The way to defeat Hamas: Recognition of a Palestinian state

October 7 marked the greatest crisis in the history of the State of Israel. It could also augur a great opportunity, just as the traumatic Yom Kippur War 50 years ago engendered the peace treaty with Egypt.

The United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, and other democracies sided with Israel’s war on Hamas from day one. Visits by world leaders in the middle of the war to express solidarity; shipments of ammunition; and formation of a coalition against the Houthis are among the prominent expressions of this support by our allies.

But Israel’s interest requires another step on the part of our friends, a step that UK Foreign Secretary Cameron and US Secretary of State Blinken have talked about in recent days: recognition of a Palestinian state. For the UK, this would serve as the ultimate realization of the Balfour Declaration, which envisioned a national home for the Jewish people because without a national home for the Palestinian people we will not be a free people in our land. Separation between these two national homes would allow us to maintain Israel as the democratic State of the Jewish people.

Recognizing a Palestinian state would underscore what the international community has been telling Israel for decades: the desired political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is separation into two states. It is incumbent upon the US, UK, and European Union to form a “coalition of sanity” against the coalition of extremists. Pro-Western Arab states will join them. The details of the separation will be worked out in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israel, for example, should and will demand that Palestine be demilitarized.

A Palestinian state is recognized by 138 out of 193 countries UN member states. Most did so in 1988 after Palestinian Liberation Organization head Yasser Arafat’s landmark Algiers declaration establishing a Palestinian state. In his declaration, the PLO adopted the two-state solution, recognizing Security Council Resolution 242, based on the 1967 lines [calling for the withdrawal of Israel from territory gained in the Six Day War]. Some 30 additional countries recognized the Palestinian state in 2011 after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas applied for UN membership.

However, some 50 states have so far refrained from recognizing a Palestinian state. These are the “moral majority” countries, as former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, called them in 2011, when he tried to convince as many states as possible to abstain from the vote.

In so doing, Israel sought to signal that the “moral majority” consisting of the world’s major democracies did not support Palestinian membership in the UN. In fact, democracies such as France and Spain joined the bloc of 138 states that voted in favor; Germany and the UK were among the 41 abstentions, and only nine states voted “nay”, led by the US, the Czech Republic, and Canada.

The Israeli public should call on other countries to recognize a Palestinian state

With Israel under the rule of an extremist government, Israeli citizens should call on the international “moral majority” to grant sweeping recognition of a Palestinian state in order to defeat extremism and create a political alternative to Hamas. Standing with Israel and its existential interests requires international leadership to steer the sides toward the only viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This separation into two states for two peoples will not only grant the Palestinians the right to self-determination – it will also save Israel from the binational catastrophe toward which we are heading.

The US, UK, Canada, and 19 members of the EU, including Germany, France, and Italy, have yet to recognize a Palestinian state, but all maintain diplomatic relations with Ramallah. It should be made clear that recognition of a Palestinian state is essentially a symbolic step. It will not automatically lead to its establishment nor determine its boundaries. It will send a clear signal to the State of Israel and those at its helm of the direction in which the international community is pointing them, after which the Israeli and Palestinian governments themselves will negotiate the details of the separation.

Such a move would encourage the PA to undertake the systemic reforms advocated by the international community, led by the US.

This is the direction desired by our allies for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for normalization with Saudi Arabia, for regional investment and prosperity (for example, the planned economic corridor from India to Europe, running through the Gulf, Jordan, and Israel), and for forming an effective regional anti-Iran coalition.

Such a move would create an “alliance of moderates” – the US, UK, the EU, the pro-western Arab countries, and Israel’s peace-loving citizens – against the axis of extremists who seek to fuel the conflict, not resolve it.

Broad international recognition of a Palestinian state will signal to the Israeli government the path it must choose – a path of dialogue and understanding that unless it distances itself from the dangerous hardliners advocating transfer and annexation, Israel will become a pariah state, like South Africa’s apartheid regime. Israel must choose to play a key role in the emerging world order of liberal democracies, led by the US, UK, and the EU, rather than being relegated to its boycotted margins.

The two-state solution enjoys broad international consensus. The two-state vision is one of the few issues on which the US can agree with Russia and China, which have already recognized a Palestinian state. This consensus can serve as the basis for an international initiative that will turn the tragedy of October 7 into a diplomatic opportunity.

US recognition of a Palestinian state would also have the added value of restoring President Joe Biden’s standing among progressive voters, damaged by his unequivocal support for Israel and its war on Hamas. We must not forget the terrible alternative. Donald Trump is a threat to the democratic world. The former president, who pledged to be a dictator “only for a day,” may return to the White House unchecked, propped up by fanatical supporters of a man who has proven countless times that he holds his personal interests far dearer than those of his country (like our prime minister).

Recognition by the international “moral majority” of a Palestinian state is a Zionist imperative if Israel is to ensure its future as the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people. It would serve as a lifeline against the nightmarish government of Benjamin Netanyahu, Itamar Ben-Gvir, and Bezalel Smotritch and the world’s lifeline against Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Iran’s regional influence.

Recognition of a Palestinian state by the world’s leading democracies could finally provide more stability and calm to the bruised area in which we live.

The article was published in “the Jerusalem Post” on February 11.

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