Europe must not cave in to pressure for recognition of a Palestinian state
Attempts to impose a peace plan from the outside are the height of folly and would risk renewed violence
All the signs are that key European states are poised to ditch peace negotiations and give formal recognition to a Palestinian state. In not so many words, that is what Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview yesterday with France 24 television. The credibility of his observation was bolstered by the French ambassador to the United Nations who said on Thursday that France and other European countries were considering precisely such a move.
On the face of it, the plan, expected to be accompanied by a vote at the UN General Assembly in September, looks innocent enough: Israel and the Palestinians can’t forge a peace on their own; we’ll do it for them. It’s all so simple.
The trouble is that it’s not simple at all. Any such move would be the height of folly and would greatly increase the risk of a third intifada. Here’s why:
First, the plan envisages recognition of a Palestinian state on what are falsely called the 1967 borders – they were not borders; they marked the armistice lines from the War of Independence. As Lord Caradon, the principal drafter of UN Resolution 242 put it: “It is not a satisfactory border, it is where troops had to stop in 1948, just where they happened to be that night.” The point being that such “borders” are completely indefensible in the face of an attack.
Second, since therefore Israel won’t accept the deal, the mooted UN resolution could all too easily serve as a pretext for a new outbreak of mass terrorism. President Abbas said in Tunisia this week that he is personally opposed to a third intifada. We believe him. But it may not be his choice to make. The leader of the Palestinian Authority is already desperately weak. The fanfare of a UN resolution which ends up leading precisely nowhere could finish him and his cronies off completely. Hamas is waiting in the wings.
In the best case, European governments should be publicly opposing this reckless plan for recognition of a Palestinian state, outside direct negotiations, altogether. But given the level of the people we are dealing with in many European foreign ministries, that may be a suggestion too far.
So if they can’t do the right thing, far better they do nothing at all and simply butt out of an issue they don’t have the skill-set to deal with in an intelligent and productive way.
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