Why be scared of a Palestinian state?

By Rami G. Khouri, The Daily Star, Beirut, Lebanon

Two major Middle East-related events will take place this month with their epicenter in New York City: the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States, and the expected Palestinian bid for the United Nations General Assembly to recognize a Palestinian state in the lands that Israel occupied in 1967.

These events will generate intense debate and high emotions – most of which will be highly exaggerated. I will comment on the 9/11 commemorations next week from the United States, but here will discuss the Palestinian bid for U.N. recognition of statehood; or rather the hysterical American and Israeli reactions to that bid.

We will know soon precisely what the Palestinians seek in terms of U.N. recognition. Most serious observers expect that this Palestinian initiative will get the required votes in the General Assembly and will generate another symbolic gain for the Palestinian cause – in a body that has always been fair to the Palestinians. When “the state of Palestine” in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem is officially seated or recognized in some form at the U.N., this is unlikely to lead to any practical changes, because realities on the ground are not determined by U.N. General Assembly votes. They are determined by the behavior of Palestinians and Israelis and that of the foreign governments that support them. So I remain personally ambivalent about the Palestinian move to seek U.N. recognition, given its largely rhetorical and symbolic impact.

Much more interesting, though, are the extreme Israeli and American reactions to the move. The American executive and legislative branches of government have forcefully condemned it, including threatening punitive cut-offs in aid in some cases. The Israeli government has used all its diplomatic weapons to try and blunt the Palestinian initiative, but is resigned to the vote passing. The argument that Israelis and Americans make most often against the U.N. move is that it would detract from attempts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through direct bilateral negotiations. They say this with a straight face, and seem to be serious, though their incredulous argument flies forcefully in the face of history and reality.

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(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

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