Palestine at the Crossroads

The main issue currently in the public eye is the possibility that the Palestinians may declare their own state independent of negotiations with Israel. Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said as much last week, and since then, PA spokesman Saeb Erekat has been heavily pumping that message.

The idea hasn’t been gaining much traction with Security Council members — or the Israeli government, which has announced that it could also act unilaterally; possibly by protectively annexing existing Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Ultimately, the Palestinians certainly will have to declare a state for themselves — I mean, no one else can declare your independence for you — but the idea that all the Palestinian factions could come together and decide upon definitive boundaries for their intended state seems far-fatched. Hamas and Islamic Jihad (just to name two) are convinced that their state should also include all of Israel!

The one to watch in this situation is not President Abbas, but Salaam Fayad, the Fatah-backed PM. He’s smart and pragmatic and has proven in the past to be an honest partner for the Israelis. He readily admits that Palestine doesn’t yet have the necessary infrastructure to properly govern itself, but feels that this goal is attainable within two years.

Of course, Iran and its proxies always have to be treated as a wildcard.

So does Avigdor Lieberman; whatever will he say next? (Perhaps I’m being unfair to the Israeli Foreign Minister. Most people will–even if reluctantly–agree that Mr. Lieberman has been a great deal less controversial than expected.)

UPDATE: (Nov. 18) Erekat is now singing a different tune, saying that the aim is only to get international bodies on-side with recognising the pre-1967 borders of Palestine.

(Note: This notion will get some lip service, but a final resolution on borders will only come during negotiations with Israel. The most likely result will be a state line that follows the pre-’67 border though about 93% of its length, with any shortfalls in Palestinian land area being supplemented by land grants from adjoining Israeli properties to the northwest and southwest of the current West Bank territory. Gaza’s borders would remain unchanged since there are absolutely no Israelis living there.

However, a nice cherry on top of any final agreement of the situation would be a minimum 20% expansion of the Gaza territory through donations of property from both Egypt and Israel. This would provide more room for growth and development; reduce population crowding; and mitigate many risks to Israeli and Egyptian security now posed by Gaza’s extensive tunnel network.)

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Read our take on Middle East peace: A Peace of Jerusalem

Short wikipedia entry on Salaam Fayad.

JPost article about Mr. Fayad’s stance on the current issue.

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