Friday, October 17, 2014

Should Western European Countries Recognize an Independent State of Palestine: Would it Help?

In the wake of the British parliament's non-binding resolution to recognize a Palestinian state, Swedish Prime Minster Stefan Lofven's announcement that Sweden will recognize a Palestinian state,  the French foreign minister's hinting that France might join in, and John Kerry's attempting to delay a Palestinain U.N. application for statehood until after the U.S. mid-term elections, the New York Times has assembled seven prominent panelists to debate: "Should nations recognize a Palestinian state?"

In reality this is more like "state your position for the record" than a debate.  Still, how do they line up?

Nathan Thrall is a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group. He notes with some resignation that 134 countries have already recognized a Palestinian state, mostly after the PLO's 1988 declaration of independence, and that this has had no effect whatsoever on negotiations to date.  He is skeptical that the declaration of a few more stragglers, mostly in Western Europe, will change very much. I count him as a shoulder shrug.

Efraim Halevy was director of the Mossad (Israel's agency for intelligence collection, covert operations, and counter-terrorism) from 1998-2002.  In 2002 he was appointed to the Israeli National Security Counsel and was an advisor to Ariel Sharon. He suggests that recognition of an independent Palestinian state "will cause irreparable damage to the Palestinians."  Why?  It's not clear. He essentially says, trust me, on the ground it will have no effect, and the international community will soon move on from this issue, and will "not invest power, prestige, and funds to chaperone an artificial 'state.'"  On the other hand, and seemingly contradictory, he says the PA may fail if recognition is granted (he fails to explain why this should be the case more so than now) and that Israel may have serious legal, international, and economic problems as a result.  The first half of his argument sounds like he's hoping (perhaps unrealistically?); the second half sounds like a plus for Palestinians, not a negative. I count him as a "No."

Caroline Glick is the American born senior deputy editor of the Jerusalem Post. She articulates the Zionist greater Israel position which she staked out in her book The Israeli Solution: a One State Plan for Peace in the Middle East.  Israel is a Jewish state and will always be so, she says; the Jews have a superior right to the land, including Judea and Samaria; and once Israel asserts sovereignty over all the land, the Palestinians will accept their subordinate status under Jewish sovereignty.  In other words, states should not recognize an independent Palestinian state because there will be no independent Palestinian state.  Here is Glick:
Like his coalition partner, the Hamas terror master Khaled Mashaal, ... Mahmoud Abbas has pledged, repeatedly, over decades that he will never, ever recognize Israel as the Jewish state, meaning he will never recognize Israel. ....So when Lofven recognized “Palestine,” he joined the Palestinian campaign to destroy Israel. He used the language of the “two-state solution” to reject the Jewish state..... They know that if Israel succumbs to their political and economic warfare and cedes its capital city and historic heartland to its enemies, it will be unable to defend its remaining territory. And they know that like Gaza, those areas will quickly be taken over by Hamas, which will use them to launch a war of annihilation against Israel in conjunction with its jihadist brethren in surrounding states. In other words, they know that in recognizing “Palestine” they are not helping the cause of peace. They are advancing Israel’s ruin. If they were even remotely interested in freedom and peace, the Europeans would be doing the opposite. They would be working to strengthen and expand Israel, the only stable zone of freedom and peace in the region. They would abandon the phony two-state solution.
The "won't recognize Israel as the Jewish state, meaning he will never recognize Israel" is easy to gloss over.  However, it means "Israel intends to remain a Jewish state, no matter that the Palestinian population may be 50 percent of the population and growing." Israel will remain a Jewish state that continues to preference Jews over non-Jews in all aspects of life.  This is the hegemony of the Third Temple. And Israel will have to defend this position with the IDF....forever.  I count her as "No, no, a thousand times no." 

