Palestinian leaders, determined to proclaim their state during the coming year, are readying an arsenal of diplomatic alternatives to negotiations with Israel, which are virtually frozen.
Symbolizing the change in course that emerged after an October Arab League meeting in Libya, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas laid on Friday the foundation stone for a Palestinian embassy in Brazil, the first of several Latin American states that recognized Palestinian statehood this month within the borders of 1967.
Those were the boundaries that existed before Israel captured the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in that year’s Middle East war.
Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador have since followed Brazil, and Uruguay has said it would do likewise early this year.
Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the first for nearly two years, began on Sept. 2 but stalled after a 10-month Israeli settlement-building freeze expired three weeks later and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to renew it.
Since then, Abbas has been floating possible alternatives ranging from a diplomatic offensive to radical options such as suspending interim agreements with Israel or even dissolving the self-rule Palestinian Authority.
Dismantling the Authority would potentially force Israel to take over the economic and political cost of governing the nearly 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and formally bury the peace process launched with the 1993 Oslo accords.
The Palestinians’ strategy centers on a proclamation of statehood in September, the end of the 12 months set as a target for the talks launched in Washington.
It also marks the completion of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s two-year plan for setting up the basic institutions of a state and it is when the UN holds its next General Assembly.
At the last session, US President Barack Obama held out the prospect of Palestinian statehood by the time the UN convened again.
“When we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations — an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel,” Obama said.
In November, Abbas said the president’s words amounted to a pledge to support statehood.
“We consider this statement to be a commitment by President Obama, not just a slogan, and we hope that next year he won’t say to us ‘we apologize, we can’t,’” Abbas said.
In the face of US opposition to a unilateral declaration, Palestinian diplomats are lobbying for broad recognition of a state within 1967 borders, recognized by the global community as Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
When such support reaches critical mass, they hope to go to the UN Security Council (UNSC) and request full UN membership, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said in a recent interview with Voice of Palestine radio.
“The efforts now under way to get [individual] states to recognize statehood are in preparation for turning to the UNSC,” he said.
Should the Security Council gambit fail because of a veto by one of the permanent members — the US, Russia, France, China and Britain — Palestinians argue that they could use a rule applied in the past that allows for the same request to be put to the General Assembly.
A draft resolution by the Palestinians and Arab states calling for Israel to halt all settlement activities due to go before the Security Council would show whether the US is willing to use its veto in support of Israel, as it has often done in the past.
Israel is concerned over the Palestinian strategy and has reportedly ordered its own diplomats worldwide to mount a counter-offensive.
If the Palestinians lose this battle, they are considering calling for their territories to be placed under international administration.
That could be along the lines of the multinational effort in Kosovo or perhaps reviving the UN Trusteeship Council that was set up to steer “non self-governing territories” toward autonomy and independence, but suspended in 1994.
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