For some weeks now, I've been conversing with a number of people whose opinions I value on the subject of a plan by the Palestinian Authority's Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, to unilaterally declare Palestinian statehood in the Summer of 2011, irrespective of a peace agreement with Israel. The publication of David Horovitz's editorial in the Jerusalem Post, Unilateralism is no Mirage, picked up by Yaacov Lozowick, whose rather meek, somewhat resigned post on the subject generated a reader backlash in the comments, has brought the matter to the fore, and rightly so.
Despite official Israeli insistence that the threat of unilateral Palestinian actions are merely a negotiating tactic, clear and consistent declarations of Palestinian intent are increasing in frequency as 2011 approaches. Students of history, especially Arab history, should know that it is irrelevant whether a unilateral declaration of Palestinian sovereignty began as negotiating bluster, internal power posturing, or a clear-cut goal on the part of Fayyad. Riding the dual tigers of anti-Israel rhetoric and defiant populist sentiment has a long and sordid Arab history. With each passing day the Palestinian public is being primed with expectation, creating a self-sustaining momentum that will be difficult or impossible for Fayyad to extract himself from, no matter his original intent. Palestinian expectations in the months and weeks and days leading up to what Fayyad has promised them will be their Independence Day are likely to lead to violence should Israel or the international community intervene to abort this process. Should foreign intervention be necessary, whether it is successful or not, the parties responsible will pay a significant price in international opinion and concessions to the Palestinians.
In the following series of posts, I will examine these issues in depth. With Hamas deterred, contained and seemingly content to rule Gaza, I believe that Fayyad's initiative constitutes the dominant emerging dynamic in Israeli-Palestinian relations, presenting significant challenges but also opportunities for Israeli policy and threatening to transform the geopolitics of the Levant and American influence therein.