A Shift toward Recognizing Palestine

After Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu sank the latest peace talks by pushing forward on new settlements, he erased a chief argument for holding off on Palestinian nationhood, that the issue should be determined by talks. Now, European nations are shifting their stance, as John V. Whitbeck writes.

By John V. Whitbeck

On Oct. 12, at a donors’ conference in Cairo, participants pledged $5.4 billion toward the reconstruction of Gaza. However, numerous participants noted that repeatedly paying to reconstruct what had been destroyed and was likely to be destroyed again was an insufficient response and that the core problem must be addressed. But no original ideas for addressing it were offered.

The core problem is the occupation, now in its 48th year. It was addressed the following night when the British House of Commons voted overwhelmingly (274-12) in favor of the United Kingdom’s extending diplomatic recognition to the State of Palestine “as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution,” implicitly while its entire territory remains under belligerent occupation and without Israel’s prior permission.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Aug. 6, 2014, announced the success of Operation Protective Edge, which killed some2,000 Gazans. Netanyahu said, "The goal of Operation Protective Edge was and remains to protect Israeli civilians." (Israeli government photo)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Aug. 6, 2014,announced the success of Operation Protective Edge, which killed some2,000 Gazans. Netanyahu said, “The goal of Operation Protective Edge was and remains to protect Israeli civilians.” (Israeli government photo)


On Oct. 3, the new Swedish prime minister had announced his government’s intention to recognize the State of Palestine, thereby joining the 134 other UN member states, encompassing the vast majority of mankind, which have already done so.

Europe should not stop there. Imagine that all of the 20 European Union states which have not yet recognized the State of Palestine were to do so and that the EU were then to announce that, if Israel did not comply with international law and relevant UN resolutions by withdrawing fully from the occupied State of Palestine by a specified date, it would impose economic sanctions on Israel and intensify them until Israel did so.

Europe is not simply Israel’s principal trading partner. It is Israelis’ cultural homeland, with many Israelis viewing their country as a “European villa in the jungle.” It is even Israelis’ sports homeland, with Israeli teams competing in European football and basketball competitions.

If Europe were to adopt and pursue a firm and unified position of constructive disapproval along these lines, the writing would be indelibly on the wall and the end of the occupation and the transformation of the current two-state legality under international law into a decent two-state reality on the ground would become unavoidable, a mere question of when rather than of whether.

Then, and only then, meaningful Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the practical modalities of ending the occupation and structuring future peaceful and cooperative coexistence could begin.

One may well respond that, of course, Europeans would never dream of taking such an initiative. It is true that Europe has traditionally preferred smooth and non-contentious relations with the United States and Israel, even when such subservience runs counter to its proclaimed values and interests and further fuels the multi-decade war of civilizations between the Muslim world and the West now taking shape, to applying non-violent pressure consistent with international law to achieve peace with some measure of justice in Israel and Palestine.

However, this does not mean that Europe is incapable of breaking free from the American imposed orthodoxy that a Palestinian state can and should never exist, even on a purely legal level, without Israel’s prior consent or incapable of acting wisely and in accordance with European values and interests.

Oddly, since Israel has never defined its own borders, an act which would necessarily place limits on them, a principal argument of the Israeli government and its supporters against diplomatic recognitions of the State of Palestine is that Palestine does not have defined borders.

In fact, Palestine does have clearly defined borders, and they were confirmed in the overwhelming (138-9) Nov. 29, 2012 UN General Assembly vote confirming Palestine’s “state status” as “the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.”

Both Israel and Palestine now have “internationally recognized borders.” For Israel, they encompass all of Mandate Palestine conquered prior to 1967 nothing more and nothing less. For Palestine, they encompass all of the remaining part of Mandate Palestine nothing more and nothing less. No country, not even the United States, recognizes any other borders for either state.

Of course, states are always free to redraw their borders with other states by mutual agreements feely entered into, and, if Israel is ever to agree to end its occupation, some land swaps or, in the case of Jerusalem or emotionally charged parts thereof, some sharing of undivided sovereignty over territory are likely to be agreed to.

Most of those who proclaim themselves “pro-Israel” or who genuinely care about the welfare of Israelis and non-Israeli Jews (not necessarily the same people) profess to support a “two-state solution” and realize that the perpetuation of the current one-state reality would nullify the Zionist project if transformed into a fully democratic state and make Israel a despised pariah state if perpetuated as today’s effective apartheid state.

Such people should ask and answer a simple but essential question: “Is the Israeli government more likely to negotiate seriously with a genuine desire and intention to reach a definitive peace agreement ending the occupation if most Israelis feel that such an agreement would best serve their interests and enhance the quality of life for them and their children or if most Israelis feel (as has been the case for at least 20 years) that maintaining the status quo of occupation and continuing settlement expansion is preferable to any realistically realizable agreement?”

