The PA may well come to regret invoking the Kosovo precedent, says Nebojsa Malic:
THE EFFORTS OF THE Palestine Authority (PA) to declare independence and get UN recognition have been compared to those of the “Republic of Kosovo,” a province of Serbia occupied by NATO in 1999 on behalf of the ethnic Albanian “Kosovo Liberation Army.” The KLA, a terrorist organization dabbling in drug-running, slavery and other unsavory practices on the side, orchestrated NATO’s aerial campaign and subsequent invasion (much like the current “rebels” in Libya), and after almost nine years of ethnically cleansing the province and laying the groundwork, declared it an independent state in 2008. While “Kosovo” is recognized by around 80 governments (most notably the US and major Western European powers), it has yet to claim a seat at the UN, faced with a certain Russian and probable Chinese veto.
Last year, the International Court of Justice (ICJ, not to be confused with faux tribunals such as the ICTY and ICTR) turned in a stunning verdict, refusing to recognize that the KLA government’s declaration directly violated the UN resolution regulating the status of Kosovo and accepted international law. Torturing language and logic, the majority of judges said that the declaration had been made not by the UN-regulated provisional government, but the “direct representatives of the Kosovo people,” and as such not bound by UN resolutions or international law (!). Following this sort of logic, any group, anywhere, could declare statehood – and the only thing that mattered would be whether it has sufficiently powerful patrons to enforce that statehood by force.
Upon recognizing “Kosovo,” its U.S. and EU sponsors insisted it would not establish any sort of precedent, as fervently as they had once insisted that the occupation of the province in no way conflicted with Serbia’s sovereignty over it. And now the PA is about to exploit the very Kosovo precedent. Critics of the American Empire often deride Washington’s belief in American exceptionalism, but it does actually apply in one, albeit unintended, respect: the U.S. may well be the first country in history to destroy the very international order its global dominance was built upon. Flouting the law with impunity is one thing; declaring that behavior to be the law, quite another.
However, there are drawbacks to PA’s invocation of the Kosovo precedent. For one, it would undermine “Kosovo” itself, obliterating a major argument of the separatists’ sponsors and putting the rest of the world on notice regarding their own separatist issues (and many countries have them). With many already uneasy about the professional revolutionaries (a method of unconventional takeover first tested in Serbia) in their midst, now another legacy of the Euro-American Balkans interventions – death by recognition – threatens to go global. While few seem to be aware of these potential problems down the road – there appears to be near-universal support in the UN for a state of Palestine – they will most certainly read their heads sooner or later.
Arabs themselves may be ill-served by the declaration. The PA is not self-sustaining, while the economic activity in the territories in question leans heavily on Israel. However much of a nuisance navigating the security checkpoints may be now, becoming an international border won’t make them any better – quite the contrary. Statehood would also mean taking ownership and responsibility for one’s actions and behavior, including terrorist attacks; until now, everything that happened could be blamed – and usually is – on Israel and the occupation. With statehood, that excuse disappears.
Claiming a Palestinian state in the territories of West Bank and Gaza would also go against the charters of both Fatah (current PA leadership) and Hamas. Both deny Israel’s right to exist and claim the entire territory of the old Palestine Mandate as their own. Settling for territories annexed by Egypt and Jordan in 1948, and occupied by Israel in 1967, is not just a matter of quantity, but of principle: it is an indirect recognition of Israel’s legitimacy. Last, but not least, the existence of a Palestinian state would shift the dynamic of the Arab-Israeli conflict from the current field of 4th-generation warfare (where weakness is strength) that has benefited the Arabs to a more conventional model, where Israel has proven its superiority repeatedly (as the Egyptians who remember 1967 and even 1973 can attest).