TO: Distinguished Recipients
FM: John Whitbeck
Transmitted below is some follow-up advice which I have just sent to my Palestinian mailing list on the issue of the potential relevance of Kosovo's UDI to Palestine, an issue which appears to be attracting considerable interest.
ASHARQ AL-AWSAT is the Arabic-language equivalent of the INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE, edited in London and published all over the world.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a former minister and a long-time insider in the official Palestinian leadership, was the principal Palestinian associated with the "Geneva Accord" virtual peace agreement signed on December 1, 2003.
TO: Distinguished Palestinian Recipients
FM: John Whitbeck
The article which I circulated on Tuesday after its publication in the ARAB NEWS was published yesterday in the JORDAN TIMES and today in AL-AHRAM WEEKLY and ASHARQ AL-AWSAT. The slightly shortened Arabic version published in ASHARQ AL-AWSAT is transmitted below. I understand that this publication was mentioned today on the BBC's Arabic Service.
I have also read that Yasser Abed Rabbo suggested publicly yesterday that Palestine should follow the Kosovo precedent, stating:" We deserve independence even before Kosovo, and we ask for the backing of the United States and the European Union for our independence." If (as my Saudi Arabian partner has advised me) the United States reacted with horror within ten minutes of Mr. Abed Rabbo's suggestion, this reaction should be seen as clear and compelling evidence of just how promising this idea is. It should certainly not discourage the Palestinian leadership from doing something intelligent which would serve the interests of the Palestinian people.
However, as I had to emphasize to President Arafat in several meetings during the 1990's, when he was "threatening" to "declare independence", it is NOT a question of declaring independence. That has already been done (and recognized by over 100 countries) in 1988. The intelligent and legally appropriate thing to do now would be to reaffirm that declaration -- but ONLY with the clear and compelling consequence of the "threat" of demanding equal rights and democracy instead if the US and the EU continue to refuse to recognize the State of Palestine.
A second "declaration" of independence would not be coherent, and a reaffirmation without consequences for rejection would not be constructive.
It should be emphasized in this context that legal sovereignty does not require effective administrative control. A sovereign state may be under foreign occupation. The US and the EU did not cease to recognize Kuwait as a sovereign state while it was occupied (and, unlike Palestine, formally annexed) by Iraq. Indeed, the US did not cease to recognize Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as sovereign states, and continued to host and accredit their embassies in Washington, throughout the almost 50-year-long period during which these Baltic states formed part of the Soviet Union. The US and EU states could recognize the State of Palestine now if they really wanted the occupation to end.
During the 19 years of its administration of the Gaza Strip, Egypt never asserted sovereignty over this territory. Since 1988, when Jordan renounced its claim to sovereignty over the West Bank, the only state which has asserted sovereignty over the portion of Palestine occupied in 1967 (aside from expanded East Jerusalem) has been the State of Palestine, and no state, not even the United States, has recognized Israel's claim to sovereignty over East Jerusalem.
Both as a matter of law and as a matter of worldwide public perception, occupations of sovereign states MUST end -- completely. Occupations of arguably "disputed territories" can be argued about and disputed ... forever ... until there is nothing left to argue about.
Somehow, the year 2008 must be a year of decision. This November 15 will mark the 20th anniversary of the Palestinian declaration of independence and the formal quest to make a "two-state solution" a reality on the ground. If a decent partition of Palestine on terms acceptable to the Palestinian people cannot be achieved by then -- and the Israeli government (not known for understating its good intentions) is making explicitly clear that it does not now contemplate discussing or agreeing this year to anything more significant than another "declaration of principles", 15 years after the prior one, signed with such pomp and hope on the White House lawn -- the Palestinian people must return to their original principles and pursue justice and freedom through a morally unimpeachable, non-violent campaign for equal rights and democracy.