European Recognition of Palestine Will Save the Two-state Solution

By affirming their belief in the right of the Palestinian people to a national homeland, European countries are also sending a message to Israel: The era of impunity is over.

Saeb Erekat
Saeb Erekat
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Palestinians carry a 66 meter national flag in Ramallah. Tuesday Oct. 28, 2014.
Palestinians carry a 66 meter national flag in Ramallah. Tuesday Oct. 28, 2014.Credit: AP
Saeb Erekat
Saeb Erekat

To recognize the State of Palestine on the 1967 border is a moral step that should be taken by all states that claim to support the two-state solution. It is an investment in peace that sends the right message to both Israelis and Palestinians. To Israel, the occupying power, recognition of Palestine is a strong sign that their illegal colonization policies are null and void, but also that they don’t have a veto right over the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to freedom. To the Palestinians, recognition is a reaffirmation of their right to self-determination and a step in the right direction. It proves that diplomacy and international law are the way forward and that the international community will side with those who decide to respect its laws and principles.

Those who oppose our call for international recognition are making our right of self-determination an Israeli choice. They fail to mention that our independence was never a final-status issue to be dealt with by the Israelis but, a sovereign right that all peoples have according to international law. Our right to statehood is not up for negotiation. We don’t want to continue being the exception to international norm, as parts of the international community continue to hide their own responsibility behind calls to resume negotiations. Nevertheless, we have been clear about reaffirming that we are not trying to bypass negotiations in terms of a final-status agreement.

Like in any other conflict, including the end of the South African Apartheid, negotiations are necessary in order to rule the relations between Israel and Palestine the day after the occupation is gone. Such negotiations should address all final status-issues, including refugees, Jerusalem, settlements, borders, security, water and prisoners.

In 1988, the PLO took the painful historic compromise of recognizing Israel over the 1967 border, or 78 percent of historic Palestine. Europe was encouraged by our step and repeated that this would lead to peace within “a few years” with the independence of Palestine. This, our long overdue right, seems today more difficult to be implemented by the mere fact that the number of Israeli settlers has more than tripled over the past 26 years. The culture of impunity granted to Israel has facilitated that process.

Israel knows that it can even violate the EU-Israel association agreement by violating human rights and no effective sanctions would be taken. After having condemned Israeli settlements expansion for decades, European governments, just as the rest of the international community, have warned that there is a possibility for the two-state solution will no longer be achievable. Calls to resume negotiations alone will not change the current situation where an Apartheid system is being imposed over millions of Palestinians while the political horizon continues to fade away.

For years now, Palestine has received the solidarity of millions of Europeans. Some of them tell us that they cannot resist the shame that Palestine up until today continues to pay for the sins of Western policies in the region that have granted Israel an unprecedented culture of impunity. We have witnessed hundreds of thousands taking to the streets of Europe to call for justice for Palestine.

Delegations of Europeans from all faiths and political ideologies visit Palestine every year, bringing a word of support for the principle of justice and requirements for peace, including the recognition of the State of Palestine on the 1967 border.

The steps taken by parliaments in Britain, Ireland, Spain and Belgium, as well as the Swedish announcement for Palestine’s recognition, are not only a reflection of the overwhelming will of European public opinion but they are also clear signs that Europe is moving towards taking significant steps in order to respect international law, protect Palestinian rights and save the prospects of a two-state solution. By recognizing Palestine and supporting our initiative to put a deadline to end the Israeli occupation, Europe would not be “encouraging Palestinians to bypass negotiations,” but exactly the opposite: It would send a strong message of commitment to the international law and diplomacy as the only way to move forward, as well as respect for the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.

The first step in order to save the two-state solution is to effectively recognize two-states, not only one.

The writer is a member of the PLO Executive Committee and Head of the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department.

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