Today 135 U.N. member states recognize the state of Palestine as declared in 1988 by the Palestinian Liberation Organization. A renewed round of activity around recognition of Palestine was initiated by Sweden’s newly elected center-left government. During his October 3, 2014 inaugural address, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said that a two-state solution was the only way to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and “Sweden will therefore recognize the state of Palestine,” which Sweden officially did last October 30.
Sweden’s recognition triggered the parliaments in a wave of European states — United Kingdom, Denmark, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, as well as the parliament of the European Union – to pass advisory resolutions recommending that the appropriate head of government formally recognize the state of Palestine.
The European responded to a campaign of active lobbying by the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). There are two obvious drivers that are giving Palestinians traction among Europeans:
• Wanting to stop the recurrence of carnage inflicted on the 1.8 million people in the Gaza Strip by the powerful, high-tech Israeli army, air force, and navy.
• Responding to heightened awareness of the dispossession and oppression of the Palestinians by the 47-year Israeli occupation that the BDS movement has forced Western states to confront.
The Palestinian drive for recognition was stalled on December 30 when a Jordanian/Palestinian draft resolution was defeated in the U.N. Security Council (UNSC). The draft resolution set a 12 month deadline to adopt a “just, lasting and comprehensive peaceful solution” that ends the Israeli occupation and “fulfills the vision” of a Palestinian state alongside Israel based on the 1967 Green Line border “with mutually agreed, limited, equivalent land swaps” and “Jerusalem as the shared capital.” The resolution also called for a “just and agreed solution to the Palestine refugee question.”
The draft resolution was defeated due in large part to intensive lobbying by Israel and the United States. Nigeria and Rwanda were pressured to abstain, thus depriving the resolution of enough votes to pass. Diplomacy allowed the Obama Administration to avoid the embarrassment of casting another veto at Israel’s behest.
The defeat in the UNSC was not unexpected, and does not end the Palestinian campaign for international recognition. After all, the international recognition of the state of Palestine is supported by all significant Palestinian political organizations in the West Bank and Gaza – including Hamas’ political fraction, as well as over one hundred Palestinian leaders and civic organizations. Palestinians see that the effort is inching to success by gaining more international support year-by-year, and they have shown over the past 47 years that will stand the course.
In fact, the PLO is already preparing a new resolution that they intend to submit to the UNSC in the next few weeks. The Palestinians are counting on support from new UNSC members who took their seats January 1 to move recognition one step closer. And once again the United States holds the Palestinian’s fate is in its diplomatic hands.
The Israeli government will be lobbying the Obama Administration to kill the new Palestinian draft resolution; even it means the United States will have to use its veto. A majority of Israelis want to prevent a Palestinian state, but not all. About a thousand Israeli public figures wrote:
“Israel’s security and existence depend on the existence of a Palestinian state side by side with Israel. Israel should recognize the state of Palestine and Palestine should recognize the state of Israel, based on the June 4, 1967 borders.”
The Israeli Peace Camp may be small, but it includes prominent Israelis.
For the moment, AIPAC and other parts of the Israeli lobby will be working to kill the new Palestinian resolution. But the opposition is weakening as J-Street and American for Peace Now, at the edge of the Israeli lobby, are looking to support a U.N. resolution that acknowledges Israeli needs.
More important is the recognition that at some future time, the United States will stop automatically doing Israeli’s bidding. A gradual but dramatic change in U.S. policy is suggested by two trends. One is the continual decline in the American empire to a point that it will no longer be able to support Israel when it is not in the U.S.’s own interest. The other trend is the weakening of the Israeli lobby that follows the turning away from Israel by younger Jewish Americans. Peter Beinart described this effect in his 2012 book, “The Crisis of Zionism,” as Israel becomes more racist and more religious, and less identifiable with liberal American values.
In fact, this may already be happening. In 2010 David Petraeus famously warned the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Congress that America’s support for Israel undermines America accomplishing its goals in the Middle East. The fight over Netanyahu’s speech to Congress has brought consternation to the Israel lobby and renewed military criticism of America’s Israel policy. And in late 2014 Jeffrey Goldberg noted the anger between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu is seriously damaging the Israel-United States “special relationship,” so much so that Goldberg predicted “the Obama administration may actually withdraw diplomatic cover for Israel at the United Nations.”
