By Dr. Nayyer Ali

Declare a Palestinian State

Aug 11, 2006

The Middle East has exploded into violence once more. Israel is ravaging Lebanon with its air force, as it blasts away at factories, bridges, homes, airports, and all sorts of other carefully chosen “military targets”. After each outrage, it is quick to express regret or to deny its responsibility, but then proceeds with “bombs away”. All in the name of destroying an organization that they created with their previous assault on Lebanon 24 years ago. If all you have is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail, and to the Israelis, whose only strong suit is their military, everything seems to have a violent solution.
The Bush administration wants a “lasting peace”, which is their code for green-lighting more Israeli air strikes. But Bush is not wrong in his sentiment, he just doesn’t reach the logical conclusion. What a lasting peace in the Middle East requires in not disarming Hezbollah in isolation, but comprehensively settling the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, which is the heart of the matter. But Bush wont touch this, because it would require the US to exercise a little tough-love toward Israel.
So how can the Muslim world respond? What can we all do collectively to force the situation on the ground into real movement? Because Israel has such overwhelming military power, it seems that the Muslim world is powerless and must watch helplessly as Lebanon is destroyed and the dream of freedom for the Palestinians continues to wither.
However, true strategy requires one to play to your own strengths rather than your weaknesses. The Muslim world is militarily weak, but in a diplomatic, economic, and demographic sense much stronger. This leads to an obvious strategy. The Palestinians should declare statehood immediately and officially set their borders to be the Gaza Strip and West Bank. In response, the Muslim countries of the world should declare that they recognize Palestine.
Once the Palestinians declare statehood, they can issue themselves passports, birth certificates, official maps, and all the other paraphernalia of being a sovereign state. The Israelis wont recognize it, but the Muslim countries certainly can and should, as will a number of non-Muslim states. A diplomatic offensive to push as many countries as possible to recognize Palestine would become the focus of international affairs. By declaring their official borders (incidentally, something which the Israelis have never done), they both reassure critics of the Palestinians that they only want a return to the 1967 borders, and they also destroy the chance of Israel getting its land-grab of the West Bank recognized by anyone.
By forcing a diplomatic confrontation, the Palestinians play to their strengths. The Israelis would then have to explain why they need to continue this occupation of a sovereign country, whose existence is based on UN Resolutions 181 and 1402. The Palestinians could set up courts in Gaza to hear land claim suits against Israeli settlements, and to undertake various legal actions against the settlers. While Israel’s military might would prevent the Palestinians from actually enforcing their unilateral acts, the Palestinians will have totally changed the political and public opinion environment. The question then will not be why should the Israelis leave, but what right do they have to be there in the first place? The whole world would see that it is Israeli greed for settlements and the refusal to allow Palestine to exist that are the real impediments to peace. While the US will try hard to stop Muslim nations from recognizing Palestine, the overwhelming pressure of public opinion in these countries will force their hands. Back in 2000, Arafat threatened to unilaterally declare statehood if real progress was not made through negotiations. Clinton talked him out of it, by promising to push for a real negotiated deal, and by using Barak’s threat that Israel would annex territory unilaterally and stop negotiating if the Palestinians took such a provocative step. These factors no longer operate.
Bush has made no attempt to get back to final status negotiations, and Israelis long ago decided to grab land unilaterally and refuse to talk to any Palestinian leader under any realistic circumstance. So the threats that held back Arafat have come to pass. The Palestinians have nothing to lose and much to gain. Declare statehood now. Comments can reach me at


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