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Op-ed

Palestinian Statehood: Regional Questions

Laurelle Atkinson, September 8, 2011

"We hope for the vote of more than 150 countries for recognition of the state of Palestine on the 1967 borders with its capital in east Jerusalem as a full member at the United Nations," senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said on the nation's forthcoming application to the United Nations for statehood. He did not, however, refer to the regional interaction required for state security in the 21st century. A regional framework is practically mandatory for states to function viably these days, especially in the Middle East where state borders have been so contentious. And no state stands to have such diffusive borders as Palestine.

Nor could any state be clearer on the consequences of U.N.-sanctioned borders without localized authority than Israel. Under U.N. auspices the Israeli state has dislodged citizens manifesting local condemnation instead of progressive authority and the terrorism of border warfare. Would it be so if Israel's borders had developed through a framework of geopolitical relevance? Does "legitimizing" Palestinian borders via the U.N. rectify the situation? Federating fractured territory probably takes more than U.N. recognition of statehood.
 
The Arab League
 
When the United Nations sanctioned Israel's borders regardless of any regional framework of authority, a dynamic of conflict formed in the Middle East. The primary geopolitical body there, the Arab League, seemed to evolve against Israeli statehood rather than factor in the process. And with the authority of a state and its regional organization so disjointed, is it any wonder democratic progression has hardly occurred in the Middle East? On the one hand Israel keeps disregarding the legitimacy of its U.N. borders and their systemic value, devolving its regional responsibilities into strategic bilateral defense arrangements, whilst the Arab League has become the patron of Palestine via Arab nationalism, which for all its cultural depth seems based on a common animus of Israel. Border conflicts and warfare have been standard procedure ever since. And today the Arab League represents a region—ostensibly the most hallowed in the world—now known internationally for terrorism, warfare and Israeli ostracism rather than the prophecy and peace of divine coexistence.
 
Geopolitically the Arab League shows little clout. Well, it's hardly been effective in the massacres of Libya and Syria. And despite the organization's support of the Palestinian plight, Israeli settlements continue overriding Palestinian territorial rights. Even so, neither the United States, United Nations nor European Union have been able to forge political stability between the Palestinians and Israelis.
 
"It is for the Palestinians to decide themselves the approach they want to take at the U.N.," the European Union's High Representative Catherine Ashton said at a press conference recently with Nasser Judeh, the Jordanian foreign minister. The result may not, however, realize political stability without some form of regional cohesion involving Israel. And if so, it still comes back to the Arab League. Were this body to advance its geopolitical status to comprise all states of the region, which includes Israel, a framework would be set for developing regulative authority between the Palestinians and Israel along the lines of regional realities. The regional imperatives of resources, defense and trade place the contentious state issues of refugees, Jerusalem and Palestinian party politics in the broader context of relative security.
 
Whilst the League did offer full normalization of relations with Israel in 2002, the deal involved Israel's withdrawal from all occupied territories plus ratification of East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. But it didn't get off the ground. So the question now is, can this organization accept Israeli membership prior to regulating Palestinian borders? Without a regional body that presents an established framework for systemic cohesion on broader issues, there seems little likelihood of resolving the immediate concerns of Jerusalem, refugees and settlements, all of which tally up to borders.
 
The Arab League in the global framework
 
It's a two-way street. Strengthening the regulative abilities of the Arab League should affect the global value of the European Union, and by extension the authority of the United Nations.
 
"I hope that the 27 countries of the European Union will speak with one voice and that together we will assume our responsibilities," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said of the Palestinian's bid for statehood. To whom should it be speaking? Constructive dialogue usually involves a mutual level of objectivity for progressive rationale. And whilst the Arab League remains beholden to the Arabian races rather than all Middle Eastern states, it's ostensibly no counterpart to the European Union on geopolitical matters of planetary import. The European Union, after all, is geologically based, comprising myriad nationalities and cultures, thereby acting geopolitically in respect of the United Nations, whereas the Arab League has yet to advance its status to that level of systemic accord. It could not as such assume the same terms of (greater) regulative authority and responsibilities as the European Union.
 
Nevertheless, without a body representative of all Middle Eastern states, the European Union cannot apply systemic mechanisms for sustainable resource management, trade, carbon reduction, finance and defense regulation according to the global realities of the 21st century. Interestingly, though, the groundwork is shaping up to address the primary stumbling block—the Palestinian/Israeli issue—within the regional framework.
 
Taking the Palestinian/Israeli resolve to the United Nations via the Arab League
 
Firstly, Israel is clearly against direct Palestinian U.N. negotiations. So is the United States. "Washington and Tel Aviv are exerting pressure in order to prevent the Palestinian-Arab effort without proposing any serious alternative," an Arab diplomat said recently. The United States has threatened to stop Palestinian funding should they proceed to the United Nations in disregard of Israel.
 
Secondly, however, the Palestinian decision to go to the United Nations resulted after direct peace talks with Israel failed over Israel's ongoing settlement construction on Palestinian territory.
 
So thirdly, what are the alternatives? Both Israelis and Palestinians seem hard-wired to undermine any resolve. After centuries of warfare, both continually exhibit an inability to exist other than through conflict. It's become the common raison d'etre. On the recent Egyptian/Sinai conflict, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said Israel "regrets" the deaths of the [Egyptian] soldiers and would investigate the killings, sharing the results with the Egyptian authorities, which fourthly presages a start with the Arab League.

Egypt is the central basis of the Arab League. And the Sinai has become notorious for lawlessness, to a degree that Israel can't solely control. This is a key geopolitical issue of the Arab League transcending the Palestinian plight.     

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