The Palestinian Authority (PA) is expected to submit a proposal to the United Nations General Assembly (GA) requesting non-member observer state status sometime in September. Seeking approval in the GA would not give Palestinians an official state or membership voting rights, but the upgrade would officially give the PA the ability to participate and represent themselves in international organizations and other bodies. This move illustrates that Palestinians are tired of playing the victims, are taking real action on their own terms, and are willing to take risks to earn their right to self-govern a sovereign state. Still any future changes on the ground will not be determined by the UN, but by Israeli-Palestinian relations.
Last year’s bid in the UN Security Council to recognize a Palestinian state and gain full membership status, failed as it was expectedly thwarted by the United States with Israel’s support. The U.S. and Israel are once again adamantly opposed to the recent announcement, and insist that the PA re-direct efforts towards bilateral negotiations, which have reached an impasse since 2008. By asking the GA to affirm their right to sovereignty, the Palestinians are signaling to the U.S. and Israel that even as a weak state, they can continue to use international institutions to achieve a two-state solution. The Palestinians justify their frustrations with the U.S. by citing Washington’s repeated failures to mediate the Arab-Israeli conflict. The PA is tired of appeasing the U.S. by continuing to pursue bilateral negotiations with no progress, and Israeli actions show doubtful intentions in ever creating a Palestinian state.
The Palestinians ultimately want Palestine to be composed of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, all territories Israel occupied after the Arab-Israeli war in 1967. Israel continues to expand settlements by moving millions of Israelis into the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Palestinians refuse to hold negotiations until settlement building is frozen in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which has been declared illegal by the UN, and the Israelis refuse to negotiate any independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders. Decades of thousands of negotiations and hundreds military assaults have failed to produce results for either party. Pursuing indirect recognition for statehood gives Palestinians some sort of direction, and demonstrates to the U.S. and Israel, the international community’s approval for a rightful Palestinian state.
The status quo provides limited alternatives outside of UN approval, but the reality is that Palestinians are nowhere closer to acquiring statehood, and any foreseeable state would heavily depend on Israel. The institutions of the PA are weak, and without doubt lack the capacity to avoid heavy American and Israeli repercussions. The Palestinians need a cohesive strategy in order to use to their minimal power effectively and wisely. Until these matters are resolved, any attempt for a viable state will result in another failure. Although unprepared for any future state, Palestinians are willing to take high risks to manage their own affairs, but they are undeniably unwilling to give up on their demands for fairness, equal rights, and sovereignty.