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NYT takes on Europe’s recognition of a Palestinian state

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The question of Palestine, or rather the question of Palestinian statehood is plaguing the Israeli government and now the pages of the New York Times. In a round table of op-eds Nadia Hijab, Avital Leibovich, Efraim Halevy, Nathan Thrall, Caroline B. Glick, Richard Ottaway, and Omar Barghouti, weigh in on the domino effect of declarations of sovereignty over the occupied territories from the past month. Sweden recognized the state of Palestine, which was followed in a week’s time by the symbolic vote of the British House of Commons and an unexpected nod of approval from France. Indeed while “Palestine” was announced by the governing body of Palestinians, the P.L.O. (Palestinian Liberation Organization) back in 1988, this is Western Europe’s first major foray into sizing up the future of Israel/Palestine since Britain’s drafting of the Balfour Declaration in 1917.

While the impact of recognizing a Palestinian state has not caused any sharp or meaningful changes on the ground, and bears no authority to alter the status of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, it is raising questions and puncturing holes into the long-standing, Oslo-initiative two-state framework. In the pages of the Times, for example, pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian rights experts both shrug over the usefulness of recognizing the state of Palestine.

For the pro-Israel commentators, recognizing Palestine is “premature” and detracts from Israel’s longstanding position of only allowing for a Palestinian state as the fruit of a negotiated agreement. Leibovich, formally the Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson and presently with the American Jewish Committee, thinks recognizing Palestine is preemption,

“Any nation wishing to declare independence should meet three essential elements: a strong central government, control of defined territory and security.”

Leibovich goes on to explain Palestinian efforts are better-spent state-building and addressing Israeli security concerns. But, because “the Palestinian Authority does not yet meet any of them,” she finds them ill-prepared for self-government. Of course prepared or not for emancipation, this line of reasoning is moot as Leibovich herself noted the recognitions were “nonbinding.”

Paternalism aside, Leibovich then outlined a sort of doomsday scenario where the rockets from Hamas could spill over into attacks from the West Bank—and nipping that in the bud takes precedent over any call to statehood, she wrote. The other pro-Israel voices more or less concured. Efraim HaLevy, former Mossad chief wrote,

“There is a distinct possibility that the new ‘state,’ devoid of effective organs, will fail to function and the entire edifice of the Fatah-led ‘government’ will collapse.”

And Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post played it fast and loose and stated, inaccurately that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has never recognized Israel. Therefore, she claimed, he is undeserving of recognition himself.

However, since the P.L.O.’s 1988 declaration of statehood, their official position is for two states, meaning an acceptance of the state of Israel for an out of touch Glick. This position has been re-stated on numerous occasions, in a multitude of mediums.

After publication, the Times made a correction to Glick, The newest version reads, “Mahmoud Abbas has pledged, repeatedly, over decades that he will never, ever recognize Israel as the Jewish state, meaning he will never recognize Israel.” They post-scripted her article with the following note: “An earlier version said Abbas had pledged never to recognize Israel itself.”

While the most convincing argument mustered against Europe’s recognition trend is that Palestine should only come into fruition vis-à-vis negotiations, the argument in favor of statehood is no more convincing. This is because the pro-Palestinian rights analysts are not too keen on recognition of statehood either.

“The problem lies in how Palestinian rights are defined and who is doing the defining,” wrote Nadia Hijab as she notes that while Europe is pledging support to Palestinians on one hand, in the other, “Britain and Sweden’s trade with Israel is on the rise.” Although ultimately she concludes “European recognition of a Palestinian state could well pressure Israel to behave in accordance with international law.”

“If it is the first step toward recognizing the irrefutable right of the Palestinian people to self determination, then it would be a positive contribution,” wrote Omar Barghouti taking a more critical line,

“But, if it is, as implied, solely meant to resuscitate the comatose version of the ‘two state solution’ which, as dictated by Israel, omits basic Palestinian rights, then it would be yet another act of British complicity in bestowing legitimacy on Israel’s unjust order.”

