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Recognising Palestine without borders and leadership change would be a mistake

May 19,2024 - Last updated at May 19,2024

The war in Gaza is entering its eighth month without an end in sight while there is a failed diplomatic effort to contain the war and reach a settlement that preserves the lives of civilians.

With Israel having no vision about the day after the end of the war and what the Gaza Strip will lead to there is an attempt to plan for the peaceful resolution of the conflict using a stable and independent Palestinian state. While this is a noble and needed goal, it is critically important that the recognition of a Palestinian state be clear, with delineated geographical boundaries and a mechanism ensuring that those engaged in this process have the support of their own people.

Although the US has vetoed the most recent effort in this direction, several European countries appear to be moving in the direction of recognising a Palestinian state without specifying the borders. They believe that a carrot could be given to the Palestinians to alleviate their resentment and their feeling that everything that happens to them is without a price. The UN General Assembly, meeting as part of the Uniting for Peace session, has voted overwhelmingly to send the issue back to the Security Council and to widen the powers of the Palestinian delegation. The US continues to say it will veto the resolution again but the pressure continues to be on to many reluctant countries.

There is a feeling that the idea of Palestinian statehood constitutes a pressure card on the Netanyahu government — as the Europeans imagine — to make concessions in the negotiations on a temporary ceasefire in Gaza.

The European position was evident in response to the Palestinian request to recognise the State of Palestine as a full member state in the United Nations. European members of the Security Council voted yes to the resolution and even the United Kingdom did not oppose it, while America veto to kill the resolution.

Several European Union countries, such as Ireland, Spain and Belgium, have stated according to press reports, that they are willing to recognise the Palestinian state and that this will take place before the end of May. But if this recognition is vague regarding the borders of the Palestinian state, and a legitimisation of those who will be involved in representing Palestinians, then this would be tantamount to throwing ashes in the eyes, and its result may be worse than if the recognition had not been made because it will provide deceptive reassurance and calm the inflammatory conditions around the world in favour of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.

For sure and after five decades of Israeli occupation, there is a need for an independent Palestinian state on the border of June 4th, 1967. There is a need for a gradual process that includes the dismantling of the occupation, but for any recognition to be clear there is no escaping from the need for such a recognition to include clear borders. It may be necessary that the Palestinian state negotiate land swaps here and there, for example, to facilitate free movement between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but such land exchange must be equal in size and quality and be carried out by understanding between the two parties.

Recognising a Palestinian state without borders, without sovereignty over land, water, and air, no capital, no authorities on the ground, and no solution to the refugee problem and the settlement problem will be a revival of the dead Oslo Accords and the continuation of the occupation, but in new forms.

Some press leaks indicate that America will try to convince Israel to merge Areas A and B which were featured in the Oslo Accords. It is noteworthy here to remind all that Areas C, which includes the settlements and their surroundings, and the Jordan Valley region, covers 60 per cent of the West Bank, which means that if the idea of Area A&B becomes the proposed Palestinian state it will be worse than the state proposed by Trump in what was often referred to as the Deal of the Century.

Such incomplete recognition would complicate the conflict and inflame it more than before, as it prolongs the need for a strategic solution and will leave the door wide open for the continuation of the current conditions of settlement, the storming of cities and villages under the control of the Palestinian Authority or the Palestinian state.

In addition to the necessity of determining the Palestinian state’s borders in advance, the Palestinian negotiator must have the legitimacy of true representation of their people through fair and transparent elections. President Abbas failed to have his legitimacy confirmed when he cancelled the elections in 2022, so it is necessary before negotiating after recognising the state on the 1967 borders for the Palestinians to put their internal house in order and elect someone to represent them in the negotiations.

Recognising a Palestinian state outside the scope of United Nations resolutions and without the borders of June 4, 1967, and resolving the problem of refugees, water and other outstanding fundamental issues, primarily serves Israel. It will be a fig leaf that the Arab countries thirsty for normalisation with Israel led by Saudi Arabia, are yearning for.

After the end of the horrible carnage in Gaza, there must be serious efforts for a permanent solution to the Palestinian conflict. Vague solutions of a state without a border will be the worst solution. What is needed is an unambiguous recognition of a Palestinian state on the June 4th borders and a process in which legitimate Palestinian representatives will negotiate all modalities of relations of this Palestinian state with Israel. Anything short of that will be trouble for all.


Muhannad Alazzeh is a former member of the Jordanian Senate and is an international legal and human rights commissioned expert

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