Life is returning to normal in Israel and the Palestinian territories, now that the latest round of peace talks is dead.
Militants in Gaza are firing dozens of missiles into Israel once again, forcing Israelis to dive into bomb shelters. Israel is responding with air strikes.
Israelis are building new West Bank settlements at a furious pace ― 2,000 new homes under construction right now and 13,000 more in the pipeline, settlers say.
And lethal violence between Israelis and Palestinians is picking up again. Earlier this month, 36-year-old Jawaher Abu Rahmah collapsed after inhaling tear gas fired by Israelis troops. She had been watching dozens of Palestinians who were taking part in the weekly, peaceful protest against Israel’s “security” wall that slices through Bilin, her West Bank village.
She died in the hospital the next morning. Since then, Palestinians have raged at Israel for killing her, while Israel first claimed she wasn’t even at the protest and then argued that tear gas could not have killed her.
As always, there’s more, much more, in large part because Palestinians and Israelis look at each other across a wide divide ― so wide they can’t even see each other any longer.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now calling for direct talks with the Palestinian leaders. But Israeli officials are also saying they want to slow-roll any future negotiations, effectively talking for the sake of talking with no expectation that anything meaningful will be achieved. In fact, a few days ago Israel’s hard-right foreign minster, Avigdor Lieberman, pronounced that reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians would take “at least a decade.”
Given all of that, Palestinians have a different plan. They want the United Nations to give them a state by declaration. But that cannot work. It’s a waste of time.
Right now, the Palestinians are asking the U.N. Security Council to condemn Israel for continuing to build settlements on occupied land. Not one nation anywhere on earth has taken a position in support of Israel’s settlements. So winning approval of that resolution should not be hard. Even the United States may be forced to go along, though Washington usually vetoes resolutions criticizing Israel. Palestinians say they wrote the resolution so that it mirrors language President Obama uses.
That resolution is only the start. They also have a grand plan. Despairing of any meaningful agreement with the Israeli government, they want the United Nations to declare a Palestinian state by acclimation. The campaign has already begun.
A few days ago, Chile announced that it was granting full recognition to the state of Palestine. That was the eighth country to recognize “Palestine” in recent weeks, all of them in Latin America. The others are Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Cuba. Each has a different motivation. Chile has 300,000 Palestinian residents; some other states want better relations with the Arab world. Venezuela wants to poke a stick at Washington.
But if Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, pushes hard, he shouldn’t find it difficult to win over scores of additional nations. Palestinians have many sympathizers around the world, most of whom seem to overlook their many transgressions ― missiles, suicide bombs and worse.
As this plan moves forward, though, it’s the Palestinians who appear to be overlooking something important. They tried this tactic once before, and it had no useful effect. None whatsoever.
Twenty-three years ago, Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian Liberation Organization leader, asked the United Nations to proclaim a Palestinian state, just as Abbas is doing now. The U.N. General Assembly, on which every nation sits, voted nearly unanimously to call the West Bank and Gaza “Palestine.” Only the United States and Israel voted against the motion. Thirty-six states abstained.
In the following few months, almost 100 states offered official diplomatic recognition. Of course, Israel was not among them. So settlers continued building homes; the army continued manning outposts across the territories. In short, absolutely nothing changed on the ground.
If Abbas goes forward with this, certainly almost every state will vote to condemn settlements. A majority of states will proclaim recognition of a Palestinian state, as eight states already have. (Paraguay and Peru are expected to join the others soon.)
But, once again, settlement will continue at a furious pace. Security checkpoints and army bases across the West Bank will remain in place. Rockets will continue flying from Gaza. Random acts of fatal violence from both sides will remain a feature of everyone’s life.
In Israel and the Palestinian territories, normal life will continue.
By Joel Brinkley
Joel Brinkley, a professor of journalism at Stanford University, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning former foreign correspondent for the New York Times. ― Ed.
(Tribune Media Services)