Palestine, behind the Osama smokescreen

Published: May 18, 2011
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The populist uprising in the Middle East has opened avenues for Palestine to take action. PHOTO: AFP

The Bin Laden killing has gripped the global media and has been a source of relief, as well as misery, for many people around the world. Nevertheless, the practical impact of his killing on international terrorist activities and the war against terror is yet to be seen.

This event, however, has inadvertently served as a smoke screen for more substantive events in the Middle East, specifically Palestine. Recently, Fatah and Hamas, the two groups representing the Palestinians, came together in an agreement to end the tensions between them and to formulate a plan for government formation.

The history of these two organisations has been marred by conflict and has in the past resulted in a civil war as well. Now that they have agreed on reconciliation, chances are that any future Palestinian demands will reflect the wishes of the majority factions and could be put forth with greater confidence. Additionally, now it also addresses the concerns of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that talking to President Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah leader, is pointless since he does not represent all the Palestinians. It should be noted that Palestinians are expected to put forward a demand of an independent nation in the September session of the United Nations this year.

A further development on Israel’s part was to postpone a planned construction of a Jewish settlement in eastern Jerusalem at the start of May, 2011. It is speculated that this postponement order, coming straight from the prime minister’s office, is in preparation of Netanyahu’s visit to the US at the end of this month.

Furthermore, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameroon have, to a varying extent, warned Israel to cooperate or they would recognise Palestine as an independent state in September, when the demand is put forth. Netanyahu, however, has yet to appear before the US congress at the end of May where he will address and plead his case. This opportunity has been secured for Israel by Republican speaker John Boehner so that Netanyahu may counter Obama’s Mideast policy speech which would expectedly have a stern stance towards Israel.

Roots in revolutions

Though it may seem spurious at first, but all of the above developments can be explained in terms of the populist uprisings in the Middle East, referred to as the Arab Spring. The unconventional mode of those uprisings created the possibility that traditional party structure is dispensable in the eyes of the people, and they may go on to fight for their rights on their own. This idea surely put the pressure on Fatah and Hamas and the reconciliatory agreement was deemed necessary for them to be relevant to the Palestinian cause.

On the other hand, the EU and the US are wary of the situation in the Middle East and cannot afford to lose any goodwill that the Arab people may have towards them. This directly translates into diluting support for Israel to be sure the anti-Israel sentiment does not swallow their interests in the Middle East. Hence Britain and France found it necessary to signal the world that they are serious about promoting peace in the Middle East and their measures will not be limited to military interventions in Libya.

At this point, prudence is well taken by Israel also. Netanyahu’s decision to postpone settlements shows that Israel realises that the situation is not in their favour. In fact, Netanyahu has also announced that Israel could support a Palestinian state if the conditions were right. Although one cannot pin much hope to such statements but this is in stark contrast to the way Israel used to handle international pressure previously. The reason for this show of cooperation is that Israel’s status quo with Hosni Mobarek’s Egypt has burnt in the flames of uprising and Obama, on the other side, is bent on squeezing something concrete out of Middle East to bolster his election campaign. Israel suddenly finds itself struck out of balance and feels the need to take the situation seriously.

It seems, finally, that the people of Egypt and Tunisia have not only secured their rights but have cleared the way for others too. It has cautioned the leaders of the region to represent their people well and forced the West to prove their sympathies for a people fighting for their cause; something which decades of haggling by oil rich monarchs could not produce.

Though extremism may be pompous and attractive to the eyes of the wary world and Bin Laden may still be a sizzling piece of news flash, it is nothing more than a dying creed in the face of the newfound identity of the oppressed peoples; it is not what the people of that region ought to write as their future.

Therefore, while the Arab states have failed to support a solution to the Palestine issue, the Arab people may as well contribute towards it.

Rehan Arif

Rehan Arif

An investment banker who is deeply interested in matters of political economy. He tweets @rehan3416

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Deen Sheikh

    The two state solution is DEAD!!!!!!!Recommend

  • Khalid Rahim

    @Deen Sheikh:
    If two nation solution is dead! What do you suggest the Palestinians do- Jump in the Dead Sea or the Red Sea?Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    I think its a wise move for them to go for the Palestinian State. Recommend

