The fate of the Palestinian Authority’s bid to become an independent state is expected to be decided at the 66th United Nations General Assembly this September. The areas that would be recognised as part of the new state would be the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. After gaining independence, Israel would be expected to return the Palestinian territories that she has occupied within those areas since the end of the Six Day War in 1967. Palestine is currently recognised by 112 member states of the UN, but it still requires the support of 18 more member states in order to gain the two-thirds majority needed, and the majority must include the backing of at least nine UN Security Council members. Palestine has stated that it has been preparing for statehood for the last two years by implementing a programme which it hoped would create and reinforce the institutions of a state.
Israel and the United States strongly oppose the bid that is likely to be made by Palestine. They argue that negotiation rather than ‘imposition’ is the method most likely to produce success and ensure maximum collaboration from both sides. Yet Palestinian representatives and the Israeli government have been negotiating in on-and-off peace talks since 1967 and have failed to agree to a deal. It is also significant to note that any agreements that have been made have usually been broken by Israel refusing to evacuate her forces or remove illegal settlements from the Palestinian territories occupied by her.
Negotiations are obviously better than “impositions” but eventually the world has to acknowledge that there is a reason why negotiations have not succeeded in this case. If Israel and the Palestinian Authority manage to agree, before September, to the creation of an independent Palestine, along pre-1967 borders with agreed land swaps on their own terms, then the Palestinian Authority has stated That the UN vote will not go ahead and nor should it. However, the conflict has been unresolved for over forty years therefore it is likely to remain so. There is now no other option but for a resolution to come independently of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Nevertheless, an independent resolution alone will not solve a dispute which has lasted for decades. If the UN votes for the independence of Palestine, it would have to play a major role in ensuring that both states co-operate with each other on a number of unresolved issues such as the question of settlers, refugees, water shortages, terrorism carried out on both sides and the control of the neighbourhoods and holy sites in East and West Jerusalem. This would be fundamental in ensuring that independence would not exacerbate tensions to an unprecedented level. Military intervention by the UN may even be required.
Statehood for Palestine cannot be a success without some negotiation with Israel but that does not mean that the UN should not support it. The UN created Israel in 1948 so that Jews all over the world would have somewhere to seek refuge and be safe. Don’t Palestinians deserve the same? Palestinian independence will obviously not resolve all of the disputes between itself and Israel but at least it will place Palestinians on an equal footing with Israelis within the international system. Ultimately, Palestine and Israel are dependent on one another not only for their security but also economically. If both parties act appropriately, Palestinian independence should enhance their relationship rather than make it worse.