Kosovo’s declared separation from Serbia, the last remaining part of Marshall Tito’s Yugoslavia, is being cheered by some and jeered by others. The 10,000 sq kilometer former province, composed of 80% ethnic Albanians (mostly Muslim) and 20% Serbs (Orthodox Christians) was the center of a bloody conflict in the late 1990’s that left thousands dead, and turned more than 1,000,000 people into temporary refugees, most of whom fled to neighboring Albania. Following the ouster of Serbian president Slavodan Melochovic in 1999, Kosovo has been semi occupied by a NATO sponsored military force to keep order in this troubled land.
Kosovo’s declaration of independence has been endorsed by many Western countries, including the USA, Gt. Britain, France, and Germany. Many other countries, including Russia, Indonesia, and China are opposing the move, claiming that Kosovo’s independence will cause a great number of other autonomous and semi-autonomous provinces to want to be independent as well. Serbia is naturally very unhappy about the move, and this includes people who might now be considered to the ethnic Serbs living within what Serbia considers to be a “rouge” province. Both Russia and China, not to mention Indonesia, have provinces composed of people with certain ethnic majorities who would like to have their own country. China’s main provincial “headache” is Tibet, while Russia has Chechnya, Dagestan, and other Asian provinces.
How all of these problems compare to Israel and the Palestinian Authority is very simple. Although a “two state solution” has been discussed for years, many Israelis are against the Palestinians having their own state. Now that Kosovo is setting an example of forming its own independent republic, the Palestinians may now decide to do the same as well; especially if they see that they will be immediately accepted by the Arab world as well as many other countries, including possibly some EU countries. There are some issues that are relevant to Palestine that were not present in Kosovo, and that includes the fact that the land that would become the State of Palestine is divided into two sections: the one in the West Bank, controlled by Yasser Arafat’s former Fatah organization, and the Gaza Strip, controlled by the radical Hamas organization. There are also the logistical considerations, as the two areas are separated from each other by the State of Israel.
West Bank Palestinian leaders declared immediately after Kosovo’s announcement that they, the Palestinians, will declare their independence if certain pressing issues are not settled with Israel. These issues include the future status of Jerusalem, and a Palestinian “law of return”. The fact that the Palestinians are themselves divided, make it hard for them to be able to become an independent state; and this division is likely to remain for some time. This is all further complicated by continued firing of Qassam missiles into Israel by Gaza Palestinians, as well as occasional acts of terrorism against Israelis by both Palestinian groups.
Israel’s government has not yet given either formal approval or disapproval of Kosovo’s independence declaration. But taking the examples of countries like Russia and others in mind, many individual Israelis, especially former Gaza settlers, and those presently living in the West Bank, it will be very hard for them to agree to a Palestinian State, particularly under current circumstances.