The Long Overdue Palestinian State
Mahmoud Abbas (rewritten to reflect reality)
Sixty three years ago, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy left his home in the Galilean city of Safed. His was a family of means. He studied in elementary school, and then came the naqba [calamity, namely, the founding of the State of Israel - ed.]. At night, his family left by foot from Tzfat, to the Jordan River, where they remained for a month. Then they went to Damascus, and then to their relatives in Jordan, and then they settled in Damascus. That child's story, like that of so many other Palestinians, is mine.
This month, however, as we commemorate another year of our departure -- which we call the nakba, or catastrophe -- the Palestinian people have cause for hope: this September, at the United Nations General Assembly, we will request international recognition of the State of Palestine on the 1949 armistice lines and that our state be admitted as a full member of the United Nations.
Many are questioning what value there is to such recognition while we continue to refuse all offers of negotiations and settlement from Israel. Others have justifiably accused us of imperiling the peace process. We believe, however, that there is tremendous value for all Palestinians.
It is important to note that the last time the question of Palestinian statehood took center stage at the General Assembly, the question posed to the international community was whether our homeland should be partitioned into two states. In November 1947, the General Assembly made its recommendation and answered in the affirmative. The Jews also answered in the affirmative, but we said no. From November 1947 to May 14, 1948, the British fought the Jews, and we Arabs sat on the sidelines. When the British left the area, five Arab armies took up arms to destroy the Jews, and many Arabs left our homes in Palestine at their urging.
The leaders and the elites promised us at the beginning of the "Catastrophe" in 1948, that the duration of the exile will not be long, and that it will not last more than a few days or months, and afterwards the refugees will return to their homes, which most of them did not leave only until they put their trust in those "Arkuvian" promises made by the leaders and the political elites. Afterwards, days passed, months, years and decades, and the promises were lost with the strain of the succession of events..." [Source: Mahmud Al-Habbash, a regular writer in the official Palestinian Authority paper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, in his column "The Pulse of Life" (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, December 13, 2006] [Term "Arkuvian," is after Arkuv -- a figure from Arab tradition -- who was known for breaking his promises and for his lies."]
Minutes after the State of Israel was established on May 14, 1948, the United States granted it recognition. Our Palestinian state, however, remains a promise unfulfilled because we refused to accept the partition, and we refused to accept subsequent offers of settlement from Ehud Barak in 2000 and 2001, and from Ehud Olmert in 2008.
Palestine's admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice. It would give us our state without having to reach a compromise with Israel in negotiations, without accepting Israel's right to exist, and without agreeing to end the conflict. It would allow us to continue our efforts to destroy the State of Israel with the United Nations' blessing.
Our quest for recognition as a state should not be seen as a stunt; too many of our men and women have been lost for us to engage in such political theater. We cannot wait indefinitely while our people languish in refugee camps where the Arab states placed them temporarily 60 years ago, and where they have no rights to work or own property and are treated as outcasts subject to an apartheid system.
Negotiations with Israel are not taking place, because we have refused them for the last three years. Therefore, we are turning to the international community to assist us in preserving our opportunity to destroy Israel and create a Palestinian state from the River to the Sea. Palestinian national unity is a key step in this regard. With Hamas on board, it will be much easier to carry out our plans.
We hope to pre-empt the prerequisites to statehood listed in the Montevideo Convention, the 1933 treaty that sets out the rights and duties of states, by having the United Nations declare that they have been met. The permanent population of our land includes any Arab who lived in Israel for at least two years before 1948 and his descendants, even if they have not lived there since or have never lived there at all. We are asking the United Nations to recognize our territory as the lands framed by the 1949 armistice lines, so that we will meet the Montevideo requirements.
We have the capacity to enter into relations with other states and have embassies and missions in more than 100 countries. Although there is no basis for them doing so, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Union have indicated that our institutions are developed to the level where we are now prepared for statehood. Of course, we will still need and rely upon financial support from the international community.
The State of Palestine intends to be a peace-loving nation, committed to human rights, democracy, and the rule of law and the principles of the United Nations Charter just like other members of the Organization of Islamic countries. Once admitted to the United Nations, our state stands ready to negotiate all core issues of the conflict with Israel, but only if they accept our state on the 1949 armistice lines, stop building in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and agree that any agreement between us will not end the conflict permanently. A key focus of negotiations will be allowing all Palestinian refugees to return to their former homes based on Resolution 194, which the General Assembly passed in 1948. Under no circumstances will we make any statement accepting Israel as a Jewish state.
Palestine would be negotiating from the position of one United Nations member whose territory is militarily occupied by another, however, and not as a vanquished people ready to accept whatever terms are put in front of us.
We call on all nations to join us in realizing our national aspirations by recognizing the State of Palestine on the 1949 armistice lines and by supporting its admission to the United Nations. Only if the international community gives us another chance to accept the offer that it made to us six decades ago, and ensures that all Palestinian refugees are allowed to return to their former homes, can there be a future of justice and dignity for our people.