The latest Palestinian strategy – clever or stupid or both?

There is a case for saying that those leaders of the discredited PNA (Palestine National Authority) who are proposing to unilaterally declare an independent state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip and seek to get UN Security Council backing for it are being clever.

What they would be doing in effect is asking the Security Council not only to re-affirm its commitment to Resolution 242 of 22 November 1967 but, far more important, to confront that resolution’s fatal flaw on the matter of land for peace.

Yes, 242 did emphasise “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war“. But its call was for “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict“. The original draft of the resolution contained the definitive article the, so it read “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from the territories occupied in the recent conflict“.

If 242 had stated that Israel’s withdrawal from “the territories” was required, the meaning, with no ambiguity and no wiggle room for Zionism, would have been that, in exchange for recognition and legitimacy, Israel was required to withdraw from all the territories it occupied in the 1967 war. But that was not on so far as Zionism was concerned. It wanted the freedom to be the one, and the only one, who would determine (on a take it or leave basis backed by brute force) the extent of any Israeli withdrawals. Resolution 242 in its final form gave Zionism that freedom.

Many of the diplomats who were engaged behind closed doors in the months of wrangling about the wording of the resolution were privately shocked and publicly embarrassed by the dropping of “the” in the final text. They saw it for what it was – a Johnson administration surrender to the Zionist state and its awesomely powerful lobby. Some came up with words to give the impression that 242 was not a disaster for all who were working for a just and lasting peace. “The full and true meaning of the resolution,” they said, “is in both its letter and spirit.” That was not a point Zionism was ever going to take because it is congenitally incapable of negotiating in good faith.

As events were to prove, 242 effectively gave Israel a power of veto over any peace process.

There’s a case for saying the prospects of overcoming that veto could be improved if the Security Council unanimously backed a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (as they were on 4 June 1967). On the ground nothing would be changed by such a declaration, but if the Security Council backed it, legal and moral pressure on Israel to end its 42-year-old occupation world surely intensify.

That, it seems, is the calculation of those Palestinian leaders who are proposing a unilateral declaration of independence as the only alternative to surrendering to Zionism’s will and accepting crumbs from its table. (The crumbs being two or three Bantustans which the Palestinians could call a state if they wished).

But what if the U.S., unwilling for a showdown with Zionism, blocked moves in the Security Council for a statement which, by recognising the unilaterally declared Palestinian state, would effectively be a demand (242-plus) for Israel to end its occupation in return for a full peace with the whole Arab and wider Muslim world?

The short answer is that the Palestinian initiative would be in the same boat as President Obama’s current attempt to re-start the peace process – going nowhere. (That the U.S. would be more fully exposed as a client state of Israel on matters to do with ending the conflict is not the point).

So the clever initiative is at best a gamble. (The reason for taking it was put into words by Ghassan Khatib, head of the PNA’s media centre. “I honestly think there is no future for the peace camp in Palestine if this is not going to work.” He spoke those words to Donald Macintyre, the Independent’s correspondent in Jerusalem).

But this latest (proposed) Palestinian initiative could also be stupid.

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