Why the US must support bid for Palestinian statehood
Palestinian leaders need equal footing with Israeli leaders – not to mention popular backing – for any peace process to succeed. Statehood sets the stage not only for productive negotiations, but also for lasting regional peace.
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Furthermore, the current Israeli government has a history of disrupting peace negotiations, seen most disturbingly in 1997, soon after Netanyahu first came to power in 1996, when he built the Har Homa settlement on annexed Palestinian land in Jerusalem. A UN General Assembly resolution condemning Israeli activity at Har Homa was passed 130 to 2, with only the US and Israel voting against it.Skip to next paragraph
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It’s fair to say that this Israeli government’s current positions, as well as its history, show that it is unwilling to commit to meaningful negotiations. Without a realistic possibility for fair or successful negotiations, Palestinian leaders are left with no choice but to seek statehood through UN recognition.
And the US should see this as a choice worth supporting as well. It is unclear why the Obama administration sees ongoing negotiations and a declaration of a Palestinian state in September as mutually exclusive. If the administration believes so strongly that negotiations can bridge the divide between Palestinians and Israelis, it should no doubt pursue them. However, preventing the long overdue declaration of a Palestinian state only to bring negotiators to the table is neither practical nor productive.
It seems that negotiations in themselves have become the goal rather than only the means to reaching a solution. In reality, a productive approach to negotiations necessitates an immediate declaration of a state, as Palestinians would then feel relatively empowered to engage in negotiations in which there still remains severe power imbalance.
Statehood will not solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; there are clear issues to be worked out including security, Jerusalem, settlements, and refugees. But Palestinian leaders need equal footing with Israeli leaders – not to mention popular backing – for any peace process to succeed. Statehood sets the stage not only for productive negotiations, but also for lasting peace.
US must show commitment to universal human need, rights
The recognition of group identity is a basic and universal human need, and the Palestinians are not an exception. The time has come for the United States to unequivocally recognize this need. Such recognition will establish a foundation for future relationships built on understanding and mutual respect.
For decades, American foreign policy in the region has struggled to balance strategic interests and values. The current approach taken by some Congressional leaders of threatening to withhold aid to Palestinian territories if the PA moves ahead with a statehood bid harms both.
To use financial aid as a bargaining tool over a basic human need not only complicates US relations with the region, particularly in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, but also raises serious ethical concerns. The Arab Spring has emphasized values of freedom, justice, and dignity, and US foreign policy in the region should be consistent with supporting these ideals, regardless of the political cost associated with such action. The Palestinians should not be punished for demanding freedom and the recognition of their state.
The United States should view the proposal for a Palestinian state at the UN in September, then, as an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to universal human values of justice and freedom, rather than acquiescing to political pressure and lobbying. And it should also recognize Palestinian statehood as a foundational element not just in ongoing negotiations, but also in forging real peace in the region. The US vote over the Palestinian independence in the UN will therefore be critical not only for the Palestinians but also for the spirit of the Arab Spring.
Ibrahim Sharqieh is deputy director of the Brookings Doha Center. He is an expert on Middle Eastern politics and international conflict resolution and holds a PhD from George Mason University’s Conflict Analysis and Resolution Institute.