By Cameron Hunt
Anyone that has studied the various ‘Alternatives’ to the US-managed ‘peace process’ that were put forward to the Arab League by Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, on 8 October 2010, has likely been able to piece together four different Alternatives that were proposed, and their likely chronology:
(1) The PA will ask the US to unilaterally recognize the ‘State of Palestine’;
(2) The Arab League will petition United Nations Member States to recognize a Palestinian State, via a new UN resolution calling for such recognition from all UN Members;
(3) The Arab League will take action at the UN to have the occupied Palestinian Territories (oPTs) placed under direct UN custody;
(4) Finally, the PA will be dissolved – following the resignation of Abbas – and the oPTs will consequently fall back under full Israeli sovereignty. At that point in time, it is hoped that Israel will be regarded as an apartheid state, and that a global movement for ‘one-man, one-vote’ shall then presumably commence to bring about full Palestinian civil rights.
The Arab League has given the US one month to force a new settlement freeze/slowdown upon Israel – the apparent logic being that if Israel concedes a partial 8-week settlement freeze applying only to the West Bank, it might also be willing to hand back East Jerusalem and to facilitate the Palestinian ‘Right of Return’ (both of which are Palestinian demands for any final status agreement) – after which time the League is set to discuss and finally select from Abbas’ four Alternatives to the US-orchestrated process.
It seems appropriate to give some consideration to each of Abbas’ four proposed Alternatives at this moment. The starting point in any such consideration must be the Palestinian National Council ‘Declaration of Independence’, of 15 November 1988. In this Declaration, the PNC called for: “An endeavour to place the occupied Palestinian territories, including Arab Jerusalem, under United Nations supervision for a limited period, in order to protect our people and to provide an atmosphere conducive to … the attainment of a comprehensive political settlement”. The ultimate purpose of such UN supervision was to have been “to enable the Palestinian State to exercise its effective authority over those territories”; a ‘Palestinian State’ the PNC had just declared.
When considering Alternative #1 mooted by Abbas, it should probably be remembered that the US voted against UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution A/RES/43/177, of 15 December 1988, which “Acknowledges the proclamation of the State of Palestine by the Palestine National Council on 15 November 1988”, and “Affirms the need to enable the Palestinian people to exercise their sovereignty over their territory occupied since 1967” – the US and Israel were in fact the only two UN Members to vote against this UNGA resolution. Likewise, according to the US legal expert that advised upon the PNC Declaration, Francis Boyle, some months after that November 1988 Declaration, “the PLO ratified the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949 on behalf of the state of Palestine … [and] transmitted its instrument of ratification to the government of Switzerland, which is the official depository for the Geneva Conventions. Yet, because of massive overt pressure mounted by the United States government, the Swiss government did not formally accept the PLO’s instrument of ratification.” So, not only did the US government not support the Palestinian declaration of statehood of 1988, it aggressively sabotaged it.
It is a little known fact that within five years of the 1988 Palestinian Declaration of Independence, more than 114 states had recognized the newly declared Palestinian State; no more than 93 states having had diplomatic relations with Israel at that time. Apparently, there is no need to spend any more time analysing Abbas’ Alternative #2. It seems that who recognizes your state is far more important than the number that recognize it, and US recognition of a Palestinian State without Israel’s blessing is nothing but a pipe-dream.
It can be seen from the text of the 1988 ‘Declaration of Independence’ that the Palestinian representatives have in fact already called for: “An endeavour to place the occupied Palestinian territories [oPTs], including Arab Jerusalem, under United Nations supervision”. Therefore, if the US and Israel won’t support Alternative #3, history tells us that there is no point even discussing it. Which UN Member is willing to airlift its soldiers into the oPTs in order to implement a UNGA resolution placing those territories under UN authority, without the full co-operation of Israel and the US? Israel-US aside, is Hamas likely to accept the imposition of UN administration upon the Gaza strip, owing to a PA decree announced from the occupied West Bank?
