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The UN’s Palestinian Precedent

Many states will vote for unilateral Palestinian statehood at the United Nations on September 20. Let us hope they consider their votes carefully, because they will create a precedent that can impact more than a dozen other countries.

After all, if the Muslim bloc can use its population and oil leverage to extort votes of smaller countries on this issue, why not replicate the same strategy in Indian-controlled Kashmir? Russia, China, and Indonesia are also vulnerable to regional separatism, especially should regional states decide to support insurgencies or separatist movements.

Every now and again, representatives of the Republika Srbska show up in Washington asking questions such as why does the United States and Europe support federalism in Iraq, but insist on reintegration in Bosnia?  The answer to that, of course, is easy: Countries do not want to reward the terror perpetrated by the Serbs against Muslims and Croats during the Bosnian War. But, the Serbs would be correct to ask why they should be punished when Palestinian terror is rewarded.

A few years ago, I wrote an entry for the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World on Baluchistan. Long story short, the Baluch briefly claimed independence and many have never reconciled to their incorporation in Pakistan. If Pakistan supports Kashmiri separatism from India, why should India and other countries not support Baluchistan independence?

Back in 2005, I attended a conference in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. During a coffee break, one of the Saudis came up to me and asked whether I didn’t agree that the basic problem in the Middle East was occupation. I responded—to his fury—that I agreed with him that Saudi Arabia should end its occupation of the Hejaz. Now, while I said this with my tongue-in-cheek, Saudi Arabia is a completely artificial state held together by military force as the result of conquest. Mai Yamani has written an interesting book on regional identity in the Hejaz. Could there be a time when, Saudis antagonize enough countries that others will lend their support to the freedom of the long-occupied Hejazis?

The Kurds, for their part, say they are the largest people without a nation. Every argument the Turkish government now makes for Palestinian independence could be as easily applied to the Turkish occupation of Kurds and Kurdistan. Perhaps Europe will allow Turkey into the European Union, but why not remove half of Turkey’s territory to grant the Kurds their independence? It would be difficult for Turkey to argue convincingly against such a move, when its prime minister endorsed the precedent for such action.

The separation of South Sudan from the Sudan, and Eritrea from Ethiopia create other precedents. It’s possible to foresee the Kabyles finally getting their freedom, for example, in regions of Algeria where they constitute 90 percent of the population.  France might want to consider its actions in light of Corsica, and Denmark of resource-rich Greenland.

Diplomats engaged in the peace process have long shared with Israelis a vision of a Jewish state and Palestinian state living side-by-side. The question was how to get there, and the chief impediment was that the Palestinians refused to abandon incitement and terrorism, taking what they could diplomatically, and trying to take whatever they couldn’t win at the table through the extortion of “resistance.” With their votes, many countries will not succeed in creating an actual Palestinian state. Rather, what they will do is justify terrorism and make irrelevant peace processes and diplomacy in countless other multi-ethnic areas and conflict zones.



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