The Yomiuri Shimbun
For Palestinians to achieve the status of a true independent state, they have no choice but to negotiate with Israel. They should bear in mind that quick resumption of negotiations is the key to achieving this goal.
The Palestinian Authority on Friday submitted a letter to the United Nations asking to join the international body, an attempt to shelve efforts to establish a state through negotiations and instead directly seek recognition of Palestinian statehood from U.N. members. With this move, the Palestinians effectively thrust a letter of no confidence at the United States, which has been working as a mediator between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.
For a state to join the United Nations, the U.N. Security Council must advise the General Assembly to accept it. The council plans to meet soon to discuss how to handle the Palestinians' request.
The United States, a permanent member of the Security Council, has expressed its intention to veto any council move to recognize Palestinian statehood. But there are concerns the situation will become even more complicated if the council actually votes on the issue.
If the United States uses its veto, it will inevitably heighten anti-U.S. sentiment, destabilizing the situation in the Middle East even more.
Resume talks quickly
To avoid such a development, the international community must seek ways to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table as soon as possible.
The international powers known as the Quartet on the Middle East--the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations--presented a new road map to both sides Friday, under which Israel and the Palestinians will decide on an agenda for negotiations within a month and reach an agreement by the end of next year. The international community, including Japan, must do its utmost to realize the road map.
The Palestinian Authority is acting hastily to obtain recognition as a state apparently because its people are increasingly disillusioned by the lack of prospects for building a Palestinian state 20 years after the start of the Middle East peace process.
The Palestinians managed to win autonomy under an agreement with Israel. However, subsequent negotiations for a Palestinian state remain stalled.
In the meantime, Israel has built one settlement after another in occupied land Palestinians consider part of their territory for a future state, effectively turning it into Israeli territory.
U.N. application a last resort
The Palestinian Authority apparently filed its statehood application with the United Nations as a last resort to escape a dead end.
However, as U.S. President Barack Obama said in his address to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, it will be impossible to establish a Palestinian state or achieve the peaceful coexistence of two states without an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. There are no shortcuts to that goal.
The Palestinian Authority has a problem that needs to be resolved: Hamas, an Islamic fundamentalist group that does not recognize the existence of Israel, rules the Gaza Strip. As an initial step, the Palestinians need to settle their internal divisions.
In the increasingly volatile Middle East, Israel is about to lose its stable relationships with Turkey and Egypt, which have served as cornerstones for its security in the region. To prevent itself from being further isolated, Israel must freeze its settlements in the occupied land, as requested by the Palestinian side, and resume negotiations for peace.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 25, 2011)
(Sep. 26, 2011)