And herein lies the complication of Europe’s recognition of Palestinian statehood. No one is quite sure just what type of state is being recognized. Is it the one based on international law, which guarantees Jerusalem as part of this state and a just outcome for refugees based on return and compensation? Or is it the state of Bantustans threaded together by a convoluted double lane highway system and country roads that run underneath settlements?

However, what is clear is that recognizing Palestine is seen as a strike against Israel. And perhaps it’s not as much about a future independent Palestine as it is Europe’s reprimand for Israel’s summer war in Gaza.

Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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22 Responses

  1. David Doppler on October 20, 2014, 11:01 am

    So I gather this appeared in the on-line version of the Times on the 16th, but it did not appear in my electronic version of the paper received via subscription here on the West Coast that day. Your article refers to it appearing in “the pages of the New York Times,” and I wonder if it was in the paper version distributed in New York, or the e version distributed there or elsewhere?

    I suppose the editorial board gets to decide what appears where in different versions, and I wonder how they consider the issues primarily addressed here on Mondoweiss in making those allocations. I can see them segmenting their markets by medium and by level of protest over coverage or lack their of, but I’ve seen nothing addressing that possibility.

    It’s been helpful in the past when Mondoweiss has been specific about where the Times publishes certain controversial pieces, but I’m not sure how thoroughly you check all the different versions published by the Times. A note on your methods would be appreciated.

  2. walktallhangloose on October 20, 2014, 11:08 am

    “Recognition is non-binding”.

    Not according to Article 6 of the Montevideo Convention, which is part of customary international law on the Rights and Duties of states : “Recognition is unconditional and irrevocable.”

    The Montevideo Convention applies to sovereign states (sometimes spelt States) who control (are sovereign over) their territory. Unfortunately, Palestine does not control its territory: Israel does. In calling Palestine ‘a state’ the UN and those states recognizing Palestine seem to have created a new kind of statehood for Palestine: an entity that should be a sovereign State, but is not because it is controlled by another State.

    • talknic on October 21, 2014, 9:17 am

      @ walktallhangloose “The Montevideo Convention applies to sovereign states who control (are sovereign over) their territory”

      It doesn’t actually refer to ‘sovereignty’, only to “states”.

      ARTICLE 1

      The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: a ) a permanent population; b ) a defined territory; c ) government; and d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.

      ALSO NOTE:

      ARTICLE 4

      States are juridically equal, enjoy the same rights, and have equal capacity in their exercise. The rights of each one do not depend upon the power which it possesses to assure its exercise, but upon the simple fact of its existence as a person under international law.

      ” Unfortunately, Palestine does not control its territory: Israel does.”

      The Military Occupation of the territory of a state in part or whole does not negate the state or it’s sovereignty over its rightful territory. See Schwebel/Lauterpatch/Herzog A state may ‘restore’ sovereignty over its territory by war if necessary, especially if UNSC Chapt VI resolutions fail and the restoring state or states lodge a declaration of intent with the UNSC under Chapt VII. The Arab states were the last countries to ever lodge a valid declaration of war with the UNSC, May 15th 1948 on their invasion of “Palestine” There was no UNSC condemnation of the Arab states declaration or their actions against Jewish/Israeli military forces in non-Israeli territory on May 15th 1948

      A state may not ‘acquire’ territory by force, ANY force and; it is illegal for states to recognize territory acquired by war!

      “Palestine ‘a state’ the UN and those states recognizing Palestine seem to have created a new kind of statehood for Palestine…etc “

      Not at all. Put simply, the State of Palestine is not independent of Israeli occupation.

      Under the Laws of War the occupied are dependent on the occupier for protection and shortfalls in necessities brought about by occupation To occupy another’s territory is completely voluntary and the Occupying Power is bound by a “sacred trust”

      • walktallhangloose on October 21, 2014, 2:53 pm

        According to Montevideo, a state should have government. I take that to mean it must govern its territory, that is, have effective sovereignty over it. When Israel was created on 15 May 1948 it had a Government that controlled the territory it was claiming, and was therefore recognized as a state. If it had not been in control of its territory, I doubt very much it would have been recognized by other states. A state in the sense of Montevideo must be independent, or sovereign as I call it.

