47 am

        I agree that Oslo described the intent to acknowledge Israel, and I applaud the Palestinian conclusion and determination to accomplish that.

        Most of the assertive solidarity here don’t think of Oslo as a positive step, but as either a betrayal or an impossibility, and reject it.

        I though you did as well.

      • Hostage
        January 21, 2011, 2:30 am


        In 1977 the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on the Colonization of the West Bank. Israeli Minister of Agriculture Ariel Sharon’s plan for settlements, as reported by the Jerusalem Post and Maariv on 9 & 12 September 1977, were entered into the record and discussed. The Sharon plan called for the establishment of inland Jewish population strips to disrupt the contiguity of large Palestinian and Israeli-Arab population centers. Sharon made it clear that the Arabs constitute a danger just because they are Arabs and for no additional reason. For example, the sole reason for “the insertion of a wedge of Israeli settlements” on “the western slopes of Samaria” was given as the presence of “a string of Arab villages”, inside the area of the state of Israel, whose population numbers close to 100,000, and “another band of dense Arab settlements” which also numbers “close to 100,000 inhabitants” on the other side of the former green line”. Sharon spoke of “the danger” of one block of Arabs joining the other block. The record is available from the Library of Congress @ link to

        At the start of the Intifada, Defense Minister Rabin attracted a lot of attention when he publicly stated that Israeli soldiers would use ”force, might and beatings” to quash the Palestinian revolt. Several high ranking IDF officers subsequently testified under oath (during court-martial proceedings) that they had been ordered to “break bones” after Palestinians had been subdued, because the detention camps were full.

        The statutory research institution of South Africa’s Parliament published a legal analysis which considered the Oslo Accords to be a codification of the illegal mechanisms of control and discrimination that Israel had already instituted prior to the agreement. The authors concluded that the agreement violated international law. They said it was intended to create a Palestinian state in only a portion of the Occupied territory in order to perpetuate illegal Israeli occupation under another guise – along the same lines as South Africa’s nominally independent Bantustans.

        Many of us here have seen the video in which the right wing party leader, Netanyahu, took credit for killing the Oslo Accords so that Israel could permanently occupy and settle the Jordan Valley. In that case it was once again only necessary to assert that Arabs are a security threat. Democracy Now televised a debate between a left-wing party Israeli Foreign Minister, Shlomo Ben Ami, and Prof Norman Finkelstein. Ben Ami said there had been no generous offer and that “If I were a Palestinian, I would have rejected Camp David”. Next there was the plan from the centrist Prime Minister which was revealed in a Haaretz interview. The PM’s former chief of staff, Dov Weisglass, said the government intended to supply “the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.”

        In light of the abundant evidence, it is pretty hard to suspend one’s disbelief and conclude that the Oslo Accords were really intended to be a positive step.

      • Richard Witty
        January 21, 2011, 10:09 am

        The plan of strips was the “fingers” plan of settlement, intentionally disruptive of Palestinian sovereignty as you describe.

        There clearly was an assumption in the late seventies and early eighties in Israel, that the land was annexed, that there was no question that the land from river to sea was Israel.

        In 1986, I travelled relatively freely through the West Bank. I think I encountered only one roadblock and that was minimally intrusive, more like an alchohol-testing roadblock on New Year’s Eve.

        I traveled periodically with some Palestinians in parts of Israel as well. I had third cousins, folk singers, that socialized with Palestinians in Beersheva (I accompanied them to a cafe one night to meet a Palestinian singer that they were friends with.)

        In 1987, the first intifada erupted. It was unclear in retrospect, if the first intifada was an assertion of the demand for a two-state solution (PLO/Fatah), or just a general objection to injustice and suppression (continuity with current situation).

        Israelis and officials interpreted it as a demand for a two-state, for Palestinian self-governance, rather than as anti-Jim Crow status in a single state.

        And, a slight majority sympathized with that view, resulting in Peace Now demonstrations of a few hundred thousand (a LOT in Israel. Thats like a few million attending a DC demonstration). And, it led to Oslo.

        The significance of Oslo in particular is that the proposals were not drop dead ones in fact. It was ALWAYS possible for Arafat to say, “no, we need this to make it happen”.

        It points to the discussion a few days ago posted here, by Issa… I think, that described the conundrums of Palestinian reasoning, that lead Israelis to conclude that militant Palestinians are not willing to reconcile with Israel as Israel, that there is some fundamental betrayal to compromise on any understood injustice.

      • maggielorraine
        January 21, 2011, 2:17 pm

        can you give me a link to that south african study?

