A DELICATE diplomacy on Palestine is playing out at the current United Nations General Assembly which, as expected, has been dominated by talks on Palestinian plans to seek the global body’s blessing for statehood. Today’s vote on the issue, after President Mahmoud Abass might have presented Palestine’s request for membership of the UN to the Secretary General, would definitely signpost another era in the search for peace in the Middle East region, marked by decades of armed struggle for self determination by Palestine.
Palestine poses a major challenge for the UN, and in particular the United States of America for its frontal role in the settlement of the highly contentious issue involving the state of Israel. At present, a pro-Palestinian sentiment runs high among members of the Assembly. So, it is essential that Nigeria, as a dominant player from Africa at the General Assembly, should join others today to endorse the Palestinian push for statehood. Palestine deserves our support.
Nigeria’s endorsement would only be in pursuit of the country’s new foreign policy thrust. We should be counted on the side of equity, justice and peace in the embattled region, and Africa too must not shy away from being part of history. All members of the General Assembly have a duty to support Palestine’s bid. It is the only way forward in the resolution of the impasse.
Peace would most likely continue to elude the region, until Israel as the dominant force, and Palestine have separate states. The latter deserves freedom after the long, bitter struggle by its then militant wing, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
Palestinians made mistakes, yes – just like the Israelis. But they have managed all along to hold on to their identity and stayed put on the land in dispute. The irony is that the long years of armed struggle and negotiations have not changed the equation in their favour, neither have they brought the desired peace and peaceful co-existence Israel also desires.
No doubt, the recognition, if accorded, will raise the profile of Palestine in the region. Curiously, neighbour Israel believes the Abbas’ request would “set back peace”, in the words of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. We do not share his view, even though a conferment of status on Palestine is likely to open up possible contentions with Israel, and the U.S., which has openly expressed its disagreement with the statehood option, opting instead for further negotiation between the two acrimonious neighbours.
United States President Barack Obama argued in unambiguous terms in his speech to the session on Wednesday that only direct peace talks could lead to peace with the Palestinians. However, President Obama had only attempted to strike a balance between claims that he was not abandoning his pledge to help Palestine achieve statehood and placating any Israeli concern about Washington’s commitment to their security.
Incidentally too, Netanyahu who met with Obama in a round of talks after the speech echoed the president’s assertion on renewed talks but offered no new ideas on how to return to the round table. It is a signal that the parties may have reached a dead end, before the renewed negotiation was, however, given by Netanyahu who declared that the statehood effort “will not succeed”.
President Abbas had set the stage for an attack on what Palestine sees as injustice to its people and the need to rally the UN to their side. It is Nigeria’s duty to demand the full membership of Palestine in the UN, and thus put an end to a historical injustice. Palestine deserves its quest for self-determination, liberty and independence, like other peoples of the world, in a Palestinian state on the borders of June 4, 1967.
The people’s drive for legal empowerment at the UN General Assembly may not bring peace to the region. Palestinians are only forcing a public commitment particularly from the U.S., on whether to support or block their effort. The Obama threat of a U.S. veto at the Security Council level suggests therefore that the resolution of the knotty issue of non-identity for Palestine is not anywhere near.
An alternative to going before the General Assembly is a unilateral declaration of independence as it is being suggested in certain quarters. But that would be counter-productive, with dire consequences on future talks.
The looming showdown can serve as a stark sign of the new limits of the American clout in the Middle East, just as it could mark a diplomatic debacle for Obama as he runs the course of his first term in office. A veto may further inflame Arab public opinion against the Americans.
Besides, it would be tragic to keep Palestine on the sidelines further, in the name of negotiations. The atmosphere for an independent Palestine is ripe and the time is now. Rather than complicate peace initiatives, they would only promote it and enhance peaceful co-existence. That is, if there are no other ulterior motives in blocking Palestine’s current efforts.
Peace is a universal language. It is in the interest of the world to continue to speak the language. But the precursor of peace is justice, as H.L. Mencken writes: “If you want peace, work for justice”. The late Reggae artist, Peter Tosh’s lines, which similarly apply to Palestine’s contentious identity question, should also be instructive for contemporary world leaders. Tosh laments in the album that everyone is crying now for peace, none is crying out for justice. The principles of equity and justice must apply to Abbas’ Palestine.
Since 1948 when their neighbours became a full-fledged state, Palestinians have consistently had their hopes dashed. They have suffered extremely as a people. The late leader Yasser Arafat was sacrificed in the process in 2004.
The question of statehood has come up without success in several peace accords including the Camp David’s in 1978. More recently there were the Madrid Peace Conference (1991), the Oslo Accord (1993) and Camp David 2000 Summit. The Road Map of 2002 is another. The endless peace accords and negotiations must be definitive.
One safe passage out of the quagmire in the Middle East is for the independent world to end the misery of Palestine today and vote for their freedom
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