The train to Palestinian statehood has left the station

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The more the Palestinian Authority acts like a state, the nearer it will come to being recognized as such.

It is less than three weeks since, on November 29, the UN General Assembly decided to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state, but for Israel, this was a long time ago; a minor and irrelevant incident. Another one of those things that should be ignored. There are elections in Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is apparently busy with his private campaign against Channel 10, and as of this week, he has a "Liberman problem". Who has time to even think about a Palestinian state? Maybe only the visionaries amongst us.

But the world, that frightening and threatening entity outside the control of "Minister Gideon Sa'ar", has apparently concluded that the matter of a Palestinian state is serious enough. Earlier this month, the newsletter of the American Society of International Law published an article, "Legal Implications of the UN General Assembly Vote to Accord Palestine the Status of Observer State". The author, John Cerone, reached two conclusions: the first is that there are still doubts whether Palestine meets the criteria of international law to be defined as a "state"; the second, and more important, conclusion is that the way for the Palestinian leadership to meet these criteria is to act like a state to all intents and purposes.

"The resolution increases the ability of Palestine to act like a state. The more it does so, the more clearly Palestine will satisfy the criteria for statehood," Cerone writes. The article concludes with a sentence that summarizes the current reality: "The train to statehood has clearly left the station."

It is possible to decide that this is just another learned article, and move on. But these are not empty words. Cerone's conclusion contains meanings that we will discover in all their sharpness in the coming months.

Similar, if not identical, opinions about the significance of the UN resolution are probably held by all the parties in the Middle East. For the Palestinians, the main question will be how to fill this view with content. In other words, the question is how to translate into operative measures the recommendation that the Palestinians should act like a state, in order to be recognized as a state. This translation will be top the priorities of all the parties involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including those in Israel who tell us that the Palestinians are "irrelevant".

In essence, the moment the Palestinians started down the road to unilaterally establishing a state, they have no choice but continue, and move on to the next stages. Some of these steps have already been taken in the past two years, and they will be accelerated in the near future. For example, there will be an effort to open embassies in as many countries as possible, to print passports, and put "State of Palestine" on the letterheads of all documents.

It is possible that the establishment of embassies and the printing of passports will appear as unimportant to many Israelis; a matter of ceremonial and symbolic conduct, of "acting like a state". But what if this effort is part of moves to ask more important questions? If Palestine joins international organizations, which recognize it as a state, it will have a broader base for acting against what it will call "infringement of its sovereignty". For example, what will happen if and when the Palestinians decide that "acting like a state" includes demands for ownership of the land, and transport and communications infrastructures?

The illusion will quickly fade

These are all only theoretical examples at the moment, and a lot of what will happen in the Palestinian Authority will also depend on the policy of the new Israeli government that will be established in March 2013. Presumably, if any kind of discussion is taking place among the Palestinian leadership on diplomatic planning, it will mostly be about the question of a possible confrontation with the new Israeli government if it does not open negotiations. Continuing the current trend ultimately means confrontations with Israel and a rise in tensions on the West Bank.

Bottom line, the train that has left the station is a Palestinian state, one that will be established through unilateral steps. Those who are selling the Israeli public tales of the irrelevance of the State of Palestine are selling an illusion that will soon burst. Within a short time, maybe months, what will seem like divorce from reality will be the pretense of ignoring whatever is inconvenient to the Israeli government, in the hope that it will somehow disappear.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on December 18, 2012

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2012

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