I can’t exactly remember the last time I took a unilateral decision. It was probably something regarding the ever-regular debate on whether to pay my rent on time and the unilateral decision I made, this is, without the consent or advice of my landlord, proved to be extremely damaging and taught me a lesson my father would have been proud to make himself. This said, I haven’t had my own apartment taken away from me by excessive force nor have I had been under constant oppression for over sixty years, so I can’t really compare the decision Palestine might be taking – unilaterally – to proclaim itself a state, without the consent or advice of Israel.

Yasser Arafat: he had a dream...

The question of recognizing, legally and politically, regionally and internationally, Palestine as a state – with its own government, its own Constitution, its own set of laws and by-laws, and, most importantly and perhaps most decisively, a preset territory, has been at the heart of every potentially successful peace process to be made in the region. There is no possibility to discuss a two-state solution of only one of the parties is actually a State. There is no negotiation to be made between heads of State if only one of the two parties is indeed a diplomatically recognized head of State. There is no legitimacy to be claimed over a territory if there is no State to organize nationwide democratic elections. Moreover, there is no population without a State, as the Palestinians can not claim national protections. Whose and which nationals are they, exactly? Which force is there to protect them from oppression and guarantee them freedom and labour, and if a force stands up and claims it will, how legitimate can it be? The situation of Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the West’s heated debate over whether or not this is a legitimate government or a terrorist organization such as Hezbollah is adding fuel to the pan and destroying every embryo of a negotiation. For as long as there is no such thing as a Palestinian state, Palestinians are nothing but Israel’s political prisoners, collateral damage of a forceful sionism that was not even entirely supported by a Jewish community already saturated by the hate and violence they endured.

In short: Palestine wants to be recognized as a State. Israel refuses. The issue of whether the land between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank will be attributed to either of the parties is at stake and Israel has much to gain in maintaining a status quo. But after the much criticized Goldstone report, a decision regarding the region has to be reached. The United States, for the first time in a very long time, is pushing towards a two-state solution. This seems to be the only solution. No matter how hard the right-wing Israeli parties are dragging their feet, this is the only outcome. Except that Mahmoud Abbas, currently the leader of the Palestinian authorities, for lack of a better expression, has declared he might take upon himself to do what Yasser Arafat himself did not do – claim a Palestinian state, following the borders created by the 1967 agreement.

Liebermann, currently Prime Minister of Israel, has replied to this claim with as much of a negative answer one could come up with without resorting to weapons of russian manufacture; and President Shimon Peres himself called to a cooling off of the situation, saying that “anger in Palestine must not be turned into a political agenda.” With negotiations at a standstill, and Hamas struggling to maintain a pseudo-democratic facade, how long will Palestine sustain a relative peaceful and downlow demeanour without access to their demands? The White House and the European Union having hurt a wall during their mediation sessions with Israel last summer, Liebermann being strictly opposed to a two-state solution and even refused to freeze Israeli settlements in the West Bank, can a unilateral action, the very opposite of diplomatic action, can be endorsed? What kind of response are we to expect from Israel, if not an armed force one, justified by the fact that their own borders have been unilaterally claimed frioom one side without the consent of the other?

And what will become of the East Jerusalem Palestinians, Jewish Arabs, citizens with no state and residents with no territory, temporary living heads on borrowed time, allowed by a reluctant authority to cultivate the land they have had for millenia? What will become of the brand new settlers, forced to retract backwards, and not knowing which authority to turn to? Should a third party be named and called upon this issue in order to make the decision neither Israel nor Palestine is willing to do without force? What would even happen to a brand new Palestinian state if the decision brings back the painful memories of the blood-spilling power struggle between Fatah and Hamas? Is Palestine capable of running its own people democratically, peacefully, in full cooperation with its reluctant neighbor, and liberating the Gaza Strip without those collateral damages we have become a little too acquainted with?

This is one simple decision, but raising a plethora of questions no one is quite ready to address yet. Unilateral decisions are never favored on the diplomatic scene, for the simple reason they always rile up the party that has not been consulted, like in any divorce, any conflictual relationship, any divided, segregated area. But what if finally standing up to the test and making the decision everyone has been waiting for and hedging one’s bets was the only solution left for the Middle East? What if Palestine had to take their chances?

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