Now for Alternative #4: Abbas resigns, the PA is dissolved, and the Palestinian Territories fall under immediate and complete Israeli sovereignty (it should be remembered that Gaza is still occupied by Israel, under the terms of international law). It seems clear from media reports that Abbas has already informed US negotiators that he will resign if the current round of US-staged ‘peace talks’ fail; something that is assured if a new Israeli West Bank settlement building slowdown is not announced within the coming weeks. Given that the dissolution of the PA that is to follow has been threatened for many years now, this threat also seems entirely credible; particularly within the current context. At that moment, it is hoped that ‘the Palestinian problem’ would become a global problem. Recent moves in South Africa to endorse an academic boycott of Israel suggest that this might not be an entirely naïve Alternative, if left with no others. However, the main question that ought to be asked is how long would the ensuing global campaign for ‘one-man, one-vote’ take to bring about full Palestinian civil rights within historic Palestine? 10 years? 20? Why not longer? What is to stop Israel from a ‘unilateral withdrawal’ from all of those (arid/Arab) sections of the West Bank that it does not wish to call home? Likewise, this approach ignores the fact that Israel is very much in control of the demographic equation within historic Palestine; unlike the situation that had existed in apartheid South Africa. Should Israel make a special effort to bring in/grant citizenship (and voting rights) to an unprecedented number of (Jewish) migrants, when would the Palestinians actually achieve their rights under a ‘one-man, one-vote’ approach; something that is clearly intended to play into the favour of Palestinian demographics over the coming decades, though need not?
Fortunately for those sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, there is an Alternative #5 that was not suggested to the Arab League: the ‘No-State Alternative’. Under this solution, historic Palestine would be internationalized in its entirety – meaning no ‘State of Palestine’, and no longer any ‘State of Israel’ – and the UN would become immediately responsible for the administration of the newly internationalized territory. Unlike the other four ‘Alternatives’ just discussed, Alternative #5 comes with a simple and realistic implementation plan:
(1) The Arab League pushes forcefully for the UN General Assembly to revoke UNGA resolution 181 – the ‘partition resolution’ – which provided the legal (and moral) basis for the establishment of the State of Israel, through the partition of historic Palestine – a revocation that the US (or any of the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council) could not veto.
It is widely agreed by legal experts that UNGA resolution 181 is fundamental to the State of Israel’s continued legitimacy under international law.
(2) The UNGA revokes operative paragraph 1 of its resolution 273, which decided that “Israel is a peace-loving State”; UN membership only being available to “peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the … Charter”.
The UN Charter declares that membership of the UN is open to “peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations”. It is the UNGA (not the UNSC) that is tasked with making this “judgment”; membership in the UN being “effected by a decision of the General Assembly”. Operative paragraph 1 of UNGA resolution 273 formally decided that “Israel is a peace-loving State which accepts the obligations contained in the Charter and is able and willing to carry out those obligations”; paragraph 2 going on “to admit Israel to membership in the United Nations”. The UNGA should revoke operative paragraph 1 of its resolution 273 immediately, and should ask the International Court of Justice for an Advisory Opinion on the legal consequences for Israel’s ongoing participation in the UN.
(3) The UNGA adopts a new resolution authorizing and calling for wide ranging (excluding cultural) sanctions against Israel, pouring life into the already vibrant BDS/sanctions movement initiated by the Palestinians in 2005.
For anyone wishing to argue that the UNGA does not have the power to authorize sanctions, that only the UN Security Council (UNSC) can, those people need only study UNGA resolution A/RES/ES-8/2, of 14 September 1981, which both called for and authorized “all States, in view of the threat to international peace and security posed by South Africa, to impose against that country comprehensive mandatory sanctions” – the US had blocked a similar resolution by the UNSC at the time with its (fictitious) ‘veto power’, in support of an ally the international community could no longer tolerate. This UNGA resolution was fundamental to the sanctions campaign that brought about the end of apartheid in Africa – as well as the subsequent dismantlement of the only nuclear weapons arsenal on that Continent (weapons Israel had helped the regime to build).
(4) The Arab League pressures the European Union to cancel the ‘EU-Israel Association Agreement’, which according to Article 2 of that same Agreement, is “based on respect for human rights and democratic principles”.
It should not be forgotten that the European Union is Israel’s largest trading partner, absorbing over 25 percent of Israel’s exports and supplying it with more than 40 percent of its imports; all upon the basis of preferential trading privileges, owing to the aforementioned Agreement. Additionally, some comfort should be taken in the knowledge that in April 2002, the European Parliament – after condemning an Israeli military escalation in the Palestinian Territories that it said “violates international and humanitarian law” – voted to suspend the Association Agreement, but that this move was blocked at the time by Britain, Germany and the Netherlands (those three members demonstrating neither “respect for human rights”, nor “respect for … democratic principles”).
