A Tale of Palestinian Sovereignty

A Palestinian student passes by a mural in Gaza marking the 58th anniversary of Al-Nakba in the Gaza Strip on May 15, 2006. (MaanImages/Wesam Saleh)


The Palestinian people have been longing for freedom and sovereignty since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in World War I.

In 1917, the British colonial power at the time dominated historical Palestine, where the Jewish state was merely a dream in Jews’ minds around the globe and the Ottoman Empire was drawing to an end, the factors that made the Palestinians hope they would eventually have their own sovereignty on their own soil.

Yet, amid such great expectations by the Palestinians, the British colonial government had promised the Jews, for free, ‘a national Jewish homeland’ in another people’s land, making the Jewish immigrants also hope of practicing some kind of sovereignty.

Both Jews in Palestine and Palestinians started to combine their dreams with actions on the ground; the Palestinians went through several stops in their fight against the British occupation, such as the 1936 revolution, which was followed by several proposals that attempted to make the Jews share the indigenous Palestinians sovereignty over the Palestinian soil.

The Palestinians in their turn resisted all such plans, given their unequivocal right to the homeland of Palestine, until the 1947 United Nations partition plan, which allocated 56% of the Palestinian homeland for the Israelis and turned the Arab city of Jerusalem into an international area.

Even the partition plan, which was approved by the International community and rejected by the Arab parties including the Palestinians, had allowed the Palestinians to practice a partial sovereignty over their newly-partitioned homeland.

The Palestinian people then determined to fight again for their sovereignty, as the 1948 war broke out following the departure of the British troops, yet because of many factors, especially the weak Arab armies and the much organized Israeli Jewish militias, the Palestinians failed again to see their dream (sovereignty) coming into reality.

From 1948 to 1967, the Jordanians in the West Bank and east Jerusalem and the Egyptians in the Gaza Strip, ruled hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees, some Arab neighboring states like Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, hosted other hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled to during and following the 1948 war.

The remaining Palestinians chose to stick to their lands but with no sovereignty, as the Israeli troops were deployed in every single part of the rest of Palestinian territories.

On June 5, 1967, Israel launched a sweeping war on the Palestinian people, Jordan, Egypt, and Syria completing the occupation of the remaining parts of Palestine, and expanding the boundaries of the Israeli ‘thorny’ state into the Syrian Golan Heights, the Jordan Valley and the Egyptian Peninsula of Sinai.

Therefore, the Palestinians have lost hope of sovereignty over their national soil, as the Israelis imposed a very strict military rule and started to construct many illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian-owned lands in different parts of the occupied Palestinian territories.

Yet, the Palestinians have never given up; they continued their fight on the path of independence and sovereignty, particularly their popular uprising (Intifada) in 1987, which compelled the late Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, to admit the Palestinians’ right to sovereignty by signing the Oslo peace accord with Palestine Liberation Organization’s chairman, late Yasser Arafat in 1993, that helped establish the first sign of sovereignty on parts of the Palestinians’ soil.

Since the creation of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in 1994, until now, the Israeli state has not allowed the Palestinian People to practice their sovereignty freely and widely, mainly in 2000 Camp David peace talks between the late PNA President Yasser Arafat and the then Israeli Prime Minster Yehud Barak. These negotiations failed simply when it came to Palestinian sovereignty over the occupied East Jerusalem and return of Palestinian refugees.

The 2000 Camp David failed talks brought the second Intifada in September of that year; a matter that turned over the rules of the game, as the Palestinians, given the intransigent Israeli policies throughout the Oslo period, had to fight again for the sake of sovereignty.

In September,2005, the Israelis had left physically an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territories (Gaza), nevertheless, they insist on not giving the Palestinians their legitimate right to sovereignty over their national soil, by keeping up control on Gaza’s border crossings, sea lanes and airspace, and even by not reaching an agreement with the PNA on movement of the Palestinians and goods.

Moreover, the new Israeli government, has declared it would return the situation back to prior 1967 (disengagement from the West Bank), under its security obsession, which has created an ocean of blood over the past four decades.

Instead of reversing the wheel of history four decades back, Israel should speed up another wheel at least one decade forward, by restarting genuine peace negotiations with the PNA and withdrawing from the Palestinian land, sea, and air completely, submitting to the international law and the logic of peace rather than that of war, which resulted in nothing but more hatred between peoples.

Rami Almeghari is currently a Senior Translator at the Translation Department of the Gaza-based State Information Service (SIS) and former Editor in Chief of the SIS-linked International Press Center’s English site.