Exactly 65 years after accepting the partition plan and recognizing the Jewish people’s right for an independent state, the U.N. General Assembly will today award the Palestinian Authority the non-member observer state status, one step up from its current status as a permanent observer.
While most pundits deem this outcome unfavorable for Israel, it should be recognized as an opportunity.
During the past four years, the Palestinians in the West Bank have aimed their resources at building government institutions, and gradual economic consolidation. At the same time, cooperation with the Israeli security apparatus managed to guarantee peace and quiet for both sides. The results are substantial if not impressive, and have succeeded in attracting international attention and backing.
Under these conditions, of stability and international approval, the ground was ripe for a slow unfreezing of the peace process. Instead, the Israeli government remained obstinate in its demand for Palestinian compliance with certain unprecedented pre-conditions. The Palestinian Authority, on the other hand, decided an alternative approach, seeking official international legitimization and recognition of their claim.
And now Israel suddenly awakens to an unthought-of reality – two different Palestinian states: a Hamas-run Gaza emboldened by the last conflict with Israel and its results, and a U.N non-member observer state in the West Bank. Supporting the latter’s bid today in the U.N, or at least abstaining from voting against it, are countries considered until recently stalwart supporters of Israeli policy (e.g., Germany, France, Italy). As we did 65 years ago, the Palestinians are winning small but consecutive political battles.
Israel cannot afford to be a bystander in its own backyard, and must take action instead of lamenting this last unavoidable affirmation of the actual reality on the ground. Instead of claiming defeat and uttering other doomsday declarations, Israel must see this as a wake-up call to step out of its current state of denial and take the initiative. There is a de facto Palestinian state, there has been for some time now. Israel has to come to terms with this fact and maneuver itself into a favorable position because the next battle to be fought may be over a Palestinian unilateral declaration of independence. The end-game is an independent Palestinian state, the question is only whether Israel is part of the process or not.
At least we have Micronesia on our side.