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Brian Goldman
The Gold Standard

There’s an old refrain we’ve all heard — nothing in life is guaranteed besides death and taxes. That saying seems to be with us for good.

But maybe we can go and add another constant to that twosome: Israeli-Arab tensions in the Middle East.

This past month has added a new wrinkle to the tired search for peace, as the Palestinian Authority has directly floated the possibility that it will seek statehood recognition at the United Nations.

Penn, never far from the constant controversy that engulfs the Middle East, was thrown into a campus-wide discussion — a mostly heated one — as The Daily Pennsylvanian published a full-page ad paid for by the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

As is the case with most issues that ignite passions on both sides, some basic facts have been lost in the discussion in favor of overheated rhetoric.

Here are two: In 2003, the “quartet” roadmap for peace (so named for the four international entities that supported it — the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations) was used in the never-ending Palestinian-Israel peace negotiations. As part of the proposed two-state solution, Phase II of the roadmap called for the option of creating an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders. However, the provision stipulated that this recognition of statehood would be preliminary to a final, permanent agreement on the specificities of the Palestinian state.

This method of reaching statehood was rejected by the Palestinian leadership because, as Robert Danim in Foreign Affairs magazine states, they feared “that establishing a state prior to resolving all outstanding financial status issues with Israel would leave them unresolved in perpetuity.”

Fact two: the Palestinian leadership plans to apply for international statehood recognition by way of the United Nations. As President Mahmoud Abbas acknowledged, this would likely enhance Palestinians’ leverage in negotiations with Israel. “Palestine would be negotiating from the position of one United Nations member whose territory is militarily occupied by another,” he said. “And not as a vanquished people.”

Even with a momentary glance at these facts, it appears that the Palestinian strategy for statehood has flipped in a matter of eight years. In 2003, statehood recognition was put off in fear that the underlying structural differences (including the West Bank and Jerusalem) would never be resolved.

Fast forwarding to 2011, the strategy now seems to follow a new script: statehood first, negotiations later.

Moreover, the singular charge applied to Israel — often true — is that it continually acts unilaterally, to the chagrin of its neighbors and occasionally its allies, in confronting Palestine.

Now, it appears clear that the Palestinians are the ones acting unilaterally, despite the pleas of President Barack Obama and other world leaders to the contrary. The strategy seems a bit confounding.

It also shines the limelight on the people of Palestine, a group that is not so enamored with the recent Palestinian-United Nations strategy. A recent survey by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs found that two-thirds of the Palestinians living in East Jerusalem believe that the international recognition of statehood would have no positive effect.

At the very least, this is what the Palestinian leadership seemed to advocate in 2003, when they rejected the idea they now embrace.

It also stands contrary to the basis for all the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that have taken place for the past 20 years. In 1993, the Palestinian Liberation Organization signed the Oslo Accords with Israel on the White House lawn. This constructed a framework by which the outstanding issues between Israel and Palestine — including the latter’s bid for statehood — would be settled through bilateral negotiations.

As Palestinian Authority negotiator Muhammad Shtayeh stated, “The bilateral arrangement of Oslo is now taking us to the multilateral road, which is the U.N.” It seems, at least, to be an implicit acknowledgment that the essence of the Oslo Accords has been put to rest.

In the coming days, we will thus embark on a new chapter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, yet another sideways turn in a book that has no ending in sight.

For another generation, it appears, death and taxes will not be alone in unabashed permanence.

Brian Goldman is a College senior from Queens, N.Y. His email address is The Gold Standard appears every Monday.

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