Palestinians push for independence

 By Margaret Brinson, Managing Editor

Two weeks will determine the legitimacy of a nation. Just two weeks will decide the hopes of a people — a people who has ridden a rollercoaster of riots and rallies, promises and peace talks, requests and demands. This is not the first time the Palestinians have made a motion for independence.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gave the United Nations two weeks to pass or deny the country’s bid for full membership to the organization in a letter presented Sept. 23, despite pressure from the U.S. to forego the motion.

In a speech prior to the bid, President Barack Obama called the motion an attempted short-cut to peace.

“Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations,” he said. “If it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now.”

As the day of decision approaches, Obama remains firm in his resolve to veto the request. The question is: Will anyone stand beside him?

European Permanent Security Council members France and the United Kingdom, though they have not yet recognized Palestine as a separate state, have not threatened to veto the resolution.

Nicolas Sarkozy, French president, proposed a yearlong plan for peace in the region, beginning with resumed talks between Israel and Palestine within the month

and designating just six months toward tough decisions, such as border definitions and security agreements between the nations.

Sarkozy warned against the dangers of a U.S. rejection of the Palestinians’ hopeful bid toward statehood. On the night of the bid, thousands rallied in Israel and the West Bank in support of the move, as well as across the Middle East. In Beirut, thousands gathered to show their solidarity with the Palestinians.

“Who could doubt that a veto at the Security Council risks engendering a cycle of violence in the Middle East?” Sarkozy asked.

However, the U.S. held fast to its stance against Palestine’s U.N. membership after the president’s speech to the assembly in New York. As the room around them exploded into standing ovations for Abbas and his charge to the nations, U.S. representatives to the U.N. kept their composure — and their seats.

The full membership of Palestine to the U.N. would be, in part, only symbolic in the battle for statehood. However, the membership would have great political implications for the nation. In future talks of a two-state solution, borders or human rights violations in the area, the Palestinian people could have a voice equal to that of Israel, which was granted full membership in 1949, a year after its creation. One advantage full membership would give Palestine is access to the International Criminal Court, through which the country could pursue legal action against Israeli settlements, considered illegal under international law.

The Quartet on the Middle East, made of Russia, the U.S., U.N. and EU, has been placed in charge of drafting a plan for peace in the region, which is considered necessary to answering the question of Palestinian statehood.

Just days after the Palestinians’ bid for U.N. membership, authorities at the Israeli interior ministry announced plans for the construction of 1,100 housing units in East Jerusalem, Sept. 27. Nearly 500,000 Jews live in what is considered occupied territory — land claimed by Israel in 1967 after the Six Day War.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama have made repeated calls for a halt to settlement building since his election in 2008. A building freeze has remained a requisite to peace talks, and the announcement drew negative response from both Palestinians and the Western world leaders attempting to broker peace in the region.

Clinton deemed the settlements “counter-productive to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the parties” and reiterated her call to the nations to refrain from provocative actions that could undermine trust.

Catherine Ashton, European Union foreign policy chief, seconded the opinion in a statement to the EU parliament.

“The Quartet called on the Israelis and Palestinians to refrain from provocative actions if negotiations are to resume and be effective,” Ashton said. “I therefore deplore (Israel’s) decision. … This plan should be reversed. Settlement activity threatens the viability of an agreed two-state solution and runs contrary to the Israeli-stated commitment to resume negotiations.”

Israeli authorities accepted a plan for peace, compiled by the Quartet, Oct. 2. They have called on the Palestinian Authority to do the same.

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