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Opinion: Abbas' newfound courage
Published Thursday 10/01/2013 (updated) 10/01/2013 21:18
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A Palestinian holds a placard in front of an Israeli soldier at a West Bank
protest the day after the UN recognized a sovereign Palestinian state.
(Reuters/Ammar Awad)

The decision by President Mahmoud Abbas to go to the UN to seek statehood recognition has become a defining element in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

After nearly 20 years of time wasted in useless negotiations, the Palestinian leader has finally decided, in a measured way, to buck the system and carry out an important, unilateral, act.

The Oslo accords do state that neither Palestinians nor Israelis are supposed to take unilateral action that can prejudge the final outcome of negotiations.

But while Palestinians obediently respected this clause, the Israelis were busy expanding Jewish colonies, confiscating Palestinian land for Jewish settlements and barring Palestinians from developing outside their restricted city limits.

More than 60 per cent of West Bank Palestinian land declared in the Oslo accords as areas C were closed to any Palestinian expansion.
Even traveling on roads in these areas is restricted to Palestinians, while Israelis and Jewish settlers can use them freely.

Late President Yasser Arafat reluctantly agreed in 1993 to the gradual process stipulated in the Oslo accords, in the hope that at the end of the five-year transitional period, Palestine would come to exist as an independent, contiguous and viable state.

All international parties to the conflict supported the two-state solution. As late as 2010, US President Barack Obama told a pro-Israel lobby group that America supports a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with some agreed-upon land swaps.

When Israel continued to swallow Palestinian land, while negotiating ownership, the Palestinian leadership decided that enough was enough and took the most non-violent route possible: the UN.

Going to the UN both violated the Oslo accords and made it outdated. The Palestinian leadership no longer felt straitjacketed by the restrictions of an accord that failed to deliver what it was intended to: a peaceful end to the Israeli occupation.

The Palestinians felt that Israeli greed for Palestinian land far outweighed its interest in peace with them.

Having taken that courageous step at the UN, the Palestinian president now feels free to make some changes that reflect that symbolic move. An important presidential decree was issued on January 6, allowing for the change of name on all Palestinian documentation, including passports, ID cards, stamps and driver licenses.

Signed by the president of the state of Palestine and based on both the Palestinian Basic Law of 2003 and the UN declaration of 2012, Abbas widened the reach of his efforts. The 308-word two-clause resolution issued in the temporary Palestinian capital, Ramallah, gives Palestinian government officials the right to represent all Palestinians and not simply the residents of the West Bank.

The Central Palestinian Bureau of Statistics declared at the turn of the year that the Palestinian population worldwide numbers 11.6 million. Among those, the majority, 5.1 million, live in Arab countries, 655,000 in other countries and 1.4 million in Israel. West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza residents number 4.4 million.

Abbas’ decree also initiates an important international efforts for Palestinians, namely to provide all Palestinians with an identification number. The Palestinian president, however, was careful to note in his decree that this action does not diminish any of the rights and privileges that Palestinians are enjoying at present.

While Abbas’ state of Palestine decree begins changing the rules of the game, it is unlikely to effect change where it counts most. Israeli occupation forces still control all exits and entries of the occupied state of Palestine and made it clear that it will not recognize the state of Palestine or any document that bears its name.

Palestinian spokesmen stated that the Palestinian president does not intend to add any further burden on Palestinians suffering under the cruelty of the 45-year-old occupation.

In other words, the passports and ID cards that Palestinians use in the West Bank will unlikely be changed, but Palestinians everywhere else will have the option of having passports issued by the “State of Palestine”, which hopefully all world powers will respect.

Palestinians are still far from reaching the goal of living in freedom in a democratic and pluralistic state. The courage shown by the Palestinian president at the UN on November 29, 2012, and in Ramallah on January 6, 2013, will help a process that has been long awaiting a resolution.

Daoud Kuttab is a Palestinian journalist and former professor of journalism at Princeton University.
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1 ) shirley s / australia
10/01/2013 13:39
ime to issue all palestinians in west bank with new IDS and join geneva conventions and other UN godies to strenghthen pal resistence ansd implode the wall and stop tax illegal paris agreement and get on with it barak obama does not support pal state

2 ) some one / some where
10/01/2013 14:35
absolutly nonsnce not worth a second of any one time what he want to say all event that happened and well known to all so where is he going

3 ) Filipe / Portugal
10/01/2013 21:21
@Shirely, Good luck with that effort to become an accepted signatory to the GC. It is my understanding that they still fail to qualify due to their status and their continued failure to abide by the articles of the GC. As well, the PA has already expressed their concern about joining UN organizations because of the financial burden it would put on the PA.

4 ) ian / australia
11/01/2013 01:10
#3 Hey, lighten up Gloomy. There's a rightness and justice about the new State of Palestine assuming the entitlements (and obligations) of statehood. There might be minor obstacles in the short term (your frinstances however are baloney) but it will happen. How, in Yahweh's name, are Palestinians in breach of Geneva to anything like the extent Israel flaunts it? A few rocks at checkpoints on Nakba (or Jerusalem) Day hardly compares to 45 years of occupation, land theft, "slow transfer" and

5 ) ian / australia
11/01/2013 01:11
(contd.) brutalisation of civilians (all covered under GCIV). Get real, Filipe. In the words of the sage: "Everyone jump upon the Peace Train!"

6 ) Writer / Reader
11/01/2013 03:07
Usual garbage from this guy, not worth reading.

7 ) @ Ian-4 / PAST & FUTURE
14/01/2013 01:08
- "The new State of Palestine is entitled" to what it had - Nothing, and it's "obligations" are to negotiated for what it wants, and - IT MAY SEEM THAT NEGOTIATIONS HAVE BEEN USELESS, after nearly 20 years, of expecting Israel to surrender to Arab demands, BUT IT WILL SEEM EVEN MORE USELESS BEING A UN Non-membership Observer STATE, WITHOUT CONTIGUITY & WITHOUT SOVEREIGNTY, after 200 years, of still expecting Israel to surrender to Arab demands, international condemnations, or even ICC rulings!!
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