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It’s time for Palestinian statehood

Brian Kaneb | Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Just this week, Palestine announced that it would seek full membership in the United Nations. If accepted, this move would force the international community to recognize their right to exist as a sovereign state from Israel.

I am well aware of the arguments against recognizing Palestine as a state. Their government is made up of two political parties — Fatah and Hamas, which the United States classifies as a terrorist organization. Though the two have technically joined forces, many expect them to continue to fight against Zionism. Some would also argue that this would strain our relationship with Israel, which opposes the Palestinian statehood. They believe Israel is America’s most strategic ally, and rightfully so. While these are genuine concerns, I believe they are blown out of proportion.

The most fundamental reason why America should recognize Palestine is simply that they deserve it. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which is recognized by Israel as the official representative of the Palestinian people, has quite literally spent decades fighting for freedom from Israel. Since the 1970s, they have been undergoing a general transformation for the better. One of the best examples of this was the 1993 Oslo Accords. This meeting was unprecedented — not only was it the first true act of diplomacy between the two governments, but it also resulted in then-PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat “recognizing the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security.” Your average Westerner takes Israel’s existence for granted. Israel is surrounded by Muslim countries, most of which are not its allies. The fact that someone as influential as Arafat recognized Israel’s right to existence was a humongous positive step.

Just a few years later, in 1998, they were able to convince the United Nations to allow them to participate in General Assembly debates. Though the jury is still out on the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, the PLO application to the United Nations seems to represent progress.

The biggest indication of this is their flexibility with Palestine’s potential borders. They are not seeking the destruction of Israel, but rather the ability to govern both the Gaza Strip and West Bank. By doing so, the PLO is affirming Arafat’s words and holding true to its promises. Even in the midst of general political turmoil in the Middle East, they recognize the necessity to approach this situation with a balanced approach. Of course, fighting will go on even if we do recognize Palestine. One simple vote will not change millennia of history, but it can help set the stages for that relative peace.

Ironically, America’s current policy toward Palestine is making the situation worse. On one hand, we attempt to portray ourselves as impartial mediators. On the other hand, our officials have always sided with Israel over Palestine. In reality, we play favorites. As necessary as this may have been in the past, it is time for America to change its approach. Ignoring the voices of Palestinians only incites more hatred and violence; just put yourself in their shoes.

While unprovoked violence is never justified, it is still necessary to search for the motivations behind terrorist attacks in the region. In my opinion, much of the violence stems from the fact that the Palestinian people feel oppressed. If Israel and its allies could learn to compromise on Palestinian statehood, I genuinely believe there would be a decrease in tensions.

Another obvious concern is Israel’s reaction, which obviously will not be positive. They have a mutual distrust of one another which often leads to intense violence and sometimes even war. The Israeli government fears being perceived as soft. In this way, voting for Palestinian statehood will not help our relationship with Israel. Unfortunately, this is a necessary concession. Though Israel will obviously be dissatisfied, they will remain a strong ally for years to come. Wavering away from Israel on one decision will not kill our relationship. We currently provide them with billions of dollars in foreign aid each year; they are dependent on us. It simply is not in Israel’s best interest to clash with America.

Although the decision is undoubtedly difficult, Palestinian statehood is inevitable in due time. The only question left is, “How will history remember us if we vote for Palestinian statehood?”

Brian Kaneb is a sophomore. He can be reached at bkaneb1@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.