THE debate around the bid for Palestine statehood at the United Nations is dividing both those in the region as well as the international community.
There are those who are for the bid; essentially the Palestinian Authority (PA) and apparently the majority of UN member states. And there are those against; namely Israel, the US (predictably) and a few Palestinians who do not view the PA as a legitimate representation of the aspirations of Palestine as a whole.
Then there is the murky water, where public opinion says support the bid, but diplomacy says do not (United Kingdom, Australia).
This comes apart from the concern that regardless of the politics, statehood now would do nothing practical for the day-to-day reality of the Palestinians.
As far as international law goes, it is already on the side of the Palestinians. The separation wall? The military occupation? The racist application of laws against Arab Israelis inside Israel proper? The inequitable distribution of water in the West Bank? The expansion of settlements into East Jerusalem? The ongoing blockade of Gaza? Despite all these factors, it’s not legitimate now but the international community remains largely silent.
So will Palestine being a UN recognised state make amends to these issues?
Head of the General Delegation of Palestine to Australia, Ambassador Izzat Abdulhadi, assured an audience at NSW Parliament House that statehood should be approved by the UN, and that all those issues of concern can be ironed out afterwards.
“We will negotiate about settlements, refugees, water, and borders,” said Ambassador Abdulhadi.
“We are going to the UN to tell our story.”
Israeli born peace advocate Miko Peled, an unlikely Palestinian rights advocate (on paper at least), has a different idea. His father Matti Peled was an officer in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, and a general in the 1967 war. His grandfather was a Zionist leader and signer on the Israeli Declaration of Independence.
Speaking in Sydney, Peled noted that in terms of a UN diplomatic nod to statehood, the expression of solidarity with Palestinians was important. However, he stressed that a two state solution was simply not workable.
Peled said that the reality of one state as the only practical solution was Israel’s own doing. In the context of the ever-expanding settlements in the Palestinian West Bank: “The question begs; if we are talking about a two state solution, where is the other state going to be?”
Of course Peled’s view of a secular one-state with Palestinians and Israelis living together in peace in not popularly embraced (yet), but he points to South Africa by way of example: “Apartheid didn’t end because whites suddenly decided it was time to be nice to blacks,” he says and notes the “very strong” feeling that there must be a designated Jewish state, “Extremists, and many Israelis more broadly, are not going to be convinced Palestinians have a right to live on their land, they’re just going to have to live with it.”
He’s right. Two states might be the politically correct solution to peace in the region, but because of Israel’s behaviour in the occupied Palestinian territories, they’ve created a world where two states is only workable on paper and perhaps at the diplomatic table for the UN. In the region, the two state solution creeps toward its imminent death with every new West Bank settlement.
So, Ambassador Izzat Abdulhadi may be right. Australia should probably go and stand in solidarity with Palestine, instead of cosying up to the US and Israel as is usual practise. But will it actually make a difference, for the supposed “peace process” or the lives of Palestinians? Not likely.