Are the Palestinians preparing their own version of the "Kosovo gambit" through a unilateral declaration of independence in the event that U.S.-sponsored peace talks falter?
While the United States has insisted for years that the Kosovo case was sui generis -- a unique situation that set no precedent for resolving frozen conflicts anywhere else in the world -- the Palestinian leadership appears to be ignoring that memo. Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, last week bluntly stated that it is time to "declare the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, including East Jerusalem, and to demand that the world community recognize it and its borders -- as it did in the case of Kosovo." According to Barghouti, such a unilateral declaration would allow countries to demonstrate support for an independent Palestine and to assist in the establishment of state institutions, again citing Kosovo's declaration of independence and its recognition by the international community as a model to be replicated.
While the Palestinian leadership mulls the pros and cons of this step, they may want to assess the value of previous such declarations. After all, the 1988 Algiers Declaration, issued by the Palestine National Council, also proclaimed the creation of an independent Palestinian state. Coming four months after Jordan renounced any claim to the West Bank, the declaration was endorsed by some 89 countries that extended recognition to a "Palestinian state." U.N. General Assembly resolution 43/177 also confirmed the right of the Palestinians to declare statehood, but the vote ended up having nothing more than symbolic value.