The road of recognition
John V. WhitbeckOn 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.
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. 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 U.N. 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 U.N. 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.
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.
Oddly, since Israel has never defined its own borders, an act that 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 U.N. General Assembly vote confirming Palestine’s “state status” as “the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.”
However, there is 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”.
*John V. Whitbeck is an international lawyer who has advised the Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel. This abridged article originally appeared at Khaleej Time online.