Israel - Not Europe - Should Recognize Palestine

Whoever says the Swedish or British parliaments can advance or impose an agreement without Israel are wrong, misleading, and wasting very precious time.

Hilik Bar
Hilik Bar
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Abbas, top left, and Labor party secretary-general Hilik Bar, top second left, in Ramallah. Feb. 16, 2014.
Abbas, top left, and Labor party secretary-general Hilik Bar, top second left, in Ramallah. Feb. 16, 2014.Credit: AP
Hilik Bar
Hilik Bar

Like many of the voices we’ve been hearing lately from the feuding left (what fun for the right!), Yechiam Weitz argued that my call to members of the British Parliament to oppose the nonbinding resolution calling for recognition of a Palestinian state was wrong (“The right can’t get to define patriotism,” Haaretz, October 21). He also believes that my call shows that I have adopted the right’s definition of patriotism.

So firstly, I’m proud to be an Israeli patriot, who cares about what I perceive are Israel’s national interests. I am also proud to be a leftist. The two do not conflict. One of our problems on the left is that for too many years, we have allowed the right to appropriate patriotism for itself, to the point where we have to apologize for expressions of patriotism or be attacked for them. Not in my book.

The Israeli left that both Professor Weitz and I belong to must rid itself of these feelings of inferiority. The left is allowed to advance Israel’s interests even when they aren’t fully compatible with Palestinian moves – especially if we believe it will be to their benefit in the long run. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, after all, doesn’t ask the Israeli left to approve all of his (often aggravating) actions – and rightly so. The opposite should also be the case.

As to the issue at hand, my call to the British Parliament stemmed from due consideration of the most effective way to advance the establishment of a Palestinian state – through a peace agreement. Weitz ought to know that a decision by any parliament in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state does not deter the Israeli government from settlement construction; probably the opposite is true. Moreover, the British Parliament’s resolution has a negative impact on the Israeli voter hesitating between the right and the center-left, because it strengthens his impression that Europe is hostile to Israel, if not to Jews altogether.

This is a crucial issue, because any diplomatic agreement will require Israeli faith in the guarantees the international community will provide for its implementation. Even worse, the resolutions by the Swedish and British legislatures strengthen the hand of those Palestinians who support internationalizing the conflict – an approach that turns Israelis off, and makes it difficult for them to see the Palestinians as a partner.

Both Weitz and I, as well as the Palestinians, know that an authentic Palestinian state will only arise as a result of an Israeli agreement during negotiations, and not as the result of symbolic resolutions that will have no impact on the Bennett-Netanyahu refusal government, and will only increase Israeli voter support for the right. That’s why the Labor Party unequivocally supports Israel’s recognition of a Palestinian state. Not “as if,” but really. This is an Israeli interest. The British Parliament would have acted more constructively if it had, for example, called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to recognize a Palestinian state.

The Labor Party has a worldview that is very different from the Netanyahu-led right, believing that Israel must take the diplomatic initiative and shape reality. That’s why we support Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state, negotiations with the PLO on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative (which Netanyahu continues to ignore), and full integration for Israel’s Arab citizens. The Labor Party enables and will continue to enable Israel’s citizens to choose between diplomatic stalemate and an iron curtain, and a genuine and honest diplomatic initiative and regional integration, while upholding Israeli interests.

If Professor Weitz or other members of the left really think that the Swedish or British parliaments can advance or impose an agreement without Israel, then they are wrong and misleading, reinforcing the distrust between Israel and the Palestinians, and, most importantly, wasting time that we really don’t have.

The writer, a Labor MK, is secretary-general of the Labor Party.

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