      • Hostage
        January 22, 2011, 10:32 am


        Surely. You may have already heard about it here. Mondoweiss had an article about the release of the “Executive Summary” of the study done by the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa/University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies titled: “Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid?: A re-assessment of Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law” @ link to

        In addition to SOAS, consultation was also provided by Prof John Dugard; Al-Haq; Adalah; the Minerva Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University(Jerusalem); Michael Sfard, (Yesh Din); the South African Commission on Human Rights; the Advocate and Senior State Law Advisor, Department of Foreign Affairs, Government of South Africa;

        The abstract, “Executive Summary”, and Full Report (302 pages) are available from the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa @ link to

        The file download speeds at HSRC are sometimes a bit slow, but the full report is also available from Electronic Intifada @ link to or Scribd @ link to

        Dr. Michael Kearney is one of the co-authors of the report. He is RCUK Fellow in Law and Human Rights at the University of York, and a lecturer at York’s Centre for Applied Human Rights, where he teaches Law & Public Policy, Development & Human Rights, and the Law of Armed Conflict. He also has worked with Al-Haq, and prepared their position papers for the ICC Prosecutor. He quickly summarized the fact that the Geneva Conventions preclude the Oslo Accords from restricting any protected rights of the Palestinian population in a recent article. If that is all you need, see pages 12 & 13 of Kearney, Michael G., Palestine and the International Criminal Court: Asking the Right Question (July 1, 2010). UCLA Human Rights & International Criminal Law Online Forum, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: link to

      • Hostage
        January 24, 2011, 7:44 am

        The significance of Oslo in particular is that the proposals were not drop dead ones in fact. It was ALWAYS possible for Arafat to say, “no, we need this to make it happen”.

        That is utter nonsense. The declassified documents in the 2000-2001 Foreign Relations of the United States series pertaining to the Crisis in the Middle East contain an entire Chapter on the negotiation of resolution 242. They show that from day one, President Johnson and Secretary of State Rusk told Abba Eban that Israel could not retain territory that had been acquired by war and that Israeli settlement would violate the Geneva Conventions.

        Eban discussed the establishment of a Palestinian State in the West Bank and admitted that the era of setting-up demilitarized states with limited autonomy was a thing of the past. Israel has always refused to listen to anything about the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war, despite the fact that the Security Council had emphasized that any acceptable settlement would be governed by that customary norm of international law.

        Article 13 of the UN Charter tasks the General Assembly with promoting the progressive codification of international law. It adopted GA resolution 686 (VII), “Ways And Means For Making The Evidence Of Customary International Law More Readily Available” and mandated that a répertoire of the practice of UN organs be prepared under the supervision of the Secretariat of the United Nations. On page 7 of her ‘Security Council Resolution 242 at twenty-five‎’ Prof. Lapidoth spelled out the need to determine in each case whether the Security Council is exercising its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. So here are the links to the official publications where you can look it up in the ‘Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council and the Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs:

        The former contains an analytical table of Security Council decisions (Chapter 8) for 1966-1968. It says that the preamble of resolution 242 contains two “substantial measures that govern the final settlement” One is the UN Charter prohibition against the threat or use of force and here is the other from page 5:
        “E. Provisions bearing on issues of substance including terms of settlement”
        * “1. Enunciation or affirmation of principles governing settlement”
        **”(a) Inadmissibility of acquisition of territory by war,
        Situation in the Middle East(II): Decision of 22 November 1967 (resolution 242 (1967)) preamble” link to

        Israel has always attempted to create a “loophole” that would allow it to conclude a final agreement that would somehow permit it to keep some or all of the captured territory. But that would violate a customary norm of international law and render the agreement “null and void” ab initio in accordance with Articles 52 and 53 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1968). link to

        On a number of occasions the ICRC has quoted the official Article 49 commentary on paragraph 6 and has even characterized the Israeli settlements as a “war crime”. link to
        The Israeli MFA always misquotes or glosses over the official commentary and leaves out the bits about colonization: “This clause was adopted after some hesitation, by the XVIIth International Red Cross Conference (13). It is intended to prevent a practice adopted during the Second World War by certain Powers, which transferred portions of their own population to occupied territory for political and racial reasons or in order, as they claimed, to colonize those territories.” link to

        Oslo did not change Israel’s policy of colonizing and attempting to retain the large settlement blocks, in fact it attempted to legalize or codify the illegal land grab. Here is an interview with Oslo negotiator Dr. Yair Hirschfeld in which it is presented as a given that Israel will retain the settlement blocks and “water security”. link to

