What Recognizing “Palestine” Really Means | Steve Berman

Norway, Ireland and Spain have formally recognized the state of “Palestine,” meaning a disconnected jumble of land on the West Bank of the Jordan River and the Gaza Strip (“from the river to the sea” with Israel in between). They join 143 other U.N. members in doing so. Let me start by observing that this is not really big headline news, but the AP headline blares “deepening Israel’s isolation.” Listen, friend: Israel has always been isolated. None of this is anything new, but now there’s a war in Gaza, so it’s considered “news.”

The AP piece, in the first sentence, notes that this is “a historic but largely symbolic move” that “deepens Israel’s isolation more than seven months into its grinding war against Hamas in Gaza.” That’s true. Recognizing “Palestine” is symbolic because there’s really nobody to recognize.

The Palestinian Authority, by treaty, is the governing authority of all Palestinian territories. This was the result of carefully negotiated provisions of the Oslo Accords, a pair of agreements from the 1990s. The long name for the first agreement is the “Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements” and was signed by Mahmoud Abbas, who was then the lead negotiator for the PLO under Yassir Arafat, and Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin. The second agreement, “Oslo II” was signed in May 1994, and called for Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and Jericho, along with Palestinian elections, government, civil administration and other bilateral cooperation.

Abbas now runs the PA, which hasn’t had an election for 15 years and counting. Rabin was assassinated on November 4, 1995, by an extremist religious Israeli. Israel has largely kept its side of Oslo and Oslo II, with notable exceptions regarding policing West Bank settlers. From 1996 through 2000, both Arafat and then-PM Benjamin Netanyahu continued to implement small agreements regarding further Israeli transfer of control to the PA. When Ehud Barak defeated Netanyahu in 1999, Barak, along with President Bill Clinton, made a push for a permanent agreement.

Negotiations fell apart when Arafat was given just about everything he asked for at Camp David in July 2000, but chose to pursue “intifada” instead. Clinton has called that a “stab in the back.” 

The reason Netanyahu has continued to win election after election in forming governments in Israel since 2000, and why Likud keeps returning to power after more dovish Labor Party-led Israeli governments fail, is because Likud has always recognized and publicly said there can be no peace or two-state solution until there’s an actual partner in Palestine to establish some trust.

Hamas purposely timed a string of terrorist attacks in 1995 after Rabin’s assassination to discredit the Labor Party, because Hamas didn’t want a peace agreement with the PA in charge. It worked, and Likud, with Netanyahu leading, won. Palestinians have always meddled in Israeli elections, and use violence to achieve their desired outcomes. Meanwhile, Palestinians don’t have elections, because their leaders are scared to let the people decide anything.

In Gaza, the Palestinian people elected Hamas after Israel withdrew in 2005 (the IDF forcibly removed settlers from north Gaza, a pubic embarrassment broadcast live; Hamas ordered all abandoned Jewish homes and structures to be burned instead of occupied), because the PA was corrupt and seen as too subservient to Israel (i.e. recognizing its existence). Hamas has never recognized Israel’s right to exist, and never will, because its charter explicitly calls for genocide against Jews worldwide.

So when Spain, or Ireland, or Norway decide to recognize “Palestine” as a state, are they recognizing Hamas as a legitimate governing body worthy of signing agreements and administering civil order? No. Hamas is a terrorist group. The PA is corrupt and set up to feather the beds of its leaders. For that matter, Hamas’ political leaders live in luxury in Doha, Qatar, guests of the two-faced sheiks who run that oligopoly.

Spain’s PM Pedro Sánchez said, “This recognition is not against anyone, it is not against the Israeli people.” This is disingenuous garbage. The recognition is a rebuke of Netanyahu’s government and the Likud Party, who refuse to entertain any talk of a two-state solution, without providing the details of how they’ll run a single-state solution. Most of Likud wants the one-and-a-half-state solution Israel currently runs, providing funds to the PA (and to Gaza), providing basic services, but maintaining control of security to keep terrorists out of Israel, while reserving the right to “mow the grass” to keep Hamas down. That system has failed, but there’s no proposal to replace it.

The recognition of “Palestine” by more and more western nations is a signal that the political calculus in Israel is not working, and Israelis should change it. It’s not “against the Israeli people,” but it is a warning to them. As goes Israel, Jews around the world pay for it or benefit from it. Anti-semitism doesn’t need much of a spark to flare up, and it is flaring up around the world.

Perhaps Norway, Ireland and Spain are doing Israelis a favor by recognizing nothing at all except that Israel’s government and politics are failing. It’s the classic meme “who’s going to tell them?”

Careful readers will notice that I’ve come full circle. The AP headline is saying something without saying it: “deepening Israel’s isolation” really means “telling Israelis something is wrong with their government.” Recognizing “Palestine” means nothing to Palestinians. Most Palestinians support the terrorism that plagues Israel. To them “from the river to the sea” means something; something bloody and horrible. But westerners who chant this aren’t talking about “Palestine,” they’re talking about Israel.

Someone’s got to run Gaza; someone’s got to represent the West Bank. Someone’s got to speak for the Palestinians. It’s not going to be Israel (regarding Netanyahu: “who’s going to tell him?”). This is what the recognition of “Palestine” means. If Israel doesn’t figure out who “Palestine” is, even if they can’t trust who they’re sitting with, the rest of the world will figure it out. Then Israel will be truly isolated.

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevengberman.

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