It seems obvious that the Palestinian solidarity movement, motivated by Palestinian suffering and the historical mandate to create a state for their people, and Jewish Americans who say “not in our name,” because they oppose Israel acting illegally and committing war crimes in the name of all Jews world-wide and declare Israel does not speak for or represent them, will keep pressuring the United States to recognize, or at least accept, the State of Palestine. Establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian state – or any resolution to the conflict that upholds the universal rights of Palestinians and Israelis – would go some distance to reducing the suffering of many Palestinians. And a Palestinian state takes us closer to ending the Israeli occupation that dispossesses and oppresses the 4.5 million people living in the West Bank and Gaza, over 2 million of whom are refugees.
Recognizing the state of Palestine neither prescribes nor eliminates any specific solution for the many challenging issues that remain to be resolved, most notably the Palestinian refugees’ Right of Return. That issue, and all others, will be negotiated by the parties to the conflict. The most important effect of Palestinian recognition is that it will reduce somewhat the power imbalance across the negotiating table between Palestine and Israel. The very fact that Palestine is an internationally recognized state means its political stance is improved, although the economic and military imbalance will remain.
International recognition of Palestine does not prohibit Israelis and Palestinians from implementing any overall solution they can imagine, although a Palestinian state alongside Israel is the solution embodied in numerous United Nations resolutions and has broad international support. 135 U.N. member states already recognize the state of Palestine, including leftist states like Cuba and Venezuela. A Palestinian state alongside Israel is the international consensus and has been acknowledged by the2012 vote in the U.N. General Assembly for “The Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine to the United Nations.” It is worth noting that no state, not even leftist states like Cuba and Venezuela, has proposed a one-state solution for Israel-Palestine.
With such strong international support, one might ask, why hasn’t a Palestinian state yet emerged? The answer is clear – Israel fully supported by the United States. But opposition to ending its occupation and allowing a Palestinian state to emerge is reaching its limits as Israel is more and more isolated by states recognizing Palestine, by world citizenry support of the BDS movement, and by glimmers that the United States support of the status quo will not last forever.
Those interested in justice for the Palestinian people and to end Israel’s occupation and control of another people need not provide solutions for all issues in order to take a step in the right direction. Support for recognition of Palestine need not be exclusive to those who believe a Palestinian state alongside Israel is the only viable or desirable or inevitable outcome. Rather, it is a symbolic yet meaningful action to show support for the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and freedom from occupation. It is an action that Palestinian leaders have been asking for since 1988. The growing support for Palestinian recognition among citizens and governments worldwide sends a message to the Israeli and United States governments that the Palestine-Israel conflict must be resolved in a way that respects and guarantees the political, civil, and human rights of all people in the region.
Uri Avnery pointed out in a recent column that “the battle lines” in Israel are between an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty that ends the occupation and establishes a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital, or a Greater Israel with deepening occupation or annexation with more settlements, ethnic cleansing, and continuing wars like Cast Lead in 2008-09 and Protective Edge in 2014.
For all the reasons above, the United States should support recognition of the state of Palestine and U.S. citizens should put pressure on the Obama Administration to accept a Palestinian state.
One way to do that is a Moveon.org petition sponsored by LA Jews for Peace: “President Obama: Accept the state of Palestine.”
We join with Palestinian leaders and organizations and Israeli public figures in calling for recognition of the state of Palestine alongside Israel, living in peace and security for both people. Already 135 United Nations member states (70%) have recognized the state of Palestine, and other states now are considering doing so. Recognition of Palestine is a step toward resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict that is in the best interest of the United States and the community of nations.
This petition can be signed at this link.
A strong showing of support for Palestinian recognition among Americans is especially important as the Obama Administration considers how it will respond when the new PLO draft resolution is debated in the UNSC. We should do all we can to prevent an American veto of Palestinian recognition. Even if a veto happens, sending the message now that many Americans want a change in U.S. policy regarding Israel and Palestine at the United Nations and on the ground will yield positive results going forward.