Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Good, Bad and Uncertain about Recognizing ‘Palestine’

No matter what Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does, his popularity is declining. In some ways, Abbas’ threshold for popularity was really never impressive to begin with, a trend that is unlikely to change in the near future.

But now that a power struggle in his Fatah party is looming, and his two-decade investment in the ‘peace process’ scheme has proven to be fruitless, Abbas is doing what he should have done a long time ago: internationalize the Palestinian struggle, and break away from the confines of American influence and double-standard ‘diplomacy’.

Considering Abbas’ grim legacy among Palestinians, his leading role in engineering the peace process, crackdown on dissent, failure to achieve unity among his people, undemocratic rule, and much more, it is doubtful that his internationalization efforts are done with the greater good in mind. But should that matter if the outcome is greater recognition of a Palestinian state?

The Vatican’s Move

On May 13, the Vatican officially recognized the state of Palestine. In reality, the Vatican had already welcomed the United Nations General Assembly vote in 2012 to recognize a Palestinian state. Moreover, it had treated Palestine as a state ever since.

But what makes May 13 particularly important is that the subtle recognition was put into practice in the form of a treaty, which is in itself not too important. True, the updated recognition is still symbolic in a sense, but also significant, for it is further validates the Palestinian leadership’s new approach aimed at breaking away from the US-sponsored peace process into a more internationalized approach to the conflict.

The Vatican can be seen as a moral authority to many of the 1.2 billion people that consider themselves Roman Catholics. Its recognition of Palestine is consistent with the political attitude of countries that are considered the strongest supporters of Palestinian rights around the world, the majority of whom are located in Latin America and Africa.

There is more than one way to read this latest development within the context of the larger Palestinian strategic shift to break away from the disproportionate dependence on American political hegemony over the Palestinian discourse. But it is not all positive, and the road for the ‘state of Palestine,’ which is yet to exist outside the realm of symbolism, is paved with dangers.

Reasons for Optimism 

1. Recognitions allow Palestinians to break away from United States hegemony over the political discourse of the ‘Palestinian-Israeli conflict’.

For nearly twenty-five years, the Palestinian leadership – first the PLO and then the PA – fell under the spell of American influence starting at the US-led multilateral negotiations between Israel and Arab countries in Madrid in 1991. The singing of the Oslo Agreement in 1993 and the establishment of the PA the following year gave the US an overriding political influence over Palestinian political discourse. While the PA accumulated considerable wealth and a degree of political validation as a result of that exchange, Palestinians as a whole lost a great deal.

2. International recognitions downgrade the ‘peace process’, which has been futile at best, but also destructive as far as Palestinian national aspirations are concerned.

Since the US-sponsored ‘peace process’ was launched in 1993, Palestinians gained little and lost so much more. That loss can be highlighted mostly in the following: massive expansion in Israel’s illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, doubling the number of the illegal settlers as well; the failure of the so-called peace process to deliver any of its declared goals, largely Palestinian political sovereignty and an independent state; and the fragmentation of the Palestinian national cause among competing factions.

The last nail in the ‘peace process’ coffin was put in place when US Secretary of State, John Kerry, failed to meet his deadline of April 2014 that aimed at achieving a ‘framework agreement’ between the PA and the rightwing government of Benjamin Netanyahu.

The collapse in the process was largely an outcome of a deep-seated ailment where the talks, no matter how ‘positive’ and ‘encouraging’ they were, were never truly designed to give Palestinians what they aspired to achieve: a state of their own. Netanyahu and his government (the recent one being arguably the ‘most hawkish’ in Israel’s history) made their intentions repeatedly clear.

Finding alternatives to the futile ‘peace process’, through taking the conflict back to international institutions and individual governments is surely a much wiser strategy than making the same mistake time and again.

3. Instead of being coerced to engage in frivolous talks in exchange for funds, recognitions of Palestine allow Palestinians to regain the initiative.

In 2012, Abbas reached out to the UN General Assembly seeking recognition of Palestine. Once he achieved the new status, he continued to push for his internationalization of the Palestinian cause project, although at times, hesitantly.