        Dr. Alan Baker joined the Foreign Service in 1979 and was mentored by Shabtai Rosenne. He spent eight years as Chief Legal Adviser to the Foreign Ministry and his service involved thousands of hours in negotiations with the Palestinians on the Oslo Accords. He was also a settler at the time. He claimed that there was a legal advantage bestowed on the settlers by Oslo:

        “The central claim was always that they are living in the area contrary to international law, which forbids the transfer of a civilian population to an occupied territory … Now they are living there by agreement—by the force of an international treaty that determines that their status will be decided in the final agreement.” See Jeff Halper, “An Israeli in Palestine: resisting dispossession, redeeming Israel”, Pluto Press, 2008, page 148

        Israel’s 230-page written statement in the Wall Case was prepared and signed by Dr Baker. In Israel’s executive summary of the case, and in its other pleadings, he advance that now familiar sure-fire slam-dunk legal theory that readers of his JCPA and newspaper articles have heard ad nauseum. All 15 judges, including Buergenthal, disagreed and declared that the Fourth Geneva Convention was applicable in the Occupied Palestinian territory. A 14-judge majority concluded that the settlements had been established in violation of international law, including Article 49(6) of the Geneva Convention. If Israel really does “dispute” the status of the territory, the only Court with general jurisdiction to decide the matter just happens to be the ICJ.

        Notwithstanding all of that, on 12 January 2011 Baker (and the MFA) are still claiming that the settlers are living in the Occupied Territories through the force of the (lapsed) Oslo Accords. link to

        The settlements are not an obstacle to a negotiated settlement, they have always been completely out of the question. How can you seriously suggest that the proposals were not “drop dead ones”, when even the authors say Israel will retain the settlement blocks and water rights under any final agreement and that, in the meantime, the settlers are free to stay under the terms of the lapsed interim agreement? How could Arafat, Abbas, the Security Council, the ICJ, or anyone else have possibly said it more clearly, “no, we need the illegal settlements removed in order to make it happen”?

  8. pjdude
    January 19, 2011, 10:07 pm

    The faith expressed by cliff, seafoid, taxi, pjdude that Israel will melt into the sea, is a false one, and in practice a self-abusive one. (Or, actually abusive of those that they propose to support in solidarity.)

    so understanding that eventualy justice is done is false? that demanding that the palestinians get their rights we are abusing them. they truly isn’t any to stupid for you to say is there?

  9. Hostage
    January 20, 2011, 2:43 am

    Here we go again. President Abbas has publicly declared that the State of Palestine is already in existence and that the current battle is to have the state’s border recognized.

    The Foreign Minister and Justice Minister have already submitted written documents and a declaration to the International Criminal Court saying that Palestine is a legally recognized State capable of accepting the jurisdiction of the Court in accordance with Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute. The Prosecutor has advised UN officials that, at the appropriate time, the Pre-Trial Chamber will rule on that issue. There can be very little doubt that Palestine has been formally recognized by a sufficient number of ICC member states – and that “non-recognition” of statehood is not an affirmative defense against charges of war crimes or crimes against humanity. Those acts are punishable as crimes under international law whenever they are committed “against any civilian population.”

    Legal scholars, including Hebrew University Prof. Ruth Lapidot, have explained that the Palestinians have already unilaterally declared their statehood in 1988 and that they do not need to do so again.

    Prime Minister Fayyad’s program for “Ending the Occupation” (pdf) cites the 1988 Declaration of Independence as its legal foundation in four different places. It does not mention any plan to make another declaration. Fayyad himself has explained that Palestinians want a state of Palestine in 2011, not a unilateral declaration of statehood. He said that such a declaration “is not and will not be a part of our thinking”. He is planning to end the occupation through the process of obtaining recognition from other states and by building institutions of the independent State of Palestine in order to establish a de facto state apparatus in the remaining areas of the Occupied territory.

    I’m in favor of a single state solution in which all of the citizens enjoy constitutionally protected equality with guarantees against discrimination on the basis of religion, nationality, ethnicity, or gender. However, the majority of states have now recognized the existence of two independent countries in Palestine. It would be necessary to end the occupation and to conduct a plebiscite concerning the proposed political union in order to determine the will of the two peoples on the question and to arrange for an orderly transition.

    One of my earlier posts explained the legal prohibitions against Palestine and Israel concluding a binding international agreement that attempts to circumvent the customary prohibitions against mass population transfers and deportations.

