Will recognition of Palestine make a difference?

Legal status will be questionable as a state must have elements of population, government, sovereignty and territory

Dr Moonis Ahmar April 16, 2024
The writer is former Dean Faculty of Social Science, University of Karachi and can be reached at amoons@hotmail.com


In 1947, the UN approved Palestine partition plan and in 1948 Israel was admitted as a member of the UN. But, it should be known that in the UN partition plan it was resolved to create a Jewish and an Arab state. Now, 76 years after the plan, there is a Jewish state but no Arab (Palestinian) state. This act of injustice not only encouraged Israel to establish and strengthen its occupation of West Bank and sustain its blockade of Gaza Strip, but also to embark on a plan to permanently deprive the beleaguered Palestinian community of their ancestral land.

The question of granting statehood is as old as the UN partition plan for Palestine. But, in the recent past there is a move on part of some UN members to grant recognition to the state of Palestine. Followed by Britain, Ireland, Malta, Slovenia and Spain and Norway, now Australia has hinted that it will recognise the Palestinian state, with the Australian Foreign Minister saying, “Recognizing Palestinian state that can only exist side by side with a secure Israel will strengthen forces for peace.” Granting full membership of Palestine is already pending before the UN Security Council where it will certainly be vetoed by the US reflecting contradiction in its stated position that there should be a two-state solution where Israel and Palestine will live side by side.

In the meantime, there is a tug of war going on between Nicaragua and Germany on the issue of Berlin not condemning genocide against the Palestinians and providing weapons to Israel. Singling out Germany as an ally of Israel in the war by Nicaragua, a Central American country with marginal stakes in the Middle East, means the two countries at the International Court of Justice are pursuing opposite policies. Following the US and Israel, Germany will not support granting Palestine full membership as it cannot afford to antagonise Israel on the historical episode of holocaust of Jews during the Nazi regime. Seemingly, the German position on Israel is groundless because on the one hand, it is exonerating Israel of genocide providing sophisticated weapons to the Jewish state, and on the other, it is rejecting the recognition of an independent Palestinian state.

Will the recognition of Palestine as a state make a difference in changing the ground reality that presently 60% of occupied West Bank is inundated with Jewish settlements? Millions of Jews, against international law and UNSC resolutions, have been settled by Israeli authorities in Gaza leading to demographic transformation of a land which was occupied by the Jewish state in the Arab-Israeli war of June 1967. So much so that Israel annexed the Palestinian majority territory of East Jerusalem where Al-Aqsa mosque is located. Israel also shifted its capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem violating the UNSC resolution and is in no mood to withdraw from the occupied territories.

When it comes to a Palestinian state, its legal status will be questionable because according to International Law and Political Science definitions, a state must have four elements: population, government, sovereignty and territory. In case of Palestine, government and sovereignty cannot be seen because it is Israel that controls sovereignty and territory of West Bank. Since 2005 when it withdrew from Gaza, it gas enforced strict blockade. In that case, the very nature Palestinian state does not exist.

From an ethical and moral point of view, along with the population, Palestine has a legal standing.

The issue of granting recognition to Palestine needs to be analysed on three grounds.

First, if Palestine is recognised as a state by the UN Security Council and also General Assembly it will give enormous legitimacy to Palestine and weaken the position of Israel. For the last five decades, Palestine Liberation Organization was granted an observer status in the UN but lacked a legitimate position. There is no problem with the permanent members of the UNSC except the US which is adamant on not supporting the case of membership for the state of Palestine. According to the Oslo Accord, five years were given by its formulators to grant statehood to Palestine pending the status of Jerusalem, return of refugees and borders between the state of Israel and Palestine. Palestinian authority, with limited sovereignty, was granted by Israel in the occupied West Bank but the peace process got a serious jolt when its Israeli architect, Prime Minister Yitzakh Rabin was assassinated by a fanatic Jew on November 1, 1995. The peace process then reversed because Benjamin Netanyahu, the successor of Rabin, refused to give ownership to the Oslo Accord and rejected an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. Since November 1995, no Israeli government granted its consent for a Palestinian state and on the contrary embarked on establishing Jewish settlements in the West Bank thus altering the demographic complexion of that Palestinian majority territory.

Second, granting recognition to the state of Palestine will not make a difference because of its makeshift nature of state. West Bank is already littered with Jewish settlements protected by armed Israeli forces reflecting an apartheid type system. It means, a future Palestinian state will not have its complete writ in the West Bank. Furthermore, West Bank and Gaza are not geographically connected because in between the two Palestinian territories is Israel which will block all interactions as far as West Bank and Gaza are concerned. That reality will make Palestine a makeshift state with marginal viability and connectivity. Israel’s success by systematically making any future Palestinian state redundant is a major disaster for Arabs along with infighting and division as Gaza is controlled by Hamas and West Bank by PLO. So, what are the ground realities of Palestine’s supporters determined to continue with their resolve? Or is it the determination and idea that tend to convince those supporting recognising Palestine as a state? Overwhelming support for a Palestinian state barring the US and some Western allies must be concrete and compel the Jewish state to dismantle illegal Jewish settlements, stop genocide of Palestinians, accept permanent ceasefire and allow uninterrupted supply of food and medical facilities for the beleaguered population of Gaza.

Finally, the support of Muslim world is vital for transforming the dream of a Palestinian state into a reality. Unfortunately, impotent role of the Muslim states to prevent Israeli genocide in Gaza and for an independent Palestinian state is a stark reality. When the Muslim world miserably failed to prevent Israeli genocide of Palestinians in Gaza and occupied West Bank how will they be able to actively support an independent Palestinian state?

Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2024.

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