As the future of Israeli Palestinian peace talks remains uncertain, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is considering asking the United Nations to recognize an independent State of Palestine if Palestinians forgo current peace talks. Based upon past unilateral actions, Abbas may want to reconsider.
There has yet to be a successful unilateral declaration in the Arab Israeli conflict that has resulted in a peaceful outcome. The May 2000 unilateral Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon resulted in Hezbollah filling in the power vacuum that emerged in its wake. Just three months after the withdrawal, in October 2000, Hezbollah kidnapped three Israeli soldiers from the Mount Dev sector. This incident initiated a downward spiral culminating in the July 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War. Today, Iran and Syria have more than fully rearmed Hezbollah, which poses a greater threat than ever. Moreover, unilateral withdrawal has not resulted in peace agreements between Israel and Lebanon or Syria.
A similar scenario followed the August 2005 unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. This retreat resulted in the strengthening of Hamas in Gaza, culminating in the group’s January 2006 general elections victory. In December 2008, Israel initiated an incursion into the Gaza Strip in response to the barrage of rockets that Hamas and its allies launched into the Jewish State. To this day, this unilateral withdrawal has neither increased Israeli security nor increased the Palestinians standard of living.
If President Abbas wants a future Palestinian state to succeed and live in peace with its neighbors, he would be better off using the 1979 Israel-Egyptian peace treaty or the 1994 peace deal between Israel and Jordan as his model. As these past examples have shown, the only way to achieve a lasting and sustainable peace is to have an accompanying political agreement between the parties in conflict.
For a sustainable peace to be achieved, Israelis and Palestinians will have to stick to the negotiating table. For this reason, it is now more important than ever that US President Barack Obama use his diplomatic powers to persuade Israelis and Palestinians to continue with current negotiations.
Time and again, history has shown how unilateral declarations in the Arab-Israeli conflict do not result in increased peace or security. President Abbas would be wiser to focus his efforts on producing a bridging proposal to be presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, rather than making empty threats. Ultimately, only a political agreement will bring true peace and security to Israelis and Palestinians.
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