Frustrated by years of fruitless negotiations, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will be making an appeal for state recognition this week as the UN's annual meeting of the General Assembly. In the last few months, Palestinians have gathered dramatic world support for an independent state, based on 1967 borders. And despite the near-hysteria response from Israel, the United States and its Jewish lobbies, Mr. Abbas is undeterred.
Ynet News may have the answer to Mr. Abbas' determination: a global poll conducted by BBC revealed that more people were in favor of an independent Palestinian state than were against it. While the highest rates of approval came from Muslim countries (Egypt 90%), the highest rates of opposition came from the United States (36%). Among non-Muslim countries, China showed the most enthusiasm for the move at 56%.
It is important to keep in mind that not all Palestinians favor this move: groups such as Islamic Jihad oppose it, since they are of the opinion that all of Palestine is Islamic and therefore should not concede any territory to a foreign entity. The recognition of a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders would simultaneously recognize borders of Israel, but would limit Palestinian sovereignty to those areas.
This recognition also upsets the state of Israel, as its borders have never really been defined, which is a status coveted by the country's politicians. Their ambitions of a greater Israel encompasses the entire area of Palestine and Jordan.
Why the opposition? Should Abbas succeed in getting the recognition he seeks, the matter of the Arab-Israeli conflict will no longer be regarded as an internal matter, but rather a topic of international concern. With that, the US may no longer be able to monopolize the role of 'honest broker' as it continues to allow for more territorial expansion, and building of settlements, despite President Obama's 2009 declaration of an Israeli settlement freeze. Tony Blair, as envoy of the Middle East Quartet, may find himself out of a job. And the US veto power which has so frustrated the Palestinians may no longer be effective.
If recognition is granted, will Palestine decide to pursue the matter of crimes against humanity as they relate to the occupation, and indiscriminate killing and intimidating of its civilian population?
However, if Abbas' bid fails at the UN, does he have a 'plan B'? Certainly a return to the sterile negotiations of the past would be futile. And as President Obama so correctly stated once, having the same players with the same ideas and demands, while expecting a different outcome, would be downright foolish.
What does Abbas plan to do about his Palestinian refugees? Will they be citizens of this new entity? Will they have the right to vote? Will they be able to exercise their right of return? What if the US follows through on its threat of withdrawing financial support?
As Majed Kayali so aptly reminds us today, this will not be the first of broken promises. The Oslo Accords planned for a "transitional period" that ended in 1999. That year passed without anything different happening. Then, in 2000 and 2001, negotiations at Camp David and Taba did not work out. In 2002, George W. Bush released his "roadmap" to nowhere. Then there were agreements in Annapolis in 2007 and 2008 that vanished into thin air. Whatever happens on September 23rd, the Palestinian people will continue to fight for their rights.