Recognize Palestine … then the negotiations can begin
At a time when support for the two-state solution is almost at its lowest level, we are now repeatedly hearing this term. What makes such statements by Western leaders so hypocritical is that it is little more than lip service.
The term “two-state solution” applies to the final status of peace talks that must lead to the state of Palestine being recognized alongside the state of Israel. The world community has long recognized the state of Israel but has balked when it comes to Palestine. In 2012, the UN General Assembly officially voted to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state. Since that vote, 140 countries have recognized the state of Palestine within the borders that obtained on June 4, 1967. However, among the leading Western countries, only Sweden has recognized Palestine, even though the parliaments of several European countries have passed resolutions calling on their own governments to do so. Many countries have said they will make such a move en masse and use recognition as part of a political deal.
The latest eruption of Israeli-Palestinian violence has caused a spike in the calls for the two-state solution. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was dispatched by President Joe Biden to the Middle East, has reiterated Washington’s support for such a solution, saying: “Most urgently, again, is dealing with the immediate needs of people and then taking the necessary steps that I think can create better conditions, in which we can try to move forward on two states.”
The problem with Blinken and EU leaders is that they expect the Israelis, who have benefited from decades of occupation, to simply give up land of their own accord during negotiations, in which they have always held the upper hand.
Since the 1993 Declaration of Principles — which ushered in a temporary plan that was supposed to be completed by the turn of the century — failed to produce a negotiated result, the temporary phase has become permanent.
What’s more, Israel has tripled its illegal settlements in the same period.
Instead of expecting an imbalanced negotiation to produce such results, what is needed is not to negotiate the permanent status but to negotiate how the two-state solution will be implemented.
Issues such as settlements, Jerusalem, refugees and settlers need to be agreed, not whether the state of Palestine should even exist.
If the world community is serious and genuine about its support for the two-state solution, it needs to immediately recognize the state of Palestine and then encourage representatives of that state to negotiate with Israeli representatives in the presence of honest, neutral brokers on how to manage the relationship between these two. Issues such as settlements, Jerusalem, refugees and settlers need to be agreed, not whether the state of Palestine should even exist.
As the number of Israeli Jews populating the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea dips below the number of Palestinian Arabs, a “one-state solution” may increasingly seem like the most realistic goal for Palestinians. Most Israelis would not support such an approach, however, and dismiss it outright, while also insisting the possibility of two states along the pre-1967 borders is not tenable.
In recent months, two important human rights organizations, Israel’s B’Tselem and the New York-based Human Rights Watch, have both issued damning reports stating that the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is ruled by one party on account of another people, who are experiencing apartheid.
Moreover, the US and other Western countries cannot redeem themselves simply by sending the Palestinians financial aid. After all, Israel has not had any problems destroying most of the Gaza Strip, and then the world starts talking about its reconstruction.
What Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank need now is not money but the lifting of the blockade on the Strip and for them to be dealt with as a single unit. One immediate step in this direction should be the reinstatement of the safe passageway between Gaza and the West Bank. Achieving the two-state solution is impossible when one side (Israel) is isolating the second half of the plan (Palestine) with its illegal blockade and refusal to allow the movement of people and goods between Gaza and the West Bank.
If the international community truly wants to see progress toward peace, it must show courage and conviction. That means recognizing the state of Palestine along the pre-1967 borders, thereby helping to balance the scales in negotiations and clarify the framework for peace. Israel will object but, as Sweden’s experience suggests, bilateral relations will not ultimately suffer when a country has the courage to recognize Palestine. All experts and pundits understand that the two-state solution is still the most viable plan. For such a plan to work today, what is needed is the implementation of the Palestinian half of the formula.
An independent Palestinian state is the fastest way to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. What is needed is for the global community to recognize Palestine and encourage genuine talks about managing relations between the two sides.
- Daoud Kuttab is an award-winning Palestinian journalist from Jerusalem. He is the former Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University. Twitter: @daoudkuttab