Nov 25, 2009

Palestinian state

By Tayyab Siddiqui

Upon assumption of presidency, Obama placed Middle East Peace Process as the priority in his foreign policy agenda. He rightly reckoned that bringing Israel and Palestinian to the negotiation table would open a new chapter in US relations with the two warring parties.

To jump-start the peace process, stalled since last year Obama invited three main protagonists – King Hussain, Netanyahu and Hosni Mubarak — to Washington and shared his vision of peace in the region. He reiterated the US position that resumption of peace talks must begin with already agreed framework made in stalled roadmap and Annapolis agreement, which underlined the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security. He stressed the need for a total freeze on Jewish settlement in West Bank and Jerusalem to move further.

President Obama, however, failed to gauge Israel influence in US politics and its history of resistance and rejection of any initiative not in consonance with Israeli interests. Netanyahu declined to 'freeze' the settlements. To further embarrass Obama, Israel announced new settlements by expropriation of Palestinian land.

The Palestinians had placed great store on Obama's 'even–handed' policy. It did not expect Obama to cave in to Israel in the very initial stages of the process. Palestinians have bitterly recognised that the Obama administration is not likely to succeed in the quest for peace. Without a friend in the international community and leader in their own ranks, the Palestinians today are isolated and forlorn. This assessment has led them to extreme desperation. Mahmud Abbas — president of Palestine Authority and the only moderate and pragmatic leader trusted by the US and the EU — reflecting the gloom and pessimism announced that Palestinian would not hold any negotiation with Israel until Israel stopped Jewish settlement. He further announced that in the forthcoming Palestinian elections he would not be a candidate for the presidency. This development poses serious dilemma for Obama. Having failed to make Israel agree to 'freeze' Jewish settlement he has asked Mahmud Abbas to resume peace negotiation 'unconditionally'. This dramatic change has further embittered Palestinians and lost faith in America's capacity to deliver.

Mahmud Abbas also announced that Palestinian Authority would unilaterally proclaim an independent Palestinian state on territories captured by Israel in the 1967 war and seek international support. This move on the part of the PA has further complicated the picture. Both the US and the EU have opposed and advised Mahmud Abbas not to take this extreme step. The PA initiative is being seen as the last effort to revive negotiations and put the peace process in the international spotlight. The fact is that Palestinians do not have many options.

While Palestinians, in total desperation, are clutching to any straw in the hope of securing their rights and lands the most shameful conduct has been of the Arab League and the OIC. There has been no move in support of Palestinian struggle and both remain silent spectators to the agony and sufferings of Palestinians.

The current paralysis of the Muslim world and the absence of any effective international intervention to break the status quo will turn the Palestinians, I fear, into another Diaspora group like Armenians or Kurds in different territories without a state.

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