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What Comes After Palestinian Statehood?

Submitted by on 06 Oct 2011 – 10:41

Ayman Abuawwad Ayman Abuawwad, Information Officer, Council for European Palestinian Relations (CEPR)

While Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, took the Palestinian bid for statehood to the United Nations in New York, the Council for European Palestinian Relations (CEPR) has been organising another delegation of European parliamentarians, largely from the UK, to visit East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The CEPR had  led a delegation to the Gaza Strip in July 2011.

The CEPR considers UN recognition of Palestine as the 194th state to be largely symbolic, and will do little now to change the realities on the ground. The pending core issues of the status of Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugees, 1967 borders and illegal Jewish settlements remain unaddressed, as the Israeli military occupation continues.

The propitious timing of the CEPR delegation will highlight the poignancy of these key issues and will give European and UK parliamentarians insights into the complicated Palestinian predicament. The delegates will visit East Jerusalem, Ramallah and Hebron, and will meet with UN and EU officials, as well as with top Palestinian politicians and civil society leaders.

The main question to be addressed is what comes after Palestinian statehood.

For one, the role of the United States in the perennial peace process may be substantially depleted. The U.S. rejection of Palestinian statehood at the UN was in stark contrast with the eloquent speech by President Obama in Cairo, June 2009, calling for a Palestinian state by September 2011. This volte-face has exacerbated Arab discontent and exasperated the Palestinians in particular.

The Europeans may also find their role diminished or disregarded by the Palestinians. Already, the EU civilian mission for border assistance management at Rafah has been severely downsized and is seen as irrelevant by Israelis and Palestinians. The EUBAM-Rafah mission maintains a minimum staff team on stand-by at the Dan Gardens beach resort outside Ashkelon, Israel.

Indeed, the Palestinian bid for UN membership has revealed that the entire peace process led by and reiterated incessantly by the international Quartet (US, UN, EU and Russia) in the same stale and rehashed statements, has not brought the parties any closer to reaching a peaceful solution. Most of all, the failed peace process reveals that Israel simply is not ready for peace with the Palestinians.

The other question to be addressed is how Israel and Palestine fit into the regional equation.

While the Palestinian UN bid is not a result of the Arab revolts, it is nonetheless related to the regional manifestation of bringing hope to the Arab peoples for a better future. This hope was also manifested by disgruntled Israelis who demonstrated in Tel Aviv against the policies of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government, which remains most opposed to any form of Palestinian state.

Within Palestinian politics, the social, economic, political and geographic divides between Hamas and Fatah, and their territories, remain gapingly apparent.

And yet only Palestinian reconciliation will lead to a national unity government that will represent in the most democratic manner possible the aspirations of the Palestinian people. Europe stands at a crossroads to make a difference and support the creation of such national coalitions in Palestine, as well as in neighbouring Arab states that are in precarious transitional phases.

The sustainability of these new governments forming across the Middle East will determine relations with Europe that must see that making Palestine possible is also, irrevocably, in Israel’s interest.