There being only one coherent answer to this question, “friends of Israel,” whether opportunistic or genuine, should shout that answer out to all who would accuse them of being insufficiently “pro-Israel”.

One and only one road to peace with some measure of justice in Israel and Palestine exists. It is open. It remains to be seen whether European leaders have the political will, wisdom and courage to start down that road.

John V. Whitbeck is an international lawyer who has advised the Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel.

13 comments for “A Shift toward Recognizing Palestine

  1. Capt. Jack
    October 15, 2014 at 15:58

    Palestine should be rebuilt with the billions of dollars the U. S. gives to Isreal every

  2. bobzz
    October 15, 2014 at 15:13

    F. G., my guess is that America would prevent Europe from seriously affecting Israel. I think of a little girl leading a comparatively huge cow by a rope tied to the ring in the cow’s nose when I think of the America/Israel relationship. All America has to do is cut $3 billion worth of milk annually to that little girl until she stays on her own farm and stops annexing adjacent territory a la Ahab and Naboth, and the entire world would calm down appreciably. We ain’t gonna do it.

    • Gregory Kruse
      October 15, 2014 at 18:04

      It is either a very small girl or a very big cow.

      • F. G. Sanford
        October 15, 2014 at 18:37

        Old Jewish proverb regarding romantic entanglements: “Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?”

      • bobzz
        October 16, 2014 at 13:02

        It’s not either/or; it’s both/and.
        America the big cow controlled by the nose ring held by the little girl, Israel. And the little girl leads the cow to be milked.

  3. bobzz
    October 15, 2014 at 09:35

    Europe to US: you first.

    • F. G. Sanford
      October 15, 2014 at 09:57

      US to Europe: Age before beauty!

  4. Vesuvius
    October 15, 2014 at 08:52

    Israel wants to keep everything concerning borders unclear, why? Because Zionists are determined to steal ALL of Palestine, sooner or later.

    The only solution to the Israel-Palestine “conflict” is that Israel must leave the Middle East. U.N. should revoke Resolution 181 or November 1947 on partition of Palestine; Zionists must seek another place on the Globe for their state, after due negotiations with its present landowners. Some Place where they would be welcome and could live in Peace with their new neighbors.

    • Joe Tedesky
      October 15, 2014 at 12:51

      Let’s give them Texas!

      • F. G. Sanford
        October 15, 2014 at 18:46

        Joe, I guess you’ve never seen that T-shirt, the one that says, “Don’t mess with Texas. Retards have feelings too.”

  5. Hillary
    October 14, 2014 at 22:44

    Palestinians both Christian and Muslim had NO say or veto over the establishment of the State of Israel which many people recognize as a continuous crime that after over 60 years is only now seeing the light of day.

    If it were not for the U.K. and the Arabs who defeated the Turks in WWI and threw them out of Arab lands there would be no Israel today.

    After Zionist pressure to concoct the “Balfour Declaration” the UK bankrupt & weakened by WW1 & WWII but infiltrated by ardent Zionists who skillfully orchestrated the scenario to promote the creation of Israel .

    The U.S., and the Soviet Union were the premier supporters of Israel’s early creation. Russians wanted the Jews out of the USSR & U.S. Administrations pandered to Jewish financial support in their elections

    The U.K is/was harassed by the U.S. and an aggressive Jewish campaign in the media and Hollywood so much so that in 2012 the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade the Palestine’s status to that of “non-member observer state” voting 138 to nine in favor, with the UK abstaining.

    Without the illegal creation of Israel there would be peace in the Middle East & no Muslim terrorists.

    • Joe Tedesky
      October 15, 2014 at 12:50

      Hillary you win today’s award for the BEST brief summary of the Palestians sad history. Way to go!
      Joe Tedesky

      • Hillary
        October 15, 2014 at 22:57

        Thanks Joe .
        It is a shame on the UK that it neglected it’s duty.
        Laurence of Arabia knew it well but the Zionists were in control.

        What happened in the UK House of Commons debate 13th Oct . 2014 is here.

        Grahame M. Morris:
        I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady. As the originator of the Balfour declaration and holder of the mandate for Palestine, Britain has a unique historical connection and, arguably, a moral responsibility to the people of both Israel and Palestine. In 1920, we undertook a sacred trust—a commitment to guide Palestinians to statehood and independence. That was nearly a century ago, and the Palestinian people are still to have their national rights recognised. This sacred trust has been neglected for far too long. As the hon. Lady has just said, we have an historic opportunity to atone for that neglect, and take this small but symbolically important step.

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