Recognizing a Diplomatic Horizon

Recognition of a Palestinian state is not an obstacle to peace. Both Palestinians and Israelis deserve a real diplomatic horizon.

The Palestinian Authority is due to request Thursday, November 29, that the UN General Assembly recognize Palestine as an observer nation. The symbolic timing - the same day as the 1947 UN vote on partitioning the land and creating the State of Israel - is likely to make this date an important part of the Palestinian heritage as well as the Israeli.

But there is more to the Palestinians' move than mere symbolism. A recognized Palestinian state will give Israel a responsible partner with international backing - one that will represent the entire Palestinian people and be able to make decisions in its name.

There is no basis for Israel's fear of international recognition of Palestine. The international treaties that will bind Palestine and its possible membership in the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court will not lift the occupation. At most, they will put appropriate restrictions on Israel's freedom of action. It's doubtful whether Palestine's new status will let it curb the settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem or provide leverage for withdrawing the Israel Defense Forces and evacuating the settlements.

All the same, the fictitious "balance of terror" isn't the right measure for examining the Palestinian request. The Palestinian nation, which until four decades ago Israel did not consider a nation, is now recognized by most countries around the world, including friends of Israel, as a national unit entitled to recognized borders and the title of a state.

Israel, which acted vigorously and even threatened to bring down the PA if it dared implement its aspiration for recognition, has understood in recent days that its position was weak and even damaging. But the prime minister, instead of taking a generous position granting early recognition to a Palestinian state and declaring that he is willing to negotiate with its president, is trying to impede the international decision and impose restrictions on it.

Recognition of a Palestinian state is not an obstacle to peace. President Mahmoud Abbas has committed to renewing talks with Israel immediately after his country is recognized. If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to convince Israelis of his desire for peace, he must drop his objection to recognizing Palestine, be the first to congratulate Abbas for the historic achievement and provide an early date for renewing talks. It isn't just the Palestinians who deserve a diplomatic horizon. The Israelis deserve one too.