Recognition of Palestine needed to safeguard the two-state solution
By Daoud Kuttab
Twenty-nine years after Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin shook hands at the White House Lawn and the elusive Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not being resolved. A clear path for resolution exists, but it requires political courage.
Palestinians made the strategic mistake back in September 1993 to accept a five-year interim plan that had no end goal and without an Israeli commitment to end illegal settlements. Now we are losing the so-called two-state solution that everyone seems to repeat like sand from our hands and illegal Israeli settlers have tripled since.
President Mahmoud Abbas will make what is most likely his last speech at the UN General Assembly Friday, and will again plead with the world community to defend this two-state solution by a simple act. Recognize the state of Palestine on the June 4th, 1967, borders as a full member of the UN even as a state under occupation. With such recognition, Palestinians can negotiate Israelis about issues of borders and relations between the two states rather than the never-ending talks about the status of the Palestinian entity.
The need to defend the two-state solution by recognizing Palestine has never been more important. Frustrated Palestinians who see no political horizon are picking up guns and attacking Israeli soldiers and settlers who have been occupying them, harassing them, and infiltrating even their innermost sanctuaries that the Oslo Accords sought to protect for Palestinians.
The Palestinian president has been resolute and consistent in rejecting all forms of violence against Israelis, but his hands are being tied by successive hawkish right-wing Israeli governments that have been literally stealing money collected on behalf of Palestinians because Palestinians dare to care for their prisoners and families of those who died in fighting for a free Palestine.
The current Israeli government has even removed the façade of talks that the Netanyahu administration had by refusing to engage with the Palestinian political leadership even politically. Arabs were slammed in September 1967 when the Arab League in Khartoum said no to talks and no to recognition with Israel, now Israeli leaders are refusing to recognize Palestinian national rights and have not even held a single meeting with the Palestinian leadership in years.
The Palestinian leadership is seriously considering going to the United Nations Security Council and asking for full membership of the state of Palestine. Already back in 2012, the UN general assembly recognized Palestine as a nonmember state. 138 member states have recognized Palestine since. Now is the time to go one step higher and convince the UNSC to recognize Palestine as a state under occupation. The nine positive votes in the council are secure, according to the Palestinian permanent representative and the only remaining obstacle is the possibility that one permanent member will veto such a resolution.
The Biden Administration has been slow in fulfilling its own electoral promises or reopening the US consulate in Jerusalem and the PLO mission in Washington DC. The US state department has been rebuffed by Israel about the need for a full independent investigation into the killing of the American-Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Even Washington’s call to Israel to review its army’s “rules of engagement.”
Once the end goal is clear an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, the UN has many mechanisms to help move the peace process ahead including the defunct but never dissolved 1947 United Nations Special Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP). Palestinian civil society activists along with American Jewish strategist Jerome Segal suggested the establishment of (UNCOP-2), which will be charged to produce within four months, a comprehensive plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to report that plan back to the General Assembly.”
The US can make a major contribution to peace by living up to its own words in regard to the two-state solution by agreeing not to stand against the arc of history. Palestinians have a right to self-determination, and they have decided, along with the entire world- including the current government in Israel, that such a right should see fruition through two states — Palestine and Israel. The US was the first country to recognize Israel back in 1948, it is high time for the Biden Administration to listen to the calls of Palestinians yearning to be free and recognize the other half of the two-state solution repeated ad nauseam by American officials.
When President Biden visited Jerusalem last August, he compared the Palestinian struggle to that of the Irish. He quoted an Irish poet saying “once in a lifetime/ The longed-for tidal wave/ Of justice can rise up/ And hope and history rhyme.” For Palestinians, the struggle for peace and justice has been long. President Biden can provide a kernel of hope to Palestinians by instructing his ambassador at the UN to be an instrument of hope rather than an obstacle to Palestinian freedom and independence.
Daoud Kuttab is an award-winning Palestinian journalist and former Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University. Follow him on Twitter @daoudkuttab