Recognition of Palestinian state urgently needed

25 September 2011

Recognition of Palestinian state urgently needed

The Dutch government rejects the recognition of the Palestinian state by the United Nations. In doing this, they are sending the wrong signal.

Emile Roemer and Harry van Bommel are respectively parliamentary leader and foreign affairs spokesman for the SP.

During our recent visit to Israel and the Occupied Territories of Palestine we came face-to-face with the hard facts. The peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has gone completely quiet; the extension of the settlements inside the Occupied Territories continues relentlessly; and the two-state solution appears further away than ever. In the meantime more than half a million Israelis are living in the Occupied Territories and a comprehensive peace accord would need to be accompanied by an enormous exchange of lands if it were to have any chance of success. Seizure of Palestinians’ houses in East Jerusalem is making a shared capital ever less likely.

We also ascertained that for the Israeli government there is hardly anything to stimulate - still less necessitate - arriving at a negotiated peace. The Palestinians are divided. The West Bank is effectively under military control and Palestinian violence has been curbed. Israel’s biggest ally, the United States, is asking them to call a temporary halt to new construction, but the Netanyahu government rejects this and carries on regardless. Nor is the EU putting any effective pressure on Israel to give the peace process a chance.

Against this background we believe that it is logical for the Palestinians now, via the UN, to try to achieve recognition as a state. This could break the impasse in the peace process.

Firstly, formal recognition of a Palestinian state would put an end to the imbalance in political relations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Negotiations between what are from any point of view completely unequal partners have failed in practice to deliver. Recognition of a Palestinian state would mean that this state could accede to important international treaties, such as the Geneva Convention, giving it clear rights and obligations, which would also be in Israel’s interests. It could be demanded of the Palestinians that they take effective action against terrorist attacks against Israel.
Secondly, recognition of a Palestinian state would reinforce the principal that the 1967 demarcation line would become the new state’s border. This could possibly be supplemented by mutually agreed land swaps. This 1967 border was also accepted as a principal in earlier accords and by the Netherlands, the EU and the UN as an important objective of the peace process. President Obama, too, recently explicitly identified the 1967 border as a basis for negotiation.

Waiting for a comprehensive peace accord, as advocated by the Dutch government, is not an option. As things stand a two-state solution is disappearing further over the horizon, even if that is in reality the only solution. Even among Israeli politicians we observed the realisation that a two state solution is the only way to keep Israel democratic. Waiting on this solution is a threat to democracy in Israel. as is visible in practice in new legislation which represents a serious attempt to hinder the work of human rights groups and other critical NGOs. In Israel, outrage about this legislation is widespread.

Increasing numbers of governments are realising that Israel as much as Palestine will gain advantages from the recognition of a Palestinian state. Full UN membership is probably not on the cards, but Palestinian observer status – as held by Switzerland until 2002 and by the Vatican to the present day - seems achievable.

Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security for the EU, is seeking a European compromise around the Palestinians’ status within the UN. A premature ‘no’ from the Netherlands makes such a compromise impossible. We are convinced that recognition of a Palestinian state is at the present time the only alternative capable of breathing new life into the peace process.

This article first appeared on 24th September 2011, in Dutch, in the regional newspaper BN/DeStem

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