Recognition by the UN would be a setback for Palestinians. Next Tuesday, Palestinian delegates will in all probability submit a request to the General Assembly of the United Nations to be recognized as a full member of the UN. Since 1988 the UN recognizes Palestine as a nation, as a people, and the international community acknowledges that the areas that were conquered by Israel in 1967 don’t belong to them but rather to the Palestinians, in the case of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, or to the Syrians in case of the Golan Heights. Still, a request for full recognition would be unwise, not because America will once again show its worst nature in this conflict, but because the problems for Palestinians will only increase. Mahmoud Abbas The motivation for the request for full recognition was clearly explained last May by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in an article in The New York Times: "Palestine's admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the Internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one." The UN and various international agreements provide many legal provisions concerning the legality, or lack thereof, of occupying land that belongs to another state. Recognition as a full Palestinian 'nation state', which 122 countries have already done, would mean that the Palestinians could rely on those legal provisions and the pressure on Israel to cooperate with a two-state solution would increase. Because of that pressure on its most important ally, America is trying to prevent the UN in all possible ways from recognizing the Palestinian state. Popular support The problem of full recognition is twofold and relates to the chosen route towards a two-state solution. First of all, that route is not one that is widely supported by the Palestinian people. It is important to remind that Abbas's legitimacy as a representative of the Palestinian people isn’t so much based on those people, but rather on his recognition by Israel and the West. In 2006 Abbas' Fatah party lost the election from Hamas, but because the western world and Israel are not willing to negotiate with that party that they have – rightly or wrongly – classified as a terrorist organization, Abbas negotiates not as much with an electoral mandate from his people but rather thanks to the support of other countries. Fatah's willingness to commit to a two-state solution is partially what gave Hamas an advantage during the elections in the first place. If the two-state solution is not widely supported by the Palestinian people, the chosen route will not succeed. A peaceful solution to the conflict needs enough popular support, needs to be able to count on sufficient willingness of the people to cooperate on both sides to work. If Abbas takes steps towards a two-state solution without the support of his population, attacks by Palestinians groups will remain ongoing. Internally, the conflict between Fatah and Hamas will continue and a large part of the Palestinian people will continue to feel oppressed by Israel. A solution that is forced upon its stakeholders is never a solution. Institutionalization The second problem is closely related to the first. The Palestinians have good reasons for rejecting a two-state solution because full recognition would legitimize and institutionalize the oppression and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by Israel. If the Palestinians finally have their own state, it would mean that Israel can justifiably say that there is no place for Palestinians in Israel because they already have their own state where they can live. This means that the - still ongoing - expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and settlements, ethnic cleansing in other words because Israel is effectively being "cleansed" of Palestinians, can continue and that already displaced Palestinian refugees living in places like the Gaza Strip and Lebanon can never return to their old homes, that they have no right to return.
When, during the 1897 First Zionist Congress in Basel, the establishment of a Jewish state was discussed publicly for the first time, it was suggested that the state could be founded in a barely populated but fertile part of Argentina. For most Jews, however, that was unacceptable because what they wanted was not just any state, but their own state in a place they regarded as their own home. For many Palestinians this is the same, they don’t necessarily want any state but rather their home state. Like the Jews in 1947, they just want to return to what they regard as their homes. A two-state solution and full recognition of a Palestinian state would permanently close any window of opportunity for that happening. It would be as much unwise with regards to finding a solution to the conflict, as it would be unjust. Progress The Western world - especially the "Quartet" consisting of key partners, the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations – actively supports the two-state solution as the only sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The motivation behind this seems to have little to do with feasibility or justice, but rather with the fact that it sends the signal that some progress is being made, where in reality that doesn’t seem to be the case. Recognition of a Palestinian state by the UN would mean no progress and the conflict would deteriorate even further. It would therefore be in the best interest of the Palestinian people that they don’t get their own state now.
Published on Sep 11, 2011
Next Tuesday, Palestinian delegates will in all probability submit a request to the General Assembly of the United Nations to be recognized...