Decades of fruitless, frustrating and ultimately self-defeating negotiations have yielded nothing meaningful for the Palestinians. For the Israelis, however, 20 years of the Oslo process have been immensely productive. During that period, the number of Israelis colonizing East Jerusalem and the West Bank swelled by several hundred thousand; today, there are more than half a million settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
But the putative Palestinian leadership — with Mahmoud Abbasat its head — has signaled that it recognizes the actual nature of the Oslofarce. September will see the Palestinians issue Oslo’s final dirge when a vote on Palestinian statehood is put to the United Nations. While helpful, the move will not impact the likeliest outcome of the conflict: The emergence of a single, non-Zionist, multinational state within Palestine/Israel. Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, will be submitting an application for full membership in the United Nations in September. He will request that the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem be henceforth recognized as Palestine, a state among equals. The move is expected to receive overwhelming support in the General Assembly, but it will require backing from the permanent members of the Security Council in order to be presented for a vote in the Assembly. The United States’ representative to the UN, however, will undoubtedly veto the measure, thereby ensuring that a Palestinian state is not recognized.
The American and Israeli leaders insist that by actively obstructing the Palestinian bid for statehood, they enhance the prospects for peace. According to them, a negotiated settlement is the only way to ensure that a strong and secure peace emerges in Palestine/Israel. In reality, Palestinian statehood would complicate Israeli efforts to continue colonizing Jerusalem and the West Bank; invading a fellow UN member state carries more international penalties than colonizing occupied territories. Over 40 years of colonization has ensured that no Palestinian state could come into existence in the occupied territories. More than 100 settlements and an equally large number of outposts (early-stage settlements) have rendered the West Bank non-contiguous for Palestinians. Moreover, a vast network of settler-only roads has worked to further geographically fragment the West Bank. Jerusalem too has been segregated from its Palestinian hinterlands by a ring of settlements.
Israel’s dependence on Palestinian water further increasesthe likelihood that a separate Palestinian state will not materialize. The mountain and coastal aquifers — which sit beneath the West Bank and Gaza, respectively — are important sources of freshwater for the Jewish state. In a region where the scarcity of potable water is a permanent feature of the conflict landscape, the Israelis cannot be expected to relinquish control of this vital Palestinian resource. Yet, the fact that the US and Israel have effectively aborted any Palestinian state does not mean that the UN vote is meaningless. Indeed, the vote will enable the Palestinians to highlight Israeli intransigence, thereby promoting its increased isolation and bolstering the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement — which aims to defeat Israeli apartheid by adopting South African anti-apartheid strategies.
In this way, the UN vote on Palestinian statehood will promote the most likely outcome of the conflict; the emergence of a binational, single state with equal voting rights for all citizens, following the trajectory set by South Africa for contemporary colonial conflicts in a decolonizing world.
While it may sound like a novel solution to a hitherto intractable conflict, the one-state solution was in fact a central goal of the Palestinian national movement for decades after the establishment of the state of Israel. The transition to the two-state process was only completed by Palestinian leaders in the past 20 years or so. Indeed, many activists, leaders and academics insist that the empirical reality of Palestine/Israel is already that of a single state — a deeply segregated state with apartheid and institutionalized racism, but a single state nonetheless. The vote on Palestinian statehood at the United Nations will not result in a state due to American and Israeli obstructionism. But it will aid the Palestinian quest for freedom by helping to further isolate Israel and its patron, the US. By empowering the BDS movement, the UN vote will further enhance the prospects for the establishment of a single, non-racist state in Palestine/Israel. At this stage, that is the only viable solution.
AHMED MOOR is a Master in Public Policy candidate at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government