        Palestine had no government. When the all-Palestine government was set up, it controlled only Gaza, and did not last long. Some of the Arab governments recognized it, but no-one else. Apart from that, Palestine has never had a government that controlled any territory. It has never been an independent state. It has never had any sovereignty that could be restored. Nor was it called a state before its declaration in 1988. That is why I say that the UN has created a new type of state, a territory that should be an independent state but isn’t. I believe that Palestine, because it is not independent, is not eligible to become a Member State of the UN, but we will see what happens about that.

  3. a blah chick on October 20, 2014, 12:59 pm

    Why are they soliciting comments from that awful Glick woman?

    • Horizontal on October 21, 2014, 12:43 pm

      “Because there are a lot of Glicks out there controlling the dialogue,” is the first thing that comes to my mind.

      But, yes, she is awful.

  4. pabelmont on October 20, 2014, 1:46 pm

    “For the pro-Israel commentators, recognizing Palestine is “premature” and detracts from Israel’s longstanding position of only allowing for a Palestinian state as the fruit of a negotiated agreement.”

    Well, well, again we are reminded that many people feel OK about asserting “Israel’s longstanding position” as it it were the be-all and end-all of any discussion involving Israel.

    Well, in that case, to be fair, as we all should be, shouldn’t we all say that recognizing Israel is premature unless and until it occur as a result of a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians? And even if we earlier grant Israel’s RtE, no recognition of Israel’s proper territory can occur before such an agreement occur. So Israel is (at best) left with a territory entirely held by military occupation but without any portion of it held as-of-right the wqay most nations hold their proper territory.

    It almost makes me sad to contemplate dear, sweet, deprived Israel — until I contemplate the still more deprived Palestine.

    But, returning to the issue — recognition by EU and UK of the Palestinian State — the lack of clarity in what it means is no defect: after all, all Balfour said (promised) in 1917 was a Jewish homeland in Palestine, and the lacking detail was fiulled in by later events. same could happen here. That’s what BDS (and especially S) is for.

    • talknic on October 21, 2014, 10:15 am

      ” shouldn’t we all say that recognizing Israel is premature unless and until it occur as a result of a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians? “

      Why? The countries of the EU and the UK have already recognized Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Israel. Whatever remain/ed/s of Palestine after the proclaimed independence and recognition of Israel, is by default A) NOT Israeli, B) the remains of Palestine, be it a state, sovereignty, non-state entity or whatever the Palestinians care to make it.

      That the Palestinians are now willing to forgo 78% of their rightful territory, is incredibly generous….

      Say …. what is Israel offered the Palestinians towards peace in the past 66 years?

      To swap occupied Palestinian territory for occupied Palestinian territory, so that Israel can legally acquire Palestinian territory it has illegally acquired by force. Which doesn’t actually amount to an offer.

      It’s a demand. A demand that has no legal basis what so ever.

      • amigo on October 21, 2014, 2:54 pm

        From the ICJ advisory opinion 2004 by Justice Khasawneh.

