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Proceed with caution
Joharah Baker

There is no doubt EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana meant well when he suggested that the United Nations Security Council `proclaim the adoption of a two-state solution and welcome a Palestinian state as a full member of the UN` should peace negotiations ultimately fail. The Palestinians immediately warmed to the idea while the Israeli government just as quickly knocked it down. Neither, however, should be too eager to accept or reject the notion just yet because, like all other aspects of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, there are a multitude of layers that need to be peeled off before getting to the core.

While suggesting such a `drastic` measure may seem like a revolutionary idea coming from someone as high ranking as Solana, this particular proposal has been pushed around before. On the surface, it sounds like a great idea, one that just might put an end to this endless conflict. We Palestinians have said it repeatedly--throw the conflict back into the lap of the international community, which in many people`s opinion has largely forsaken the Palestinians. That way, it is no longer an issue of bilateral negotiations or a `he said, she said` kind of situation where the Palestinians and Israelis try to outdo each other over who violated which agreement. If the Security Council declares a state of Palestine as a full member and adopts the two-state solution, the ball will finally be out of our court and justice just may prevail.

Solana proposes that if the parties fail to reach a peace agreement on their own, a deadline should be set after which responsibility for finding a solution reverts to the UN Security Council. The Security Council would in turn recognize the state of Palestine. Key issues such as borders, refugees and Jerusalem would be `specified` in the declaration. `It would mandate the resolution of other remaining territorial disputes and legitimize the end of claims,` he added.

This would be excellent news if it were not for a few major obstacles. Let us assume that the Palestinians and Israelis do not come to a final agreement any time soon, a most likely scenario. Then, let us assume that the Security Council does adopt the two-state solution. Who will ensure that Israel will commit to its implementation? Who would impose sanctions on Israel if it failed to comply? Surely not the United States, Israel`s most loyal ally and one of the five permanent member states of the Council with veto power. If this were the case, UN resolutions 181, 194, 242 and 338 would have been implemented long ago.

It would take nothing short of a miracle for the US to agree to such a proposal, especially in light of Israel`s vehement rejection of the idea from the start. One could only imagine the pressure Israel would place on America not to even consider it. This is not too difficult if we look at the status quo today. Israel is making one big stink over US President Barack Obama`s call for a freeze on settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, calling it an `obstacle to peace` because all Israelis should be allowed to live in dignity and have their cities and--in this instance--illegal colonies expand to accommodate natural growth. If Israel is bartering over a few hundred housing units in this and that settlement just to make the point to the US that it will not be bullied, what kind of tantrum would it throw if Solana`s proposal actually saw the light of day?

Furthermore, Solana is being accused of simply wanting to `leave a legacy`. This may be true in part. It is characteristic of political figures to `finally see the light` once their term in office nears its end. Even former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert admitted just before he retired from political life that Jerusalem would inevitably have to be divided and East Jerusalem become the capital of a Palestinian state if peace were to prevail.

Add to this the fact that Solana barely holds any real political clout other than as advisor and sincere champion of a Palestinian-Israeli peace. The European Union itself may pull some economic strings when it comes to the Palestinians, but other than a few statements bordering on the bold (especially in terms of Israeli settlements) the EU has not been known for its influence on Israel, the United States or the UN where the Palestinians are concerned.

Still, credit should be given where it is due. Solana is a proponent of a fair solution to the Palestinian problem and has probably reached a level of frustration with all the failed efforts, his own included. This is a last straw before he parts ways with this troubled area (at least in his current capacity). Unfortunately, even Solana knows that the powers that be are not going to accept such a proposal hands down.

Even the Palestinians need to think twice before jumping on Solana`s bandwagon. Some within Palestine`s political arena, including Hamas leaders, have cautioned that such a proposal must come with guarantees and preconditions such as a full withdrawal from areas occupied by Israel in 1967, a complete end to settlement activities and a just solution to the refugee problem.

These are not issues the Palestinians can risk. If the Security Council adopts the two-state solution and an end to claims without clear guarantees that powers such as the US will not sabotage its implementation, this could spell the demise of any future demands. Instead, the Palestinian leadership should build on Solana`s proposal to create a new, more powerful demand that the UN adopt the end of Israel`s occupation first. This way, there is no chance for Israel, or America, to tamper with the important issues Palestinians cannot and should not compromise over. Once the most legitimate demand of ending the occupation is recognized, the rest is detail.- Published 20/7/2009

Joharah Baker is a writer for the Media and Information Department at MIFTAH and a former editor of Palestine Report Online.

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