Should Palestine Declare Itself a State?

One prominent Israeli commentator and politician makes the case

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The long and troubled history of start-and-stall diplomacy between Israel and Palestine hasn't shown much sign of improving. Some Americans even believe that, after decades of mediating, we should disengage from the peace process entirely. Negotiations between Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have failed to halt the Israeli settlements still growing in Palestinian territories, a major point of contention. But what if Palestine simply declared itself to be an independent state? Palestinian representatives are feeling out the UN for recognition of statehood should they choose to proceed. They would declare Palestine's borders to be that of 1967. But could it work?

  • Palestinian Self-Declaration  In Haaretz, prominent Israeli commentator and politician Yossi Sarid calls this "our only chance for an end to the occupation in our time." He explains, "Conditions were no less foggy and circumstances were no more certain when [Israel founder David] Ben-Gurion declared independence in 1948. But our founding father took the risk, and we are fortunate that he did," he writes. "When he declares independence, Abbas should call upon the Jews living in the state of Palestine to preserve the peace and to do their part in building up the new country as full and equal citizens, enjoying fair representation in all of its institutions. [...] Although the American position is an unknown, it is hard to believe that Barack Obama would agree to drag America back into isolation now that it has begun to be part of the world again."
  • Wouldn't Change Anything  Jerusalem Post's Haviv Rettig Gur shakes his head. "In principle, little would change. The Palestinian Authority would have real control over barely 40 percent of the land it hopes to gain in negotiations, representing major Palestinian population centers in the West Bank but little beyond that. Meanwhile, nothing would be solved on the thorny issues that face negotiators, such as Jerusalem, refugees, Palestinian disarmament and borders. These would simply transform from the subject of internationally backed (though not yet started) negotiations between Israel and the PA to bilateral negotiations between Israel and the state of Palestine."
  • It's Now Or Never  Juan Cole insists that the opportunity for a Palestinian state is fading. "Since the Netanyahu government is about the least likely government to negotiate a Palestinian state within 1967 borders you could imagine, the Palestinians are giving up any hopes that talks will lead anywhere. Moreover, since Netanyahu has secret plans to thousands of further Israeli houses on Palestinian land in the next few years, time is short. If it has not already happened, the likelihood is that a Palestinian state will become impossible very shortly simply because the West Bank looks like Swiss cheese because of all the Israeli colonies on it," he writes. "I would argue that the psychological toll taken by the imposition of statelessness on a people is more debilitating than the knowledge that some of the group has been killed by oppressors."
  • Historical Precedent  Truthdig's Chris Hedges puts it in context. "It worked in Kosovo. It worked in Georgia. And it will work in Palestine. There are 192 member states in the United Nations and as many as 150 would recognize the state of Palestine, creating a diplomatic nightmare for Israel and its lonely ally the United States. Israel will face worldwide censure if it attempts to crush the independent state by force and very likely be subjected to the kind of divestment campaigns and boycotts that brought down the apartheid government of South Africa," he writes. "The only alternative left to most Palestinians, unless an independent state is declared, will be endless war and an embrace of Islamic extremism."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.