A Palestinian State – Reality Or Mirage?

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Israel got in 1947 what Palestine is seeking now. On November 29 , 1947 United Nations General Assembly passed a Resolution 181 outlining a partition plan for creation of two states – one Jewish , one Arab, and Jerusalem-Bethlehem to remain under special international protection administered by United Nations.  UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) which recommended the partition was led by none other than own very own (Canadian) Lester Pearson. He was awarded medallion of valor by newly created state of Israel.  However, the Arab (Palestinian) state was never to be.

By Bhupinder  S.  Liddar

“What wrong have these people done not have a Palestinian passport – one of their country of birth, but are carrying passports of different countries?”  late Yasser Arafat asked Heath Macqaurrie and me, pointing to a room full of people next door.

Late Progressive Conservative Senator Heath Macquarrie and I had just walked past a room full of Palestinians to meet Yasser Arafat, leader of Palestine Liberation Organization, in Beirut in 1978.  One is tempted to ask the same question today as Palestinian Authority (PA) tries to secure statehood status for the land of Palestine, which existed as an entity from the end of World War I until 1947 under British mandate.

Israel got in 1947 what Palestine is seeking now. On November 29 , 1947 United Nations General Assembly passed a Resolution 181 outlining a partition plan for creation of two states – one Jewish , one Arab, and Jerusalem-Bethlehem to remain under special international protection administered by United Nations.  UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) which recommended the partition was led by none other than own very own Lester Pearson. He was awarded medallion of valor by newly created state of Israel.  However, the Arab (Palestinian) state was never to be.

Therefore, it is timely and wise for the world community to undo the wrong and invite Palestine into its fold. One cannot see any harm that recognition of Palestine could do. Instead, it will be far better to have it inside the fold of the international family with all the responsibilities of a state, than sitting on the outside as an observer. Furthermore, the PA resolution  defines the boundary of Palestine along 1967 borders, thereby recognizing the state of Israel, which was created along 1947 lines.

In a speech to the Muslim world in Cairo, on June 4, 2009, US President Barack Obama said: “The situation for the Palestinian people in intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.” Having made that categorical public promise, it will be immoral for the Obama administration now to block Palestinians attempt at recognition as a state. In the same speech, Obama also noted, “… Israel  must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s.”

Recognition of Palestine as a state does not jeopardize continuation of negotiations since both Israel and Palestinian Authority have both promised to resolve for a number of issues through direct talks.  Unfortunately, the last time negotiations broke down was when Israel refused to stop building settlements in disputed West Bank despite warnings from the US that this was illegal.

As for the concern about Hamas. All parties, including the US and EU, recognize that Hamas is a democratically elected partner in the coalition government of Palestine Authority. We cannot go back to the 1970s of overthrowing democratically elected government, such as the case of Allende in Chile, merely because they are not of the same ideological stripe!

Unfortunately, threats to Palestinians’ request to seek UN membership have come from sources which should be pleased to now have a partner to engage in full dialogue on resolving issues. Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatens:  “ From the moment they pass a unilateral decision there will be harsh and grave consequences.”  The decision will not be unilateral but one backed by almost two-thirds of countries which are members of the United Nations.  On the other hand, Palestine cannot wait for unilateral approval from Israel before joins the United Nations.

According to rules of the United Nations, a state submits its application for membership to the Secretary General with a formal declaration to accept obligations of the UN Charter. It is passed onto consideration by Security Council, where it must receive nine votes out of 15, with no veto.  Herein lies the danger where US has threatened to veto the request, before it even reached the General Assembly, where almost two-thirds member-states have agreed to support it.

The hope is that when on Friday, October 23, Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas stands before the world body and requests recognition as a state the UN will welcome it to the world family. And, what Arafat had hope for his people in our meeting may yet become a reality – a Palestinian passport!

Bhupinder S. Liddar is a former Canadian diplomat and former publisher/editor of Diplomat & International Canada magazine. He can be reached at [email protected] or at www.liddar.ca.