By Jeremy R. Hammond
The U.S. has long opposed any ‘unilateral’ action on the part of the Palestinians to seek fulfillment of their right to self-determination, and there is a very real threat that if the Palestinian Authority goes to the United Nations in September seeking international recognition of Palestinian statehood, the U.S. will respond by cutting or eliminating aid that the P.A. has come to depend on in order to function.
The P.A. must not bow to such threats, and the Palestinian people must take their case to the U.N. if their legitimate political aspirations are ever to be achieved. It won’t be an easy road to statehood, but the alternative is to return to the U.S.-led “peace process”, which is the process by which the U.S. and Israel have sought to entice the Palestinian leadership to back away from their 1988 Declaration of Independence and to prevent the establishment of a viable, independent, and fully sovereign state of Palestine.
The U.S. is not the “honest broker” it proclaims itself to be. It supports illegal Israeli policies financially, militarily, and diplomatically, and, all rhetoric to the contrary aside, it has long rejected the Palestinians’ right to self-determination. This should be obvious to any honest observer. It is a truth manifest in U.S. support for Israel’s full-scale military assault on Gaza dubbed “Operation Cast Lead” and in its efforts to block any implementation of the recommendations of the U.N. fact-finding mission report, which included the recommendation that if the parties to the conflict did not launch credible investigations into their own conduct, allegations of violations of international law and war crimes should be referred to the International Court of Justice.
It is a truth manifest in the U.S.’s similar support for Israel’s deadly attack on the Freedom Flotilla in international waters in May 2010, which resulted in the murder of nine peace activists, and in its similar efforts to prevent any condemnation of this violation of international law at the U.N.
It is a truth manifest in U.S. tacit approval of continued Israeli colonization of the West Bank. The U.S. has officially considered the settlements an “obstacle to peace”. This rhetoric is meaningful only in the fact that it doesn’t acknowledge that all of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are under international law considered “occupied Palestinian territories” and that all of the settlements have been and are being built illegally. And rhetoric aside, the U.S. supports this Israeli policy, as apparent in its veto of a U.N. resolution condemning Israel for continuing to construct illegal settlements.
It is a truth manifest in the U.S. demand that the P.A. return to “peace” talks with Israel “without preconditions”-meaning that the Palestinians must accept the condition that Israel be allowed to further prejudice the outcome of any such negotiations by continuing to build facts on the ground. And under the framework of the “peace process”-from Madrid to Oslo, to Camp David, to the Roadmap, to Annapolis-the U.S. and Israel have an effective veto power over the establishment of a Palestinian state.
In May, President Barack Obama spoke words concerning the pre-June 1967 armistice lines as constituting a term of reference for negotiations. This rhetoric deceived many, who marked it as a “shift” in U.S. policy towards acceptance of the international consensus on a two-state solution, the legal basis for which is the recognition under the U.N. Charter and other relevant bodies of international law of all people’s right to self-determination, as well as Security Council Resolution 242 calling for both the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the occupied territories and the establishment of secure and recognized boundaries.
But Obama was speaking with a forked tongue, and his inclusion of the reference to the ’67 lines was nothing more than an attempt to lure the P.A. to set aside its plan to go to the U.N. in September and instead return to the “peace process”. The fact is that Obama, while expressing support for a “two-state solution” clearly and explicitly rejects the two-state solution, as already noted. As a further example of his rejectionism, one might recall his speech in Sderot prior to his election into office and before Operation Cast Lead that Jerusalem would be the undivided capital of Israel. His opposition to the Palestinians’ plan to go to the U.N. in September is itself another clear manifestation of his rejectionism. The Palestinian people and their leadership must not be deceived by such meaningless talk from Obama. They must move forward by turning away from the “peace process”, which is premised upon U.S.-Israeli rejectionism, and instead take their case to the international community, where it will find an international consensus supporting the two-state solution.
In doing so, there is another potential mistake that must be avoided, which is to seek statehood in terms of acceptance of the legitimacy of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947. The P.A. must not refer to 181 as granting legitimacy to the goal of Palestinian statehood, as the PLO erred in doing in its 1988 declaration.
The Palestinians’ right to statehood does not derive from 181. Similarly, 181 neither created Israel nor conferred any kind of legal authority or legitimacy to the Zionists’ unilateral declaration of the existence of the state of Israel in 1948.
Resolution 181 was itself a rejection of the Palestinian’s right to self-determination, a fact that was recognized, ironically, by the General Assembly committee it established to pursue its recommendation for partitioning Palestine, as well as by the Security Council, where the proposal was found to be itself a violation of the principles of the U.N. Charter, and where it died.
The U.S. and Israel object to the P.A.’s plan by calling it a “unilateral” action, which, besides being plain nonsense (it is an action that would involve all U.N. member nations) is hypocritical to the extreme, given the fact that it Israel was unilaterally declared to exist in 1948, and given the fact that it is Israel which continues to take unilateral actions that would prejudice the outcome of any negotiated settlement. Neither would international recognition from the General Assembly be merely “symbolic”.
What the U.S. and Israel really fear about the plan is that it would further isolate them from the world community and expose the lie of the “peace process” for the pursuit of a policy of rejectionism that it is. They could no longer maintain that Israel’s annexation of major portions of the West Bank is a matter for negotiations.
They could no longer maintain, based on a legally invalid and unilateral interpretation of Resolution 242, that Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories was a matter for negotiations and should only occur as a consequence of a final settlement on borders
There will be difficult consequences if the Palestinians pursue the course of turning to the international community. It will be merely the beginning of a long and difficult struggle. But the Palestinian people are no stranger to struggle and hardship, and this is the only hope that their aspirations will be achieved. In order to achieve statehood, the Palestinians must be united. There must be genuine reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, and an end to factional infighting. There will of course always be disputes among any leadership, but any disagreements must be reconciled to a framework wherein there is a single common goal, Palestine, and a single common understanding of how to achieve it.
The leadership also must act as one to end Palestinian terrorism, including inherently indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israel, which are not only a violation of international law and immoral, but are strategically counterproductive, serving not the goals of militants who fire them, but rather of Israel, by handing it the pretext it requires to continue to collectively punish the populations of the occupied territories and to pursue its policy of rejectionism.
There is hope. It lies in recognizing the U.S.-led “peace process” for what it is and consigning it to the dustbin of history in favor of a real peace process led by the Palestinians themselves and supported by the international community. The Palestinians must no longer be kept isolated, which is one end goal of the U.S.-led process. Let the U.S. and Israel isolate themselves if they choose, and let them remain in the past. The future is Palestine.
Jeremy R. Hammond is an independent political analyst and editor of ForeignPolicyJournal.com.
He was a recipient of the Project Censored 2010 award for outstanding investigative journalism for his reporting on the U.S. role in Israel’s ’08-’09 assault on Gaza.
He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.