(5) The Arab League challenges the legality of US aid to Israel, in US courts, and under US law.
It can be easily argued that US aid to Israel violates the US Constitution, as it appears to violate the First Amendment. The US Supreme Court decided in its majority opinion delivered in Everson v. Board of Education (1947), that: “The ‘establishment of religion’ clause of the First Amendment means at least this: … Neither [a state nor the Federal Government] can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another… No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion.” What if that Institution were called the ‘Jewish and democratic state’ of Israel? What if the form that Institution adopted “to teach or practice religion” was labelled the ‘nation-state of the Jewish people’?
(6) The UNGA votes on and adopts a ‘unification resolution’, calling on the UN Trusteeship Council (which was slated for abolition in 2005, despite its anti-colonization mandate) to draw up a ‘Trusteeship Agreement’ for the new ‘UN Trust Territory of the Levant’, encompassing the entirety of historic Palestine.
I outlined the details of this ‘Trust Territory of the Levant’ in my earlier Article, Two-State Chimera, No-State Solution, of 24 May 2007.
Instead of immediately ruling out Alternative #5 – despite the absence of any other feasible alternatives – those wishing to advance Palestinian rights might instead ask themselves the following (abridged) questions of Abbas’ Alternatives #3 and #4 (Alternatives #1 and #2 having already been discounted), which entail either UN or Israeli administration of the occupied Palestinian West Bank:
(1) How would the UN prevent the ongoing expansion of Israeli settlements onto Palestinian lands? The UN has kept a register of the dispossession of Palestinian lands and homes since 1948. How has that helped the Palestinian people?
We needn’t spend any time discussing what Israel would do to stop the expansion of Israeli settlements onto Palestinian lands.
(2) Would the more than 5 million Palestinian refugees see their ‘Right of Return’ fulfilled in the next 10-20 years in the case of a UN-administered West Bank? Will the UN smuggle those refugees in from Jordan, through the Israeli-controlled Jordan Valley? Will it fly them in through Israeli-controlled airspace?
Again, we needn’t bother discussing the fulfilment of the Palestinian Right of Return under an Israeli-administered West Bank.
(3) How would either outcome advance the civil rights of Palestinians living within the State of Israel; so-called ‘Arab-Israelis’? Would they not continue to be discriminated against by a ‘Jewish and [paradoxically] democratic State’?
(4) Will Israel immediately release the thousands of Palestinian prisoners it is holding indefinitely, and without trial, if it suddenly found itself again in control of the West Bank? What if the UN administration in the West Bank politely asked Israel to release them?
(5) Israel already chokes UN deliveries to the Gaza Strip (and attacks UN storage facilities there with illegal weapons-of-war). What if Israel someday also decides to put a UN-administered West Bank “on a diet”? Likewise, will the UN be able to prevent Israel from imposing whatever duties on Palestinian goods that it feels necessary to ‘protect its domestic economy’, if Israel controls the borders of the West Bank?
(6) Would Israel end all torture of Palestinian prisoners if it again reigned-supreme in the West Bank? If the UN ruled the West Bank, would it forcefully arrest any Israelis that it suspected of the torture of Palestinian civilians, thereby bringing such torture to an end?
(7) Would the UN administration in the West Bank immediately begin dismantling the ‘Separation Barrier’ that the UN’s principal court has declared illegal? Would it forcefully engage any agents of the occupation involved in the barrier’s further expansion/encroachment?
(8) How would West Bank access to religious sites in Jerusalem (and in other Israeli-controlled areas such as Hebron and Bethlehem) be facilitated by either outcome?
(9) How would either the UN or Israeli administration of the West Bank facilitate the reunification of the Palestinian nation – of Gaza and the West Bank – a precursor to the fulfilment of the Palestinian ‘Right to National Self-Determination’?
Of the five Alternatives available to the Palestinian leadership, only the No-State Alternative can bring about the fulfilment of all Palestinian rights; whilst also sparing the Israelis their own. Only the No-State Alternative has a realistic plan of implementation. Only the No-State Alternative can be implemented without regard for the objections of either the US, or the erstwhile ‘State of Israel’.
Cameron Hunt is the author of ‘Pax UNita’: A novel solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. He lives in Australia, and has written extensively on a ‘No-State Solution’ to the conflict since 2005.