        10. There is no doubt that the Green Line was initially no more than
        an armistice line in an agreement that expressly stipulated that its provisions
        would not be “interpreted as prejudicing, in any sense, an ultimate
        political settlement between the Parties” and that “the Armistice Demarcation
        Lines defined in articles V and VI of [the] Agreement [were] agreed
        upon by the Parties without prejudice to future territorial settlements or
        boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto” (Advisory
        Opinion, para. 72).
        11. It is not without irony that prominent Israeli jurists were arguing
        before the 1967 war that the General Armistice agreements were sui
        generis, were in fact more than mere armistice agreements, could not be
        changed except with the acceptance of the Security Council. Whatever
        the true significance of that line today, two facts are indisputable:
        (1) The Green line, to quote Sir Arthur Watts, “is the starting line from
        which is measured the extent of Israel’s occupation of non-Israeli
        territory” (CR200413, p. 64, para. 35). There is no implication that
        the Green Line is to be a permanent frontier.
        (2) Attempts at denigrating the significance of the Green Line would in
        the nature of things work both ways. Israel cannot shed doubts upon
        the title of others without expecting its own title and the territorial
        expanse of that title beyond the partition resolution not to be called
        into question. Ultimately it is through stabilizing its legal relationship
        with the Palestinians and not through constructing walls that its
        security would be assured.”Justice Khasawneh

        Israel has no legitimate claim beyond it,s self declared Borders.As the ICJ,s decision shows , Israel , prior to 67 , was arguing in favour of their self declared orders and demanding that any change to those borders be approved by the UNSC.The Palestinians should be negotiating based on the 48 Borders , then the conversation can be about just how much land Israel has already stolen .

        You legal eagles feel free to correct me if I am wrong,

      • walktallhangloose on October 21, 2014, 3:00 pm

        amigo, you are 100% right (from a legal sparrow)

      • talknic on October 21, 2014, 8:49 pm

        @ amigo

        ICJ advisory opinion 2004 by Justice Khasawneh.


        Idiots for Israel will claim it is a non binding ICJ opinion, oblivious to the fact that in the court’s opinion were it asked for a judgement it would most certainly not favour Israel’s nonsense legal positions, which are themselves based only on opinions almost entirely given by people AFTER they have left office *

        Furthermore although it is a non-binding ICJ opinion given whilst actually serving on the judiciary, the Laws and UN Charter provisions referenced ARE binding. Similarly the Laws and UN Charter provisions re-affirmed and emphasized in any UN/UNGA/UNSC resolution are in binding.

        * e.g., Schwebel/Lauterpacht’s opinion on the ‘acquisition’ of territory by war (right of conquest), actually talks about ‘restoring’ the sovereign in an illegal war.

        Israel has A) never lost any territory to B) ‘restore’ and C) none of Israel’s preemptive wars have ever been legalized by declaration** under UNSC Chapt VII. Of course in Schwebel/Lauterpacht’s opinion, Syria has the right to restore its sovereignty over the Golan

        ** 6. To legalize a war it must be declared by that branch of the government entrusted by the constitution with this power.

  5. seafoid on October 20, 2014, 2:27 pm

    “Any nation wishing to declare independence should meet three essential elements: a strong central government, control of defined territory and security.”

    Says who?

    The bots have spent the last 70 years pauperizing the Palestinians but it doesn’t matter. They had their chance and it’s gone. Zionism has nothing to say.

  6. Horizontal on October 20, 2014, 2:32 pm

    I remember when this NYT story was posted, I read Caroline Glick’s over-the-top pro-Israeli screed and could go no further. What rubbish, yet this is what passes for “deep thinking” on this subject here in America. No wonder we live in a house of circus mirrors with the rest of world scratching their heads at our self-destructive antics.

    Recognizing a Palestinian State is a tool, not an end in itself. Of course final borders and conditions will have to be agreed-upon by the parties involved. First, a bit of a reality-check for the Israelis is in order, since so many seem convinced that there really is no such thing as a Palestinian to begin with. That, and a large dose of anti-Arab racism combine to make direct talks with the current regime a waste of time.

    It’s like telling a battered wife she must work things out with her abusive husband. Maybe so, but first a visit to the police is in order and the authorities have to step in to see that the abusive behavior stops. This, the international community has so far failed to do.

    • bryan on October 21, 2014, 2:39 am

      Well said, Horizontal. Though surely “a visit to the police” and the “authorities have to step in” would be “premature”? She should just accept the continued beating, without complaint.

