At the recent UN Security Council meeting, the Palestinians placed a bid to be recognised as a state. This is a remarkable moment in Palestinian history, and is a promising step towards actual fruition. To me, there is no debate or uncertainty about the legitimacy or judiciousness of the bid: Palestine has every right to be recognised as an independent state and should be treated as such by a body aimed at facilitating peace and international relations. Why then are Barack Obama and his cronies, as well as major American media organisations, condemning the bid? The answer is simple: they’re afraid.
Obama is aware that he needs Jewish support in America to secure re-election next year, so backing the Israelis in their attempt to prevent Palestine’s statehood is of fundamental political importance to him, particularly now as Obama has seen a significant drop in his popularity in Democratic, Jewish communities.
The Wall Street Journal in America has claimed that the bid is “another tool in [the Palestinians’] perpetual campaign to harass, delegitimise and ultimately destroy Israel.” The Palestinians are not harassing or delegitimising Israel by asserting their own right to existence. The majority of us hoping for peace between Israel and Palestine look forward to the creation of a “two-state solution”.
Why then, block a move clearly aimed at marking out both of the states? The Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas outlined what Palestinian statehood would mean for Israel during his address to the Security Council. The borders would be based broadly upon the 1967 agreement, which followed the Six Day War. The Israeli government has argued that “the only way to achieve a Palestinian state and peace is through direct negotiations” and, to no-one’s surprise, that is exactly the stance that Obama has taken.
Why should Palestine gaining statehood prevent negotiations from going ahead? The acceptance of Palestine’s existence should not be conditional. Israel and the USA are effectively attempting to give Palestine an ultimatum on a matter that should not be theirs to dictate.
In any case, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has made no serious attempt to encourage negotiations in recent years. He has refused to accept that Jerusalem should be a shared capital and has also voiced concerns about territory being based upon the agreements made in 1967. This is not to say that the Israelis are more at fault than the Palestinians, or that Abbas and his government have their peace-making attempts thwarted by Netanyahu. It is just that it does not seem that successful negotiations are just around the corner.
It could also be argued that accepting Palestine as a state could actually aid the progress of peace talks. Extremist Palestinian groups, Hamas in particular, have perpetually denied Israel’s existence. By concretely adopting the 1967 settlement agreement the Palestinian government would be implicitly accepting Israel’s existence and would be therefore, whether intentionally or not, progressing towards a two-state solution.
I’m not blindly pro-Palestine and can certainly identify with the Israelis in terms of their concerns about Arab animosity.
However, Palestine should be accepted as a state and I hope that the US’s choice to veto the bid will not obstruct the cause in too damaging a way.