What is more important than Abbas’ maneuvers is that with the exception of the United States, Israel, Canada and a few tiny islands, many countries including US western allies seemed receptive to the Palestinian initiative. Some went as far as confirming that commitment through parliamentary votes in favor of a Palestinian state. The Vatican’s decision to sign a treaty with the ‘state of Palestine’ is but a step further in the same direction. But all in all, the movement towards recognizing the state of Palestine has grown in momentum to the extent that its sidestepping the US entirely, and discounting its role as the self-imposed ‘honest broker’ in a peace process that was born dead.

Thus, it is a good day when the US’s disparate political and military influence retreats in favor of a more pluralistic and democratic world. But it is not all good news for the Palestinians because these recognitions come at a cost.

Reasons for Doubt

1. These recognitions are conditioned on the so-called two state solution idea, itself an impracticable starting point for resolving the conflict.

A two-state solution that can introduce the most basic threshold for justice is not possible considering the impossibility of the geography of the Israeli occupation, the huge buildup of illegal settlements dotting the West Bank and Jerusalem, the right of return for Palestinian refugees to their homes, and issues pertaining to water rights, etc. That ‘solution’ is a relic of a past historical period when Henry Kissinger launched his shuttle diplomacy in the 1970’s. It has no place in today’s world when the lives of Palestinians and Israelis are overlapping in too many ways for a clean break to be realized.

2. Recognitions are validating the very Palestinian president who is serving with an expired mandate that is presiding over an unelected government.

In fact, it was Abbas also known as Abu Mazen, who mostly cooked up the whole Oslo deal, starting secretly in Norway, while by-passing any attempt at Palestinian consensus regarding the inherently skewed process. Since then, he more or less stood at the helm, benefiting from the political disaster that has engineered. Should Abbas, now 80, be given yet another chance to shift the Palestinian strategy to a whole different direction? Should these efforts be validated? Or isn’t it time for a rethink involving a younger generation of Palestinian leaders capable of steering the Palestinian national project into a whole new realm of politics?

3. Recognitions are merely symbolic.

Recognizing a country that is not fully formed and is under military occupation will hardly change the reality on the ground in any shape or form. The Israeli military occupation, the expanding settlements, and suffocating checkpoints remain to be the daily reality that Palestinians must contend with. Even if Abbas’ strategy succeeds, there is no evidence that in the end it will carry any actual weight, in terms of deterring Israel or lessening the suffering of the Palestinians.

Conclusion

One could argue that the recognition of Palestine is much bigger than Abbas as an individual or a legacy. These recognitions demonstrate that there has been a seismic shift in international consensus regarding Palestine, where many countries in the southern and northern hemispheres seem to ultimately agree that it is time to liberate the fate of Palestine from American hegemony. In the long run, and considering the growing rebalancing of global powers, for Palestinians, this is a good start.

However, the question remains: Will there be a capable and savvy Palestinian leadership that knows how to take advantage of this global shift and utilize it to the fullest extent for the benefit of the Palestinian people?

Ramzy Baroud – www.ramzybaroud.net – is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. He is currently completing his PhD studies at the University of Exeter. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).

More articles by:

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: ramzybaroud.net

October 22, 2018
Michelle Renee Matisons
Hurricane War Zone Further Immiserates Florida Panhandle, Panama City
Tom Gill
A Storm is Brewing in Europe: Italy and Its Public Finances Are at the Center of It
Christopher Brauchli
The Liars’ Bench
Gary Leupp
Will Trump Split the World by Endorsing a Bold-Faced Lie?
Michael Howard
The New York Times’ Animal Cruelty Fetish
Alice Slater
Time Out for Nukes!
Geoff Dutton
Yes, Virginia, There are Conspiracies—I Think
Daniel Warner
Davos in the Desert: To Attend or Not, That is Not the Question
Priti Gulati Cox – Stan Cox
Mothers of Exiles: For Many, the Child-Separation Ordeal May Never End
Manuel E. Yepe
Pence v. China: Cold War 2.0 May Have Just Begun
Raouf Halaby
Of Pith Helmets and Sartorial Colonialism
Dan Carey
Aspirational Goals  
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
Victor Grossman
A Big Rally and a Bavarian Vote
James Bovard
Groped at the Airport: Congress Must End TSA’s Sexual Assaults on Women
Jeff Roby
Florida After Hurricane Michael: the Sad State of the Unheeded Planner
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail