EU wants to recognise a “Palestine” that doesn’t exist
There is no state in existence today that can legitimately be called “Palestine” except the one state that chooses not to: Jordan. The EU and the wider West make peace harder and terror more likely with their anti-Israel antics
Wednesday 17th December, on present plans, will see a vote in the European Parliament that could take the Israel-Palestinian conflict even further away from peace and increase tension between Israel and the EU.
The “ambassadors” of the Palestinian Authority have been exceedingly busy over the past couple of years and the results of their work have included votes in several European parliaments in favour of recognising “The State of Palestine” -- an entity that doesn’t even exist.
Following Mahmoud Abbas’ symbolic victory at the UN just over a year ago in engineering observer status for “Palestine”, he has continued to work towards full recognition of his imaginary state by trying to influence national governments.
In Britain’s House of Commons, despite the media claims that MPs “voted overwhelmingly” for the Government to recognise a Palestinian state, less than half of all sitting MPs turned out to take part in the debate, casting doubts on the credibility of the vote that took place.
In Spain, any symbolic victory the Palestinians were hoping for was dashed by the wording of the motion, which moved that “Palestine” only be recognised after a negotiated peace is reached. For advocates of the “two state solution” (and there are still many of them), this becomes a perfectly acceptable concept for supporters of both Israel and the Palestinians.
Ironically, it was the horrendous attack on a Jerusalem synagogue the same day that led the motion to be diluted from its original call for outright recognition of a Palestinian state, notwithstanding the lack of any real hope for a negotiated settlement any time soon.
The previously held Irish parliament’s vote was an outright call for recognition and carried such complete cross-party support that a vote was not required for it to pass. Israel’s Dublin embassy disparaged the vote with the statement: “Stunt gestures such as recognising ‘Palestine’ unilaterally are counter-productive because they only give excuses to those on the Palestinian side who hope to achieve their goals without talking directly to Israel…”
None of these votes are, of course, binding on the respective governments, but they do indicate a rising tide of support for a unilaterally-declared Palestinian state; brought about in part by increased frustration at Israel’s periodic moves towards more housing in disputed areas.
Two months ago, Sweden’s incoming Prime Minister promptly announced his government’s recognition of a Palestinian state, to protests from both Israel and the US, joining seven other EU member states which have already stated their recognition and support of a state that doesn’t exist.
There is some dispute as to how many countries globally have already stated this recognition, ranging between 112 and 134. But however many have done so, you cannot manufacture a sovereign state by wishing or voting it into existence if the building blocks for an independent nation-state do not exist.
Under accepted international norms, a state is defined as having a permanent population, a defined territory, a stable government and the capacity to enter into relations with other states. The fictitious “Sate of Palestine” falls down on all those points. There is no state in existence today that can legitimately be called “Palestine” except the one state that chooses not to: Jordan.
Every vote or governmental statement recognising the imaginary state of Palestine is further encouragement for the Palestinian Authority and PLO to continue to avoid making the kind of compromises that might lead to a genuine peace agreement. Every vote is a nod to Mahmoud Abbas’ efforts to achieve statehood outside of a negotiated settlement.
The European parliament’s projected debate and vote on December 17th is counter-productive, and not only for the reasons given above.
There are already strong trade and hi-tech links between Israel and the EU and there is huge potential for even stronger links that will be of great benefit to both entities; not least of which is the possible export of Israeli gas to Europe. Europe needs what Israel can offer, but the increased diplomatic tension that formal EU recognition of “Palestine” would bring would only damage these links.
Commenting on the forthcoming EU vote, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “…these European positions actually push peace away, and I believe that they make reaching a solution much harder… It encourages the Palestinians to harden their positions, not to compromise on mutual recognition, not to compromise on the things that are needed to achieve genuine security."
Brussels would like to play a much greater role in the Middle East and to be seen as a major player in solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It will never be seen as a neutral interlocutor, however, while it insists on an unbalanced political position in favour of the Palestinians.
In all its negotiating stances the Palestinian Authority (PA) has insisted on maximalist demands with no room for compromise. Negotiations mean compromise and the more other governments recognise (or are encouraged by their parliaments to recognise) an as-yet non-existent state, the less pressure will be on the PA to offer any kind of compromise.
The PA no doubt hopes that each recognition vote will pile more pressure on Israel to meet these maximalist demands, but Israel can never do so without placing its very existence under real threat from a West Bank bristling with Hamas and other groups’ rockets.
The PA’s pseudo-ambassadors will continue to propagate falsehoods and half truths about their fictional state and will continue to garner empty gestures of recognition from around the world. Fortunately for common sense, the EU motion to be debated on 17th December could still be watered down.
The wording of the motion for recognition is under dispute. Centre-right groups want the motion, as in Spain, to condition recognition of a Palestinian state on a successfully negotiated settlement. Now that is a much more sensible motion and one acceptable to most observers and players.
The new EU High Representative, Federica Mogherini, put a sensible perspective on the recognition issue in a recent press briefing, saying: “…the real point is not so much the recognition of a Palestinian state, but what can we usefully do to have a Palestinian state, because you can have the recognition in several Member States without things changing radically and dramatically on the ground.”
She is correct; “things” need to change radically on the ground before recognition of a Palestinian state is anything more than an empty gesture prompted by insistent Palestinian representatives and a degree of innate European anti-zionism.
Nick Gray is Director, Christian Middle East Watch, a British organisation dedicated to objective and factual discussion of Middle Eastern issues, especially of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Nick, who is a regular contributor to The Commentator, blogs at cmewonline.com
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