Palestinians have looked to unilaterally declaring statehood, obtaining UN recognition, dissolving the PA, or walking away from the idea of negotiated partition altogether and calling for a single binational state.Of these suggestions, arguably the most promising is to seek international acceptance of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders. In the past few months, several countries have recognized such a state and others may follow. The trend is causing Palestinians to rejoice and Israelis to protest, which only makes Palestinians rejoice all the more. What it will not do for now is materially affect the situation on the ground.
Invoking a one-state solution in which Jews someday no longer will form a majority has its own limitations. Yet Israel possesses a variety of potential responses. Already, by unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza, former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon transformed the numbers game, effectively removing 1.5 million Palestinians from the Israeli equation. Israel could unilaterally conduct further territorial withdrawals from the West Bank, allowing, as in the case of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s West Bank government, or compelling, as happened in Gaza, large numbers of Palestinians to rule themselves and mitigating the demographic peril.
Salam Fayyad wants to demonstrate that Palestinians can put their finances in order and build the foundations of a state alongside which their neighbors could live in security. Yet questions have been raised about what a government that rules by decree, with little democratic legitimacy – parliament has not met in years and elections are long overdue – has done to build democratic institutions. Many grumble that Fayyad has conquered the West through his demeanor rather than substantive deeds.
Palestinians who seem to have scant confidence in themselves have put their hopes in the U.S. instead – an investment that reflects excessive faith in Washington. There is no precedent for a successful start-to-finish American effort to bring about peace in the Middle East. All such endeavors that came to something initially were rooted in local dynamics that the U.S. could influence but did not produce.
(Hussein Agha and Robert Malley – New York Reviewof Books)