The United Nations is exactly the right body to lead the resolution of the Palestinian Israeli conflict. The UN was midwife at the birth of Israel and carries a responsibility to find a just end to a terrible conflict. The Palestinian move to seek UN recognition is a historic development and , like the Arab Spring, provides an opportunity for all sides to make moves that will heal long running sores.
When thinking about the potential for resolution of the Palestinian Iraeli conflict both in terms of those two entities and in terms of wider international relations it is important to understand what gave birth to the problem.
In essence it was collective international guilt about the Jewish Holocaust and the determination of Jews to have a safe historical homeland that drove the creation of Israel out of the land of Palestine. While the British and others were key players it was the UN through resolution 181(11) in 1947 that partitioned Palestine into an Israeli Jewish state and an Arab Palestinian state.
There is in fact a strong argument that the current Palestinian request that the UN recognise their statehood is merely asking the UN to acknowledge something it has already granted by way of UN resolution 181(11)
This is not a minor matter. In essence the UN general assembly through 181 has already in fact determined by international law the boundaries of Israel and Palestine. It is now time that the UN sought to find a way to have this will realised in a way that provides justice for all parties. Indeed the Palestinians have every right to call on the UN to help resolve a problem that it in part created.
One of the problems with the UN imposed partition of 181 was that Arab states rejected the partition. This was understandable at that time. Palestinians must no doubt have taken the view that they were not responsible for the Holocaust but were being told they must forfeit half their lands for a Jewish homeland - a hard and bitter pill to swallow.
The world has moved on though and Israel is a reality. It was right that the call for a homeland for the Jewish diaspora was heeded, but the international community has failed to live up to its responsibility to heal the damage that was caused , not least to the Palestinains, in the process.
Israel is now faced by acute challenges as a result of the Arab Spring. For a long time it has been able , with some justification, to point to its neighbours as violent repressive dictatorships and to highlight the miltary and terrorist threats against it. All of this was true, but it also provided cover for land grabs through the development of illegal settlements that attempted to change the reality on the ground.
There is much anger among Muslims in the Middle East about this behaviour but the Palestinian case was only ever damaged by its association with terror. I wrote a long time ago on this and suggested that when Muslims and Arabs moved from extremism to democracy they would find the cause of resolving the Palestinian injustice very greatly strengthened. So it comes to pass it seems.
The West has rightly thrown some weight behind demends for freedom in the Middle East and North Africa. Now the Palestinians ask for their own justice. How can that in conscience be rejected? It can't., but can resolution for Palestinians be achieved while not damaging Israel? I believe it can.
There are Arabs in Israel. Not, by some accounts, always viewed as equal citizens but nevertheless part of the state. There are of course Jewish settlers who are living in settlements in Palestine and protect themselves with guns. Finally, there are generations of Palestinians who like the Jewish Diaspora yearn for their homeland even as Israel resists the inclusion of this diaspora in a settlement.
So here is a thought. Imagine with me if you will that the parties can be brought to agree ( by some divine intervention perhaps?) that they will return to the 1947 partition as the basis for their settlement and that the refugee diaspora issue is to also be addressed.
Now here is the crunch. Each of the peoples here wants its own religiouslyt informed state but also has people of its own who feel that their home or place is in the other state. Now imagine that both states guarantee to all parties the fair and equal treatment of both peoples in both states.
The next step in a resolution would be for Isreal to give up an agreed portion of its settlements. Importanly the villages and homes would be left intact. These villages should then house some of the Palestinian diaspora as part of the solution to that problem. Israel might be seen as paying a price in agreeing this but she would of course be reminded that those settlements were in any event illegal.
The remaining Jewsish settlers in their settlements would then become citizens of the Palestinian state. A state which would legally and in practice guarantee the rights of all citizens of whatever religion. The same rights and guarantees would apply to Arab citizens and returnees in Israel. To work this would need both states to develop a good framework for bi-partite relations based on their mutual self interest in good inter-community relations. ( Jerusalem is of course a particular but solvable issue)
It goes almost ( but not quite) without saying that any settlement constructed on this kind of approach would be impossible without the clearest possible acceptance both by the Palestinians and other Muslim states of Israel's right to exist without rancour or conflict. This would be the ultimate payoff for Israel and worth, what for them will seem like sacrifices. Israel will finally be a safe Jewish homeland and have neighbours with whihc it builds productive realtions.
Pie in the sky? Perhaps; but major changes are abroad in the Middle East and in such times major opportunities arise and must be grasped by statesemen who desire to be the agents of resolution and peace.
The Palestinians have made an astute move going to the UN to highlight the issue of their status even as other Muslims demand their freedom and democracy. The UN has the responsibility to treat their demands with great consideration and not to lightly dismiss them. At the same time the UN also has a responsibility to safeguard the Israeli state. The Arab Spring and the Palestinian UN move has shaken the dice and its now game on for change. The important question is wether politicians who represent the Palestinian and Israel peoples can be astute enough to grab the chance of just resolution and be bold and imaginative enough in finding solutions, with the help of the UN.