Palestinians Plan Trappings Of A State Before U.N. Bid

Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar (left) has been stamping passports in advance of a possible Palestinian bid for recognition at the United Nations in September. His stamp is not a valid passport mark, but a statement in support of U.N. bid. Here, he stamps a tourist's passport at the Ramallah central bus station.

Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar (left) has been stamping passports in advance of a possible Palestinian bid for recognition at the United Nations in September. His stamp is not a valid passport mark, but a statement in support of U.N. bid. Here, he stamps a tourist's passport at the Ramallah central bus station. Jonathan Levinson /For NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Jonathan Levinson /For NPR

Peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians are at a standstill. Palestinians say they will now take their drive for statehood to the United Nations this September.

Israel says the move violates previous agreements and is a dangerous act of unilateralism.

But on the ground, Palestinians say some of the trappings of a state are being put in place.

Using A Stamp To Send A Message

For the past month, Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar has been coming to Ramallah's central bus station to greet foreign visitors to the Palestinian territories.

"Officially you are welcome in Palestine," he says on a recent sultry afternoon.

As visitors step down from the tangle of buses, he offers to emboss their passports with an unofficial entry stamp of his own design that reads "state of Palestine."

"I am an artist and I believe in my right as a human being to say for everybody that we exist, so this is my message," Jarrar says.

Officially, Israel controls the borders here — visitors come in on their already-issued Israeli visas.

A Dutch student studying at Birzeit University had her passport stamped in Ramallah by artist Khaled Jarrar. She likened having this stamp to having one from Checkpoint Charlie, the famous crossing point between East and West Berlin. It's not a valid passport stamp, but a statement in support of a U.N. bid. i i

A Dutch student studying at Birzeit University had her passport stamped in Ramallah by artist Khaled Jarrar. She likened having this stamp to having one from Checkpoint Charlie, the famous crossing point between East and West Berlin. It's not a valid passport stamp, but a statement in support of a U.N. bid. Jonathan Levinson/For NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Jonathan Levinson/For NPR
A Dutch student studying at Birzeit University had her passport stamped in Ramallah by artist Khaled Jarrar. She likened having this stamp to having one from Checkpoint Charlie, the famous crossing point between East and West Berlin. It's not a valid passport stamp, but a statement in support of a U.N. bid.

A Dutch student studying at Birzeit University had her passport stamped in Ramallah by artist Khaled Jarrar. She likened having this stamp to having one from Checkpoint Charlie, the famous crossing point between East and West Berlin. It's not a valid passport stamp, but a statement in support of a U.N. bid.

Jonathan Levinson/For NPR

But inspired by the announcement of the possible Palestinian push at the United Nations for recognition, Jarrar hopes his stamp will remind people that this is a nation waiting to be born. He says Palestinians have been encouraging.

"They love it and there are many, many supporters for this idea," he says.

A United Nations Bid

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is behind the drive at the U.N., though Palestinians are still mulling over what exactly they will ask for.

The Palestinians could simply seek U.N. membership as the state of Palestine, which would very likely be approved in the General Assembly. Or they could seek full, official recognition in the Security Council — a move that would almost certainly be vetoed by the United States.

Hosam Zumlot, an official with the West Bank's ruling party Fatah, says peace talks are at a standstill at the moment and the U.N. bid will push the negotiations forward.

"How do you undo the past? How do you start afresh?" he says. "By insuring that Israel understands clearly what the international community means. Such a resolution, such an admission, will send a clear message to Israel that the international community is really serious about the two-state solution. It's not just bluffing."

If it happens, he says, it will be "a moral, legal and political transformation."

'It Can Backfire'

That's exactly what worries Israel, which has launched a diplomatic offensive. It hopes to persuade countries to vote against the Palestinian bid, arguing it imperils the peace process.

A Palestinian postal worker carries mailbags out to trucks for delivery. In advance of a possible Palestinian drive for statehood at the U.N. in September, international mail now goes through Jordan instead of Israel. The post office also has new logo and slogan: "We Emerge Again." i i

A Palestinian postal worker carries mailbags out to trucks for delivery. In advance of a possible Palestinian drive for statehood at the U.N. in September, international mail now goes through Jordan instead of Israel. The post office also has new logo and slogan: "We Emerge Again." Jonathan Levinson/For NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Jonathan Levinson/For NPR
A Palestinian postal worker carries mailbags out to trucks for delivery. In advance of a possible Palestinian drive for statehood at the U.N. in September, international mail now goes through Jordan instead of Israel. The post office also has new logo and slogan: "We Emerge Again."

A Palestinian postal worker carries mailbags out to trucks for delivery. In advance of a possible Palestinian drive for statehood at the U.N. in September, international mail now goes through Jordan instead of Israel. The post office also has new logo and slogan: "We Emerge Again."

Jonathan Levinson/For NPR

"A Palestinian state can only emerge out of a negotiation, an agreement," says Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry. "There is no way a country, a state, can be imposed from the outside. It doesn't work. This, in turn, will create a lot of frustration on the Palestinian side and it can backfire."

Palmor warns that dashed Palestinian expectations that U.N. recognition will lead to tangible change on the ground could lead to violence.

"They are not telling their own people that this will bring them nothing, and finally people will be frustrated ... and this can explode at any time," he says.

But back in Ramallah, the mood is far more optimistic. The U.N. bid is seen as the culmination of a two-year plan put in place by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to have a Palestinian state in practice if not in name. Already a new currency is being designed along with passports, identity cards and license plates for cars.

At the Palestinian post office, Acting General Director Fathi Shbak says this week the Palestinian postal authority signed a deal to have all its overseas deliveries go through Jordan instead of Israel. The postal authority is also instituting a system of ZIP codes and has refurbished offices around the West Bank.

The new logo of the Palestine post? "We Emerge Again."

He says the changes have been directly ordered by the Palestinian government so that the day an independent country is announced they are ready.

It's also inspired Shbak to design a stamp only to be issued when Palestine gains recognition at the United Nations. For now, Shbak says he's keeping the details secret, but he hopes it will be released in September.

"We're not asking for the sky," he says. "Just for our country to be recognized with its borders."

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