      • Horizontal on October 21, 2014, 12:40 pm

        Well, I suppose they would have to go to the police together since her going to them alone would constitute “unilateral action.” And since her husband is Jewish, she’s obviously an anti-Semite and hates his Jewishness; his beating the crap out of her regularly having nothing to do with it.

        Bryan, there is so much wrong with the current “logic” governing our treatment of Israel that I’d love to be in some room where these policies are being forged and say over and over, “Seriously?” It’s enough to make Kafka throw up and head for Miami.

  7. seafoid on October 20, 2014, 2:37 pm

    Caroline Glick would have been at home in the Vichy Government in WW2.

  8. Eva Smagacz on October 20, 2014, 6:51 pm

    I left several comments – especially under Glick’s article, but only first four were ever published.

  9. Eva Smagacz on October 20, 2014, 6:53 pm

    I hate not having EDIT button.
    What I meant was that only four comments in total, and none of mine, were ever published under Glick’s article

  10. JLewisDickerson on October 20, 2014, 11:48 pm

    RE: “[I]f it is, as implied, solely meant to resuscitate the comatose version of the ‘two state solution’ which, as dictated by Israel, omits basic Palestinian rights . . .” ~ Omar Barghouti

    MY COMMENT: More often than not these days, the two-state solution is being used the same way poor Bernie was used in Weekend at Bernie’s (1989).

    FROM WIKIPEDIA (Weekend at Bernie’s):

    [EXCERPTS] . . . Larry Wilson (McCarthy) and Richard Parker (Silverman) are two low-level employees at an insurance corporation in New York City. Larry is laid-back, while Richard struggles to be at ease with women. While going over actuarial reports, the earnest Richard discovers mismatched payments. Richard and Larry take their findings to their boss Bernie Lomax (Terry Kiser), who commends them for discovering insurance fraud and invites them to his Hamptons beach house for the weekend. Unbeknownst to Larry and Richard, Bernie is behind the fraud and nervously arranges with his mob partners to have them both killed that weekend and arrange it as a murder-suicide. However, the gangsters double-cross Bernie and decide to have him killed instead, citing his reckless greed and his affair with the mob boss Vito’s girlfriend as the motivation.
    Bernie arrives at the island before Larry and Richard and speaks to the appointed hitman Paulie (Don Calfa) on the phone, to plan out the murders and establish an alibi, unaware that the conversation is being recorded on Bernie’s answering machine, as he picked up the phone haphazardly. Bernie then writes a confession and plants cash implicating Larry and Richard in the insurance fraud. Paulie arrives, kills Bernie by injecting poison in his buttocks, then planting heroin on him to make it appear as a drug overdose. When Larry and Richard arrive at the beach house, they find their boss dead. Before they can call the police, however, guests arrive for a party that passes through Bernie’s house every weekend. To Larry’s and Richard’s amazement, they are all too engrossed in their own partying to notice that their host is deceased, with Bernie’s dark sunglasses and dopey grin from the fatal injection concealing his lifeless state.
    Fearing they will be implicated in their boss’s death, Larry proposes that he and Richard maintain the facade
    , a notion that Richard finds absurd. Only the arrival of Richard’s office crush, Gwen Saunders (Catherine Mary Stewart), convinces him to postpone notifying the police. . .
    . . . The next morning, Richard is appalled to discover that Larry is maintaining the illusion that Bernie is alive by manipulating his corpse. The two bicker about alerting the police until Richard attempts to call the police himself but instead accidentally activates the phone message detailing the plot against them. They then realize that alerting the police will implicate them. Unaware of the circumstances of Bernie’s death, they mistakenly believe that they are still the targets of a mob hit, and decide to use Bernie’s corpse as a prop for protection. . .

    SOURCE –'s

  11. talknic on October 21, 2014, 11:15 am

    “Any nation wishing to declare independence should meet three essential elements: a strong central government, control of defined territory …..”

    Uh huh …. so Israel must have defined its territory May 15th 1948. By default what lay outside that defined territory was never Israeli.

    Glad Leibovich got that sorted.

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