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Sisyphus Redux?
By Wajahat Qazi
Palestine has now been accorded the status of a ‘non-member observer state’. Palestinian nationalism and its collective struggle now appear to have been validated and rewarded. It now has the imprimatur and legitimacy bestowed upon it by the United Nations. Palestinians are rejoicing; so is the world opinion that is sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. The United States, Israel and other countries that voted against the resolution appear to be isolated and out of touch with global public opinion. Is this all to be celebrated and rejoiced? Should Palestinians feel that their struggle has finally culminated in statehood (or quasi statehood to be more precise) and that this is the end of it? Does global public opinion matter? What should be the Palestinian approach and strategy? And what implications does this have for the Islamic world?

The answer to the first question, unfortunately, is a NO. Call me a cynic, a sceptic or a spoil sport, but the cold, hard reality is that the resolution and the new status amounts to nothing more than a feel good feeling for Palestinians. The reality on the ground is the same and powers that matter and could have a decisive impact on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, the United States, is aloof and detached from the process. This matters. The world is, in many dimensions, still a unipolar world and the United States, exercises great influence in this world. Add to it the insignificance and impotence of the United Nations and the persona non grata like status of the Europeans, the situation is as bleak as it was before the vote.

Israel, the state, from which Palestinians seek freedom and liberty, has the gumption and wherewithal to continue to stick to its policies and approach and can countenance any pressure-financial, military or approval/ disapproval of the world. Nothing really can budge it from its stance save the United States. The question then is how can the United States, the only real force in world politics be persuaded to favour a Palestinian state?

The answer lies with Palestinians themselves. The Palestinian people should, first of all clean up their Augean stables and get their act together. This means a unity government that speaks with one voice; not a cacophony of voices that are at odds with each other. Following this, the Palestinians should come to terms with themselves, stock take and consolidate their gains. This means that they neither be rejectionist; nor obstructionist. And that they collectively take a decision to opt for the two state solution. This, in turn means, talking to or negotiating with the Israelis with the United States as the mediator or facilitator. It is in these negotiations that Palestinians have to be both ruthless and objective. They should be ruthless and single-mindedly argue for a solution that best sates the aspirations of the Palestinians and objective in terms of their ambition.

It is then that real and significant gains may be made. The United Nations is a mute spectator in world politics. It is an organization that is at odds with the nature of the world we live in and the global distribution of power. It was relevant to an age and an era; now its relevance is dubious. This, however, does not mean that the world body should be jettisoned. Maybe substantive and significant reform may allow the world body to be a force in world politics one day. But that day is far off. The Europeans are a joke and it may be prudent for them to focus on their own problems and then solve world problems.

It then boils to the Palestinians, the Israelis and the Americans. Let the Palestinians also realize that they are alone; very alone. Support accruing an emotional attachment to the ummah does not amount to much and in the final analysis, it is state interests and raison d’etat that triumphs over any ephemeral feeling of solidarity or public opinion.

Prudence then dictates that Palestinians not read much into the alleged victory. And that Palestinians introspect , gird their loins , read the international situation and their condition as it is and then craft a strategy that has a chance of success. Let not momentary euphoria take over sobriety and reason. It would behove the Palestinians well to then see the validation by the UN as , well, one pat on the back and then turn their collective energy to persuade powers that be that their cause is just and legitimate and that time has now come for the resolution of their conflict. Otherwise, their struggle will be the classic Sisyphean one and this would be a tragedy.

(The author is a Senior Policy Analyst working with Government of Jammu & Kashmir)
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News Updated at : Thursday, December 6, 2012
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