International recognition of Palestine can kickstart peace process

UK Foreign Minister David Cameron last month announced that his country was considering recognizing a Palestinian state. The US State Department has put out a similar message. This is being touted as Israel faces an ongoing genocide case in front of the International Court of Justice.

Israel is supposed to present a report to the court by Feb. 23 showing the measures it has taken to prevent genocide in Gaza. Any observer can see that the killing of innocent civilians has not stopped; in fact, it has only accelerated. The International Court of Justice will take the issue to the UN Security Council. But any resolution that is not in favor of Israel will likely be vetoed by the US. What could happen next is a vote in the UN General Assembly on giving Palestine full membership. This would be the right course of action.

Israel has been dragging out this issue since the time of Oslo, when it got from the Palestinians a recognition of Israel but it never recognized a state of Palestine in return. All the Palestinians got was Israeli recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. The Israelis kept finding reasons to avoid having to recognize a state. They claimed that the Palestinians should recognize Israel as a Jewish state. However, when Egypt and Jordan established diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv and recognized the state of Israel, they were not asked to do the same. Why are the Palestinians only offered this specific type of recognition and what does it mean?

Israel has used all means possible to avoid talking about a Palestinian state. It first used divide and conquer, so it propped up Hamas to have the excuse that Palestinians are not united and it cannot have a discussion with a party that is committed to the destruction of the state of Israel. The other excuse Israelis give is that the Palestinian Authority is inept and hence Palestinians are unable to govern themselves.

Anyone who observes the Palestinian issue closely can easily conclude that Israelis do not want a Palestinian state. Now, they are finally spelling it out. In December, the Israeli ambassador to the UK said it bluntly during a TV interview. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bragged to Likud party lawmakers that he was the “only one” who could prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state. Of course, the Likud is committed to settlements, which means it is opposed to the concept of a Palestinian state on what it considers to be the land of Israel.

Recently, Israeli officials have found another way to push back against the idea of a Palestinian state. They say it would be “rewarding terrorism.” This way, the “terrorists” would have achieved their goal. However, Israelis have resorted to terrorism throughout their history. Menachem Begin killed innocent people and so did Yitzhak Shamir, but Israel was still founded. In fact, both Begin and Shamir went on to become prime minister.

The international community today recognizes that the occupation is no longer sustainable. Regional stability requires a Palestinian state. However, the world should also recognize that, if the issue is left to the Israelis, it will never happen. A Palestinian state with well-defined borders should be imposed on Israel. This would push Tel Aviv to discuss the other details, such as the shape of the state, the settlements, the issue of refugees’ right of return, the security arrangements, etc. However, without a solid starting point, which is the recognition of a Palestinian state along the borders of 1967, the negotiations will be as futile as they have been in the 30 years since the Oslo Accords.

The mistake that the Arab world committed in 2002 was that it offered an initiative to Israel but did not push for it. The Arab Peace Initiative offers Israel unanimous recognition and normalization in return for a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. The Israelis did not even accept discussing it.

To be fair, even if today Israel had a prime minister who believed in the two-state solution, it is very unlikely he would be able to deliver on that. The reason is that the settler movement would be able to block it. Today, the mood in Israel is not in favor of giving the Palestinians a state. The thinking is that the Gazans were under blockade for 17 years and yet were still able to carry out the Oct. 7 attacks. What would happen if they had a state of their own and were positioned strategically on the hills overlooking Tel Aviv? So, a Palestinian state should be imposed on Israel.

This is the time for the Arab world to rectify the mistake it made in 2002. Today, Arab countries should push and use all the leverage they have with the US to pressure it into recognizing the state of Palestine. This would facilitate an international recognition of Palestine. Once a Palestinian state is a fait accompli, the Israelis will have no choice but to seal a deal.

A Palestinian state not only involves the fate of the Palestinians, but also the stability of the region. Palestine has long been a central cause for the Arab and Muslim worlds. It has also been a cause that all radical movements across the region have used to gain legitimacy. It is now time to pressure Israel into peace and the first step toward achieving that is through international recognition of the state of Palestine.

Read the article, originally published by Arab News