The issue of Palestinian statehood is again generating considerable discussion with all indications suggesting that the bid for statehood will be presented to the United Nations on September 20. Plans to submit the Palestinian proposal have sparked vigorous support and opposition. Palestinians are considering proposals to upgrade their status from an “observer entity” gained in 1974, to an “observer state,” a “nonmember state,” or a “member state.” Time will tell which course of action will be proposed to the General Assembly, but observer status is one step higher than observer entity, and would not require action by the U.N. Security Council. If it decides to pursue nonmember state status, this would be more of a symbolic victory that would not allow Palestinians to challenge Israel’s occupation of its territory. Full member state status would most closely fulfill the Palestinian vision for statehood and self-determination, but the obstacles for securing this standing are significant. The U.S. would veto the bid for sure in the Security Council, and typically when the Security Council recommends membership, it then relays the request to the General Assembly. The European Union (EU) has also been split with a prospective vote on Palestinian statehood among its member states.
As with previous attempts to secure statehood, Palestinians must demonstrate that they are able to govern themselves as a sovereign nation capable of nurturing a stable political system and economy. Acts of terrorism by Palestinian militants have taken the spotlight from state building activities in the past, and members of the U.N. will consider this historical context in the decision-making process as they register their votes. The Middle East has remained in a state of tension which began in December 2010, with surges of demonstrations and protests (known as the Arab Spring) occurring in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria, and Yemen. Unrest has followed in other nations as well. The Israeli government continues to embrace its hardline position under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the negotiation process has stalled on both sides. The continued Israeli occupation of sections of the West Bank and east Jerusalem are a source of tension, particularly among militant Palestinian factions. This has been exacerbated by recent announcements by Israel that it plans to build new homes in the West Bank, which was met by disapproval from the Middle East Quartet comprised of the U.S., Russia, the EU, and the U.N. With both sides demonstrating such an unwavering commitment to their own values, the questions now become: if Palestinians are denied a change in their status by the U.N., will this provoke a continued cycle of violence and unrest similar to what was seen in the intifadas (uprisings) of the past, and further endanger its future prospects for statehood? Or, if it is granted a status change, will it be able to build a strong state where terrorism is curbed, and how will relations with the hardline government of Israel evolve? There are other scenarios, but with any outcome one can expect significant developments to unfold in Palestinian affairs in times to come.
Dr. Daniel Baracskay is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Administration at Valdosta State University. Dr. Baracskay has a PhD in Political Science from the University of Cincinnati. He is the author of numerous journal articles and book chapters, including an article titled “Marshall Dimock’s Theoretical Legacy” in Public Administration and Management; “Strategic Communication During the Cold War” in Information Warfare 2.0 edited by James Forest; and “The April 1995 Bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City” and “The February 1993 Attack on the World Trade Center” in the popular volume Combating Terrorism in the 21st Century, also edited by James Forest. He recently published a book titled, The Palestine Liberation Organization: Terrorism and Prospects for Peace in the Holy Land in May 2011 through Praeger Press.
The Palestine Liberation Organization: Terrorism and Prospects for Peace in the Holy Land
This meticulous and in-depth book chronicles the evolution of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)—one of the most powerful and influential terrorist organizations in modern Middle Eastern politics and world affairs.