    The General Assembly has created several subsidiary organs over the years for the express purpose of facilitating the establishment of states in Palestine and the exercise of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) says that “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their [own] political status”. In the Wall Case, the ICJ held that all states have an erga omnes obligation to remove any obstacles to the exercise of that right by the Palestinian people. The General Assembly has stated that Palestinian statehood is not subject to the peace process or to any veto. See operative paragraphs 1 & 2 of A/RES/55/87, 21 February 2001. The EU Council also stated that Palestinan statehood was not subject to any veto. When Transjordan’s application for membership was blocked in 1946, an advisory opinion was requested from the ICJ. At today’s Security Council meeting, the Under Secretary General said that Palestinian statehood cannot be delayed beyond 2011. Any attempt to veto a Palestinian application for membership in the UN would undoubtedly result in another request for an advisory opinion from the ICJ regarding its political status [i.e. statehood] under international law.

    The US and Israel promote the idea that there must be a final settlement that resolves the status and all claims. In actual practice, peace treaties have the limited purpose of ending wars. There are numerous examples in the jurisprudence of the Permanent Court of International Justice, the International Court of Justice, and the International Courts of Arbitration which deal with unresolved territorial claims and other disputes arising from the terms of “final” peace settlements. FYI, the Pre-Trail Chamber of the International Criminal Court may have to rule on the validity of the Oslo Accords. Several distinguished legal publicists have submitted amicus briefs to the Prosecutor which say that the Accords are invalid to the extent that they attempt to circumvent customary norms of international law and implement a policy of Bantustanization.

    • Hostage
      January 20, 2011, 2:58 am

      P.S. Ending occupation and apartheid did not entail the creation of a single state in Namibia and South Africa.

    • Hostage
      January 20, 2011, 9:40 am

      If you are moderating comments, then what is the purpose of subsequently applying “nofollow” tags to non-spam links that point to the UN, ICRC, ICJ, and EU Parliament websites? NoFollow=NoPoint in sharing information about topical content from those websites here on this blog.

  10. pjdude
    January 20, 2011, 6:52 am

    couple of things

    firstly witty no one has to recognize that Israel is going to last indefinitely because it isn’t. their is a maximum to its existence

    secondly just because the palestinians declare a state doesn’t mean they have to give up an inch. they can declare a state with borders that they can control and than also declare that the lay a claim to the territories Israel has stolen in the past 60+ years

    • Richard Witty
      January 20, 2011, 6:28 pm

      I can’t imagine that anyone except the fanatic would desire that war continue, by that approach.

      Reconciliation is an opportunity to shift the status of relationship and claims from contested to consented (through case by case judicial review of all land claims, equal rights for all within Israel AND Palestine, and right of return offered to original residents – not determined by maximalist national definition for either Israel or Palestine).

      You can stop and remove the stone in your shoe, actually fix things.

      • pjdude
        January 21, 2011, 2:41 am

        I can’t imagine that anyone except the fanatic would desire that war continue, by that approach.

        so true justice something only a fanatic wants????

        Reconciliation is an opportunity to shift the status of relationship and claims from contested to consented (through case by case judicial review of all land claims, equal rights for all within Israel AND Palestine, and right of return offered to original residents – not determined by maximalist national definition for either Israel or Palestine).

        reconcillation requires the admittion of an evil act and the understand that what they did was wrong on the side of the perp. ISrael will never admit it was wrong there cannot be a reconcillation unless you honestly believe that what is needed is for the palestinian to say they are wrong for wanting their rights(a given your rabidity in defending and justify ISrael crimes I could see you doing that) and No witty the right of return need to be given to decedents in this case and every case when the people try to excercise the right and are prevented to. their cannot be a statute of limitation of fixing war crimes

        You can stop and remove the stone in your shoe, actually fix things.

        I am. the only way to do that is through justice.

      • Richard Witty
        January 21, 2011, 10:10 am

        I don’t believe that you want true justice, but justice for your concerns only.

  11. Citizen
    January 20, 2011, 8:47 am

    The US conduct in ignoring international law and the UN is the most serious mistake on its part, the major inconsistency in the USA’s self-declared role as an honest broker for peace. Israel’s legitimacy in the eyes of the external world does not exist but for UN recognition of it as a state and this within the context of international law. Therefore, any peace settlement to include a legitimate Palestine state and its contours must start with a basic framework for negotiations that is molded by international law and sanctioned by the UN. If the US will not demand such a (as near as practical) universal framework for negotiations–as seems to be the case to date, who or what coalition or agency will allow the UN to mediate a settlement after both sides submit their minimal respective positions? Looks like the world will have to wait for China, India, Brazil, for example, to pressure the EU and (increasingly discredited and economically impoverished) US to allow this; Russia will then follow suit. By then there will be no more “pizza pie.” Isn’t this Israel’s hole card?

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