Europe is Making a Mistake by Recognizing Palestine Now

Images of Martyrs in Nablus, West Bank. Kate Nevens, Creative Commons

A wave of noble intentions is currently flooding through Europe. What supporters do not understand, however, is that their lofty ambitions are counterproductive. This should have become particularly clear during the last days of violence throughout Israel. Instead of peace, pre-mature recognitions of a Palestinian state will ultimately result in more bloodshed – for both sides.

“This House believes that the Government should recognize the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution.” – was the core sentence of the non-binding motion that was passed by a great majority of Britain’s lower house in the middle of October. Britain’s decision must be viewed against the backdrop of equal movements in various European states. Ignited by similar aspirations in Sweden, Spain and France are also expressing their willingness to recognize a Palestinian state.

A peaceful solution to the seemingly everlasting conflict in the Middle East is a dream shared by most people across the globe. Although the proposed two-state-solution has undergone much criticism over the last years, a majority of both Israelis and Palestinians are still in support of it. “Such a solution requires mutual recognition and a will to peaceful coexistence”, is how Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven thus justified his government’s ambitions.

As noble as the intentions of Europe’s current wave of Palestinian solidarity might sound, its supporters fail to understand the message that their decision sends and the consequences that might result from it.

The supporters of Palestinian state recognition furthermore do not only seem to be completely detached from the realities within the region, but also display a profound lack of knowledge on international law. The basic question they fail to answer is which Palestinian state precisely they aim to recognize. According to the Montevideo Convention (which serves as the basis of international state recognition), a state needs to fulfill four major requirements: a) a permanent population, b) a defined territory, c) a government and d) the capacity to enter into relations with other states. Apart from constituting a population, Palestine is far from fulfilling the rest of these requirements.

Palestine has few clearly defined borders. No matter who one blames for this, the sheer fact remains that no agreement upon clearly defined Palestinian borders has been reached up until today. One could cite various UN resolutions (and talk about who didn’t abide by them) or claim that the settlement movement and the purchasing of land by Jewish people undermine any possibilities of Palestinian statehood.

What is being willfully ignored in all these argumentations, however, are the severe political shortcomings of Palestinians themselves. According to a recent opinion poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, Mahmoud Abbas, who in the West is portrayed as the leader of the Palestinian people, enjoys a ridiculously low support rate of 38%. In fact, if elections were held today, Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas, would win with a 55% majority. Not only does this signify the impossibility of a Palestinian state speaking with one voice under one government, it furthermore defeats the territorial ambitions of Palestine. Despite its so-called unity government, a “state” so divided in its political agenda cannot claim recognition while it is still battling (in the quite literal sense) over its interpretations of sovereignty.

Looking at the horrific attacks throughout Israel over these last days, and particularly the gruesome massacre at a synagogue on Tuesday morning in Jerusalem,

A bible drenched in blood after two terrorists stormed a synagogue on the morning of November 18, murdering five people

A bible drenched in blood after two terrorists stormed a synagogue on the morning of November 18, murdering five people, Jerusalem Post via Reuters

there has hardly ever been a more inappropriate time to recognize any form of Palestinian state. With Hamas supporters glorifying and celebrating the terror attack and Fatah members openly describing the attack as a “natural response to Israeli crimes and assaults on the Aksa Mosque,” European states should clearly think again about to whom they are granting recognition.

Many European states claim that the latest Gaza War motivated their call for recognition. However, wasn’t it precisely this most recent war that displayed the hypocrisy of Palestinian leaders to its finest? While the population in the Gaza Strip is living under grave conditions and is being purposefully sacrificed to Israeli bombs, its ruling power Hamas is enjoying finances of about $1 billion, making it the world’s second richest terror group (only the so-called Islamic State is able to keep up with this). The $568 million that the European Union pledged in aid of the Gazans seem like a ridiculously small drop in the bucket in comparison to this.

Do European members of parliament in support of Palestinian statehood willfully close their eyes to the outright approval of violence by many Palestinians?

Palestinians collect their belongings from under the rubble of a residential tower, which witnesses said was destroyed by an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on 24 August, UN Photo/Shareef Sarhan, Creative Commons

Palestinians collect their belongings from under the rubble of a residential tower, which witnesses said was destroyed by an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on 24 August, UN Photo/Shareef Sarhan, Creative Commons

According to the above-mentioned recent poll, 44% of Palestinians believe that “armed confrontation is the most effective mean to ending occupation and building a Palestinian state”. An overwhelming majority of 80% supports the launching of further rockets from the Gaza Strip at Israel, well aware of its most recent consequences.

Recognizing a Palestinian state in its current form means approving these violent aspirations. It makes European governments and parliaments accomplices and supporters of the continued bloodshed. It sends the signal to all terrorists that violence is an effective tactic and that the killing of innocents (on both sides!) is a successful way to acknowledgement.

It is needless to say that the Israeli government will never accept negotiations with an entity that openly calls for the killing of Jews and refuses to acknowledge the Israeli state. By trying to bypass bilateral negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, and instead creating a fait accompli with regard to a defined Palestinian state, international law makers are not only ignoring the facts on the ground, but are also continuing to add fuel to the flames.

If the international community agrees that a peaceful solution is the ultimate goal to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (as well as many other conflicts in the region for that matter), it cannot approve and recognize clearly violent entities that comprise a big part of the current Palestinian Authority.

To prevent horrific images and gruesome murders like those during the latest war in Gaza or those of the most recent terror attack in Jerusalem from becoming a normality, the international community must refrain from drawing premature and uneducated conclusions on a conflict that is much more complex than it seems and ultimately can only be solved in direct negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.

Tina Bellon

Chocolate and Indian food-addicted, Tina enjoys controversial discussions as much as a hike up into the mountains. She started her degree at Sciences Po after having walked down a few unusual trails across the globe and is now trying to bring LeZadig into the world by optimizing its Search Engine performance.
Tina Bellon


  • Avatar S says:

    The argument against recognition of Palestine is very weak: no recognizable borders? By symmetry, the same can be said about Israel. And guess who else has (exactly!) 38% approval ratings? One B. Netanyahu ( Unless the author is also arguing for the withdrawal of recognition of Israel 😛

    Moreover, granting recognition to Palestine is not endorsing what any percentage of its population believes, or what local political or terrorist groups might or might not do. Was the recognition of independent Ghana, or any other African nation during decolonization, subject to a test of its citizens’ feelings toward the British? Self-determination is a right, regardless of whether EU countries acknowledge it or not.

    But is seems evident that this is not what is at stake here: is Israel afraid to negotiate on equal terms? Are many Israelis afraid to recognize Palestinians have the same rights as they do, and that their security concerns cannot forever trump basic rights for the Palestinians?

    Israel’s continuing settlement project in the West Bank and East Jerusalem reduces the chances of a two-state solution day by day. However feeble, this last move by EU countries is an attempt to force Israel back to the negotiating table, hopefully in more good faith than in the past. For an alternative Israeli view:

    Is Palestine a perfect state? No, it is a poor, developing nation; like most, it is riddled with corruption, and like few it harbors violent groups. All the better a reason to relent the encroachment on its development. Recognizing Palestine doesn’t imply condoning everything that’s wrong in the country, any more than recognizing Somalia would. It is about facing reality and taking positive steps to improve everyone’s well-being.

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