Growing Recognition of the Palestinian State: Implications and Ramifications

Dr. Mustafa Abdel-Aziz Mourssi: Growing Recognition of the Palestinian State: Implications and Ramifications

  • 20 December 2010

With every passing day, Palestinians feel the futility of the ongoing Palestinian – Israeli negotiations because of the conflicting approaches of the two parties. While the Palestinian position draws its strength from the legitimacy of international resolutions, Israel’s approach seeks to exterminate the Palestinian cause itself and its negotiating stance is largely devoid of any clear references or specific guarantees. Meanwhile, the US administration has lately announced that it would not be making ant efforts to convince Israel to put a freeze on its colony-building activities in the occupied Palestinian Territories, which indicates that it has caved in to the insinuations of the Israeli government and the Jewish Lobby in the US. This has caused a sense of resignation among many Palestinians, who feel the road to a peaceful settlement has reached a dead-end. To overcome this impasse, the Palestinian side has started looking for other options in order to put pressure on both the US Administration and Israel. Several options have been considered, which include getting a resolution passed in the Security Council that condemns or declares as illegitimate the building of colonies by Israel. Another option under study is to get a resolution passed by the Security Council that declares the independence of the Palestinian state. Still another proposition being weighed is to place the Palestinian Territories under international regency for some time. But more importantly, there is a suggestion that Palestine be unilaterally declared a state, just as its establishment is initiated by the West Bank through the building of its institutions.

In this respect, an idea was mooted to urge different countries to recognize the independence of Palestine, as a means to expand the options available to Palestinians. In sync with this line of thinking, Brazil and Argentina recently recognized the establishment of the Palestinian state, within the borders in existence on June 4, 1967, which is an important development because these are two influential Latin American nations. The decision by these two countries helped other countries of the region to join in the cause, such as Bolivia, Uruguay, Paraguay and Ecuador—who granted their recognition to Palestinian state. Indubitably, the growing international recognition would put pressure on Israel. It is worth mentioning here that the Palestinian Authority had earlier asked the US Administration to grant recognition to a Palestinian state, on the basis of borders that existed on June 4, 1967, but its request was turned down.

At a press conference on December 9, 2011, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas said that he was giving the campaign for recognition of the Palestinian state by other countries topmost priority. He added that a “two-state solution” is inconceivable if it is not accompanied by the recognition of an independent Palestinian state, based on the June 4, 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital. Saeb Erekat, the head of Palestinian negotiators, called upon the European Union to recognize the Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and confirmed that time has come for the world to recognize the Palestinian state.

Many views and opinions have been expressed on the feasibility of this recognition. The UAE Foreign Minister, His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, considered the recognition by Brazil and Argentina as a “blow to Israel” (the ‘Middle East’ journal, December 8, 2010). Some commentators are of the view that the spate of recognitions coming from outside the Arab framework has enhanced the position of Palestinian negotiators. They have called upon the Arab world to act effectively in order to benefit from these positive developments and to cast their net wide for the good of the Palestinian cause. However, some observers contend that though the widening of the circle of international recognition for the Palestinian state is commendable, its uses cannot be overstated. According to Wolfgang Hein, an expert in Latin America affairs, at the German Institute for International and Regional Studies, it is highly important the United States and the European Union endorse the move for it to be of any significance.

Notwithstanding the different opinions over the relative importance of such recognitions, the political and moral impact of this campaign has been felt by both Israelis and Americans. In fact it evoked a response from the spokesman for the US Department of State, Philip Crowley, who said: “We do not look favorably upon this line of conduct…We believe that any unilateral action is counterproductive.” In a similar vein, Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor has stated: "This is a very disappointing step which contributes nothing to furthering the peace process."

In another disappointing development on December 16, 2010, the US Senate unanimously endorsed (without voting) the proposal by The Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate, Howard Berman, "to convince the world not to recognize a Palestinian state, in case the matter is presented to the UN Security Council." It also stated said that America should use its veto in the Security Council if the Palestinian state was declared unilaterally, without Israel's consent. In its decision, the committee also emphasized its strong opposition to any US move to recognize the establishment of a Palestinian state outside the agreement being negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians. It even called upon Palestinian leaders to stop all efforts aimed at gaining recognition for the Palestinian state by other countries.

This decision reveals the blatant US bias towards Israel and it shows gross violation and interference by the US Senate against the rights of sovereign states, as the matter relates to their right of granting recognition to a state—in this case the Palestinian state. It shows heightened unease among supporters of Israel over the growing international recognition of a Palestinian state and it is for this reason that the committee sought to undermine it after the US Administration failed to make any tangible progress in Palestinian–Israeli negotiations.

It is noteworthy that in 1988, the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat read out the Palestinian Declaration of Independence, which was recognized by 115 countries. It was then enunciated at the Arab summit held in Casablanca in 1989, which led to establishment of an independent Palestinian state and all Arab countries recognized it and were given full membership of the Arab League.

We think the growing recognition of the Palestinian state in the international community or the issuance of international resolution over the illegitimacy of colonies would not be enough to countering the vicious Zionist program. However, the growing international recognition is an important and positive development that would be favorable for the Palestinian cause, provided it is accompanied by a corresponding move to restore Palestinian unity. Palestinians have defied Israeli occupation and its brutal practices and have opted for a fair and legitimate struggle. It is for this reason that a peaceful civil resistance to occupation has become important for Israel has pushed the Palestinian people to a dead end. This approach would be a suitable means for putting pressure on Israel and for gaining international public support for Palestinian rights, especially after Israel has suffered a fall in its ethical stature and as the option of armed Palestinian resistance is fraught with many risks. Many believe that the option of armed resistance seems unrealistic, as experience shows that the Palestinian side has paid a heavy price in lives when Israel struck them down with excessive use of force and extreme violence.

Irrespective of different views on the true worth of rising international recognition for a Palestinian state, its true merit would only be known when the Security Council decides on a resolution to recognize it (which remains an option). If a resolution to this effect is not passed by the Security Council due to a US veto, which is a very likely outcome, then the nect step could be to move to UN General Assembly for getting the resolution passed by a two-third majority vote, in accordance with the “Uniting for Peace” resolution. In the 1950s, the United States had resorted to this option during the Korean War after its attempts to issue a Security Council resolution were vetoed several times by the former Soviet Union.

However if passed, such a resolution would still be ineffectual given Israel’s military control over occupied territories and its previous record of not observing international resolutions, unless the US threatens it with punitive action or tempts it with incentives. However, the issuance of such a resolution would bring some hope to Palestinians, particularly if they are able to unite and forego their futile differences and rally against the occupying power with effective civil resistance. To this end, they would have to properly utilize international public sympathy towards their cause after the falsity of Israeli positions has been exposed in a very striking manner.