x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Palestinians can play to their strengths

Since the demise of the Oslo Accords, Palestinian efforts have met setbacks on two different battlefields.

Since the demise of the Oslo Accords, Palestinian efforts have met setbacks on two different battlefields. Armed resistance has accomplished little besides lending cover to Israeli crimes like the Gaza War. And in the halls of American power, Palestinian have been unable remove a persistent bias towards Israel.

Both of these arenas play into Israeli hands, allowing the Netanyahu administration to pay lip service to the two-state solution while, settlement by settlement, they try to build another reality. But now the Israelis are rattled. Foreign offices have been ordered to launch a public relations offensive against diplomatic gains made by the Palestinians.

The confidential cable, revealed by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, signals that Israel's foreign ministry is concerned about a possible UN Security Council condemnation of settlements and growing international support for a Palestinian state. Benjamin Netanyahu's government should be worried. In recent weeks, Latin American countries led by Brazil have recognised the Palestinian state, and senior European officials have called for sanctions against Israel. On an equal playing field, Palestinians' legitimate claims are stronger than Israel's intransigent demands.

Under Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the West Bank has built the economic and security foundations of a nascent state. This is a groundwork defence against the creeping Israeli settlement policy, but economic development cannot be confused for sovereignty.

"The reality is that the state can exist in terms of functioning institutions," Mr Fayyad told Israeli Channel 2 last week, "but whilst the [Israeli] army remains on our soil, it would never be a sovereign Palestine, but rather a 'Mickey Mouse' state."

Mr Fayyad is clearly arguing for laying the foundations of a state, not a unilateral declaration. The support coming from international quarters does not replace negotiations with Israel - indeed, Brazil's declaration included a commitment to a two-state solution - but applies new pressure for a real solution.

There are still major hurdles to overcome, chiefly the chasm between Gaza and the West Bank. Recent WikiLeaks cables indicating PA officials met with the Israeli government before the Gaza War shows that wound is as poisonous as ever.

But for years, if not decades, Israel's obstinacy has been the roadblock to a solution. The world is changing. There are roads around Israel's narrow plans, if only the Palestinians and their allies choose to travel them.