  • James Hovland

    The two state solution is closer than you think. As is the realization of the Palestinian diaspora’s Right of Return. It would be extremely foolish at this point to under-estimate the Palestinian people. The people of Kashmir with aspiration of their own should pay attention to the lead the Palestinians are taking in shaping their future. The pressure on Israel to negotiate a solution is greater than it’s ever been. It doesn’t matter. Peace isn’t something that needs to be negotiated, and Palestine doesn’t need Israel’s permission to seek or be granted international recognition. Neither time, nor the truth is on Israel’s side. Peace goes forward as planned.Recommend

  • Deen Sheikh

    @Khalid Rahim:
    How do you expect the International community to put pressure on the Israelis to evacuate, half a million settlers from Occupied territories in East Jerusalem and the West Bank? They haven’t been able to even secure a construction freeze in the occupied territories, they couldn’t stop Israel from annexing the Syrian Golan heights or the Jordanian controlled Palestinian territories occupied after the six day war of 1967. The international community also failed to stop Israel from Invading and occupying Lebanon which it did for 18 years even though they achieved their original goals from that war within weeks (expulsion of the PLO), the international community was silent everytime there was a Palestinian Intefada, its been silent as the West Bank Barrier was construct, its been silent as every effort has been made by Israel to create significant barriers on the ground to kill the 2 state solution and the peace process. The Occupied Territories look like piece of swiss cheese on the map, with settlements with populations upto 30,000 (Ariel). The Israeli government in Jerusalem, doesnt even refer to it as occupied territory, infact they call the West Bank Judea and Sumera. They couldn’t even keep their voilent land grabbing settlers out of Hebron in the West Bank which they were supposed to under the 93 Oslo agreements. They impose a strict freedom of movement of those living under the occupation, their unable to travel even between cities and towns in the West Bank. Seriously how do u expect a 2 state solution to happen and be implemented, for 44 years or 63 depending on how you would like to see this conflict, the international community has failed to even lift a finger , and now realities on the grounds have made the two state solution impossible. The international community was also silent when the Zionist militias ethnically cleansed Palestine, because of their so-called guilt of not doing anything during the Holocost.

    The only sustainable solution I see to this conflict is a Bi national, Bi-ethnic/racial democratic state called ‘Israel and Palestine’, where both nations are living the country functions as a full and transparent democracy, where Arabs and Jews live side by side with equal rights, with equal representation in the parliament, with equal rights, benefits as citizens to the letter as they did before the rise of the Zionist revolution and the the revolution’s unilateral land grab. Recommend

  • G. Din

    “On the other hand, the EU and the US are wary of the situation in the Middle East and cannot afford to lose any goodwill that the Arab people may have towards them.”
    Precisely, on what facts do you base this conclusion of yours? The whole history of this conflict belies your assertion. In any case, Netanyahu’s address to the joint sitting of the US Congress has already taken place. How do your views jive with that address?

    @James Hovland:
    There are no lollipops for wishful thinking! So, please, come down to earth!
    @Deen Sheikh:
    “The only sustainable solution I see to this conflict is a Bi national, Bi-ethnic/racial democratic state called ‘Israel and Palestine’, …”
    You sustain a solution when one is in place. Your solution, though not new, is a non-starter. Do not expect Israel to dilute its Jewish nationalism even a little bit! And, it has shown that it is not at all amenable to any pressure from anywhere!Recommend

  • http://Newark Cherish Raj

    @Deen Sheikh:
    Do you think that the Israelis would agree to a multi religious state? This solution was proposed years back but neither the Jews nor the Arabs are enthusiastic about the idea. Actually, the Arabs have lost all their advantages with respect to Israel. On a per capita basis, now Israel is richer than Saudi Arabia (almost twice). The major players in the middle east are now Iran and Turkey, apart from Israel. The other big middle eastern country, Pakistan, is happy to piggy ride on Saudi Arabia, rather than take any initiative for their Muslim brothers.Recommend

  • Rehan Arif

    @G. Din:
    There are numerous diplomatic and economic steps that the allies have taken over the recent few weeks, some of which I have alluded to in my article – the statements by France and Britain for instance. Additionally, the recent G8 meeting resulted in redirection of significant aid to Egypt and Tunisia in order to sustain the developments there. There are other numerous initiatives being taken which do give an idea of the level of caution being observed by the allies. I am not making a point that a paradigm shift has occurred, that one will see an independent Palestine as a direct result of current events. I, however, argue that the current ‘winds of change’ have influenced the Palestinian issue also and it will be no more an issue primarily dealt through the instruments of militancy but a more mature political structure which can replace the long rotten Palestinian political administration.Recommend