Avital Leibovich, is director of the Jerusalem office for the American Jewish Congress (AJC) and a former spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Forces. She, apparently speaking officially for the AJC because her comments are featured on the AJC website, agrees that states should not recognize an independent Palestinian state because it would "lead to false expectations." She goes on to say that Palestine has not made the basic conditions for statehood.  What she doesn't say, but which is understood, is that Israel will never allow Palestinians to meet the basic conditions for statehood.  Leibovich's comments mirror the official Israeli government position. Her position is identical to Caroline Glick's in reality. I count her as "No." 

Omar Barghouti, was born in Qatar, grew up in Egypt and now lives in Ramallah.  He is a founder of the boycott movement (BDS) against Israel. He has fear that there may be some truth to what Halevy says: that the vote for a Palestinian state may be taken as a fig leaf for an apartheid state that doesn't really deliver sovereignty to Palestinians. Palestinians need "the full menu" of human rights, says Barghouti; they need a full right of self-determination within a state of Palestine, full and equal rights for Palestinians within Israel, and a right of return to Israel for Palestinians expelled in 1948. In other words, Israel as a Jewish state that privileges Jews over all others within its borders, and a state that occupies a Palestinian state in any way, must end.  I count him as "Sure, but I'm not jumping up and down."

Richard Ottoway, is a conservative member of the British House of Commons and a member of its Foreign Affairs Select Committee. He says he has stood with Israel since 1967 when he helped clear mines with the Royal Navy in the Straits of Tiran, and through all its wars since then.... but he's fed up.
I cannot sit and watch the Israelis grabbing successive stretches of land in the West Bank. The annexation of 990 acres of Palestinian land just a few days after the conclusion of the cease-fire agreement with Hamas was a provocation. It has outraged me. Although Gaza and the West Bank have been fractured with internal rivalries, although Hamas has fired thousands of rockets indiscriminately toward Israel, although it has used its own people as human shields, I could not have voted against the motion to recognize Palestinian statehood. Under normal circumstances, I would have done so. But such was my anger over Israel’s behavior in recent months that I abstained last Monday. My abstention is my message of protest to the Israeli government. The Parliament’s decision to recognize Palestine is mainly symbolic. However, I truly hope that one day the Israelis and the Palestinians will reach an agreement that will bring lasting peace.
Note that Ottoway did not vote on this resolution in the British Parliament, he abstained.  I count him as "We've got to do something!"

Nadia Hijab, is the director of Al-Shabaka, the Institute for Palestine Studies. She is located in Washington, D.C.  The Institute for Palestine Studies was founded in Beirut in 1963 and today has offices in Beirut, Ramallah, Paris, and Washington, D.C. The main function of the Washington office is to produce the quarterly Journal of Palestine Studies, published and distributed by the University of California Press at Berkeley. The Washington office is also responsible for the Institute's educational outreach in the United States.  Hijab agrees with Bargouti that "the problem lies in how Palestinian rights are defined, and who is doing the defining." She is agnostic on whether a two state model is better or a one state solution is better: "Either outcome would be acceptable if it guaranteed equal rights of all citizens." 
Major European states might come to recognize Palestine, enabling the P.L.O. to pursue legal complaints in European courts. But the P.L.O. already has legal tools it is not using to further Palestinian rights. By contrast, the rights-based demands of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (or B.D.S.) movement – which takes no position on statehood – resonate with people everywhere and it has been effective in putting a price to Israel’s occupation. 
The truth is, there is no political outcome in the foreseeable future. European recognition of a Palestinian state could well pressure Israel to behave in accordance with international law. But whatever the ultimate outcome, one state or two, you can’t go wrong with rights.
I count her as "Hey, let's keep our eyes on the ball of equal rights for all citizens; aka shoulder shrug"

So on the question "Should more states recognize Palestine as an independent state and would it help?" what do the Times panelists tell us?  I score this as: Noes (3); Ayes (1); Shoulder shrug (2); and "We've got to do something" (1).... which adds up to inertia and more status quo.

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