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The promise of a Palestinian state remains unfulfilled

 

ON NOVEMBER 29, 1947, the UN 33-member state General Assembly, under intense pressure from the US administration of Harry Truman, voted in favour of Resolution 181 (II), calling for the partition of Palestine into three entities: a Jewish and Palestinian state and an international regime to govern Jerusalem. The UN resolution allocated 14 245km2 to the proposed Jewish state, and only 11655km2 to the Palestinians – who owned 94.2% of the land and represented over two-thirds of the population.

In 1977, the UN designated November 29 as International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The day was to provide the “opportunity for the international community to focus its attention on the fact that the question of Palestine remained unresolved and that the Palestinian people are yet to attain their inalienable rights as defined by the General Assembly”.

Yet, little has been done in the past 40 years to aid Palestinians in their efforts at achieving meaningful independence or to reprimand those who deny the Palestinian people their legal rights and political aspirations.

In a recent talk before the Chatham House think-tank in London, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu approached the issue of a Palestinian state from an intellectual perspective.

Before we think of establishing a Palestinian state, he mused, “it is time we reassessed whether the modern model we have of sovereignty, and unfettered sovereignty, is applicable everywhere in the world”.

 

It was not the first time Netanyahu has discredited the idea of a Palestinian state. Despite clear Israeli intentions of jeopardising any chances for the creation of such a state, the US administration of Donald Trump is, reportedly, finalising plans for an “ultimate peace deal”. The New York Times suggests that “the anticipated plan will have to be built around the so-called two-state solution”.

But why the wasted effort, while all parties, Americans included, know that Israel has no intention of allowing a Palestinian state and the US has no political capital, or desire, to enforce one? The answer may not lie in the present, but in the past.

A Palestinian Arab state was proposed as a political tactic by the British to provide a legal cover for the establishment of a Jewish state. It continues to be used as a political tactic, although never with the aim of finding a “just solution” to the conflict.

When British foreign secretary Arthur James Balfour made his promise in November 1917 to the Zionist movement to grant it a Jewish state in Palestine, the idea began taking shape. It would have been effortlessly achievable, had the Palestinians not rebelled.

Thousands were killed in the rebellion as they continued to reject the prejudicial partition and the British ploy aimed at honouring the Balfour Declaration and rendering Palestinians stateless.

To strengthen its position, the Zionist leadership changed course. In May 1942, David Ben-Gurion, then the representative of the Jewish Agency, attended a New York conference which brought together leading US Zionists. In his speech, he demanded all of Palestine become a “Jewish commonwealth”.

 

A new and powerful ally, US president Harry S Truman, began filling the gap left open, as the British were keen on ending their mandate in Palestine.

In Before Their Diaspora, Walid Khalidi writes: “(Truman) went a step further in his support of Zionism by endorsing a Jewish Agency plan for the partition of Palestine into a Jewish state and a Palestinian state. The plan envisaged the incorporation into the Jewish state about 60% of Palestine at a time when the Jewish landownership in the country did not exceed 7%.”

The rest is painful history. The carrot of the Palestinian state is dangled from time to time by the very forces that partitioned Palestine 70 years ago yet worked diligently with Israel to ensure the demise of the political aspirations of the Palestinian people.

Eventually, the partition discourse was remoulded into one of a “two-state solution”, championed in recent decades by various US administrations who exhibited little sincerity of ever making such a state a reality.

Now, 70 years after the partition of Palestine, there is only one state, although governed by two different sets of laws, that privileges Jews and discriminates against Palestinians. Israeli columnist Gideon Levy wrote: “The time has come to launch a battle over the nature of its regime.”

Many Palestinians already have.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His forthcoming book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story.

This article appared on Cape Argus Newspaper

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