A Palestinian State As a Natural Outcome of the Peace Process
The Madrid peace conference of October 1991 did away irreversibly with the notion of a complete and one-sided sovereignty over the totality of Mandatory Palestine, supplanting it with the concept of partnership between the two peoples: Palestinians and Israelis. Thus ended a conviction that had dominated the conflict over this land for over a century. Since then, a conflict of a different nature has emerged, relating to the shape and size of the land to be partitioned between the two sides, as well as to the nature of their relationship. Such matters will certainly be settled with the existential decisions that will be taken in the final-status negotiations.
An independent Palestinian state is not anymore an alien concept, rejected region ally and internationally. The right of the Palestinian people to self¬determination over its land, including the right to an independent state on par with other nations, has become widely accepted. The international community has not only recognized this right, but also believes that the existence of a Palestinian state is vital to the promotion of stability and normalcy in the region.
The issue of Palestinian statehood has been at the center of the international agenda in past months as the Palestinian leadership had been contemplating a unilateral declaration of independence on May 4,1999. The Palestinians did well to postpone their declaration of a state on that date, thus allowing the people in Israel to seize a precious opportunity to sort out their own internal affairs and to choose a government that would be likely to support the conclusion of a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the area.
Despite the ['ositive outcome of the Israeli elections of May 17, 1999, the mechanism by which a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel can be established has yet to be defined. The Palestinian people, for their part, insist on their absolute and unquestioned right to declare their own state on their own land. In light of this, the Israeli side is faced with two alternatives. The first is a unilateral de facto declaration by the Palestinians of their state, as a natural and logical outcome of the peace process and the agreements signed between them and Israel. However, a state established in this manner will engender a climate of tension between the two sides and will fail to promote mutual trust with its Israeli neighbor. The second alternative is the establishment of a Palestinian state within the framework of quick and productive negotiations, which will make up for the damage done to the peace process during the last three years. Such a process will lead to peaceful and constructive relations between the two sides, setting the foundations for future cooperation and coordination. Indeed, the manner in which a Palestinian state is declared will determine the nature of the relationship between Palestinians and Israelis in the future.
On the other hand, unilateral steps and the imposition of facts will not profit either Palestinians or Israelis. In fact, the complete opposite is true. Thus, on the Israeli side, the intensification of settlement building and the expansion of existing ones, the construction of bypass roads and the reinforcement of the infrastructure there, the decision to embark on the construction of the two settlements of Ras al-Amoud and Jabal Abu Ghneim (Har Homa), the stepping up of property takeover in the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, the plans to connect the Jewish settlement of Ma'ale Adumim with Jerusalem, the campaign against Orient House, the closing down of Palestinian institutions in Arab East Jerusalem, and the barring of elected representatives of Palestinian Jerusalemites from entering Jerusalem - all these are fact-creation examples which can only complicate negotiations, rendering future solutions only more painful. Such steps will not only bolster the enemies of ?eace, blocking any chances for a just and permanent settlement between Israelis and Palestinians, but will also create a highly explosive situation that threatens to blow up in all our faces and in the region at large. <