Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
The Good, Bad, and Uncertain About More
Countries Recognizing the State of Palestine
By Ramzy Baroud
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, June 8, 2015
No matter what Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does, his
popularity is declining. In some ways, Abbas’ threshold for popularity
was really never impressive to begin with, a trend that is unlikely to
change in the near future.
But now that a power struggle in his
Fatah party is looming, and his two-decade investment in the ‘peace process’
scheme has proven to be fruitless, Abbas is doing what he should have done a
long time ago: internationalize the Palestinian struggle, and break away
from the confines of American influence and double-standard ‘diplomacy’.
Considering Abbas’ grim legacy among Palestinians, his leading role in
engineering the peace process, crackdown on dissent, failure to achieve
unity among his people, undemocratic rule, and much more, it is doubtful
that his internationalization efforts are done with the greater good in
mind. But should that matter if the outcome is greater recognition of a
The Vatican’s Move
On May 13, the Vatican
officially recognized the state of Palestine. In reality, the Vatican had
already welcomed the United Nations General Assembly vote in 2012 to
recognize a Palestinian state. Moreover, it had treated Palestine
as a state ever since.
But what makes May 13 particularly
important is that the subtle recognition was put into practice in
the form of a treaty, which is in itself not too important. True, the
updated recognition is still symbolic in a sense, but also significant, for
it is further validates the Palestinian leadership’s new approach aimed at
breaking away from the US-sponsored peace process into a more
internationalized approach to the conflict.
The Vatican can be seen
as a moral authority to many of the 1.2 billion people that consider
themselves Roman Catholics. Its recognition of Palestine is consistent with
the political attitude of countries that are considered the strongest
supporters of Palestinian rights around the world, the majority of whom are
located in Latin America and Africa.
There is more than one way to
read this latest development within the context of the larger Palestinian
strategic shift to break away from the disproportionate dependence on
American political hegemony over the Palestinian discourse. But it is not
all positive, and the road for the ‘state of Palestine,’ which is yet to
exist outside the realm of symbolism, is paved with dangers.
Reasons for Optimism
1. Recognitions allow Palestinians to
break away from United States hegemony over the political discourse of the
For nearly twenty-five years, the
Palestinian leadership - first the PLO and then the PA - fell under the
spell of American influence starting at the US-led multilateral negotiations
between Israel and Arab countries in Madrid in 1991. The singing of the Oslo
Agreement in 1993 and the establishment of the PA the following year gave
the US an overriding political influence over Palestinian political
discourse. While the PA accumulated considerable wealth and a degree of
political validation as a result of that exchange, Palestinians as a whole
lost a great deal.
2. International recognitions downgrade the
‘peace process’, which has been futile at best, but also destructive as far
as Palestinian national aspirations are concerned.
US-sponsored ‘peace process’ was launched in 1993, Palestinians gained
little and lost so much more. That loss can be highlighted mostly in the
following: massive expansion in Israel’s illegal Jewish settlements in the
occupied territories, doubling the number of the illegal settlers as well;
the failure of the so-called peace process to deliver any of its declared
goals, largely Palestinian political sovereignty and an independent state;
and the fragmentation of the Palestinian national cause among competing
The last nail in the ‘peace process’ coffin was put in place when US
Secretary of State, John Kerry, failed to meet his deadline of April 2014
that aimed at achieving a ‘framework agreement’ between the PA and the
rightwing government of Benjamin Netanyahu.
The collapse in the
process was largely an outcome of a deep-seated ailment where the talks, no
matter how ‘positive’ and ‘encouraging’ they were, were never truly designed
to give Palestinians what they aspired to achieve: a state of their own.
Netanyahu and his government (the recent one being arguably the ‘most
hawkish’ in Israel’s history) made their intentions repeatedly clear.
Finding alternatives to the futile ‘peace process’, through taking the
conflict back to international institutions and individual governments is
surely a much wiser strategy than making the same mistake time and again.
3. Instead of being coerced to engage in frivolous talks in exchange
for funds, recognitions of Palestine allow Palestinians to regain the
In 2012, Abbas reached out to the UN General Assembly
seeking recognition of Palestine. Once he achieved the new status, he
continued to push for his internationalization of the Palestinian cause
project, although at times, hesitantly.
What is more important than
Abbas’ maneuvers is that with the exception of the United States, Israel,
Canada and a few tiny islands, many
countries including US western allies seemed receptive to the Palestinian
initiative. Some went as far as confirming that commitment through
parliamentary votes in favor of a Palestinian state. The Vatican’s decision
to sign a treaty with the ‘state of Palestine’ is but a step further in the
same direction. But all in all, the movement towards recognizing the state
of Palestine has grown in momentum to the extent that its sidestepping the
US entirely, and discounting its role as the self-imposed ‘honest broker’ in
a peace process that was born dead.
Thus, it is a good day when the
US’s disparate political and military influence retreats in favor of a more
pluralistic and democratic world. But it is not all good news for the
Palestinians because these recognitions come at a cost.
Reasons for Doubt
1. These recognitions are conditioned on
the so-called two state solution idea, itself an impracticable starting
point for resolving the conflict.
A two-state solution that can
introduce the most basic threshold for justice is not possible considering
the impossibility of the geography of the Israeli occupation, the huge
buildup of illegal settlements dotting the West Bank and Jerusalem, the
right of return for Palestinian refugees to their homes, and issues
pertaining to water rights, etc. That ‘solution’ is a relic of a past
historical period when Henry Kissinger launched his shuttle diplomacy in the
1970’s. It has no place in today’s world when the lives of Palestinians and
Israelis are overlapping in too many ways for a clean break to be realized.
2. Recognitions are validating the very Palestinian president who is
serving with an expired mandate that is presiding over an unelected
In fact, it was Abbas also known as Abu Mazen, who
mostly cooked up the whole Oslo deal, starting secretly in Norway, while
by-passing any attempt at Palestinian consensus regarding the inherently
skewed process. Since then, he more or less stood at the helm, benefiting
from the political disaster that has engineered. Should Abbas, now 80, be
given yet another chance to shift the Palestinian strategy to a whole
different direction? Should these efforts be validated? Or isn’t it time for
a rethink involving a younger generation of Palestinian leaders capable of
steering the Palestinian national project into a whole new realm of
3. Recognitions are merely symbolic.
country that is not fully formed and is under military occupation will
hardly change the reality on the ground in any shape or form. The Israeli
military occupation, the expanding settlements, and suffocating checkpoints
remain to be the daily reality that Palestinians must contend with. Even if
Abbas’ strategy succeeds, there is no evidence that in the end it will carry
any actual weight, in terms of deterring Israel or lessening the suffering
of the Palestinians.
argue that the recognition of Palestine is much bigger than Abbas as an
individual or a legacy. These recognitions demonstrate that there has been a
seismic shift in international consensus regarding Palestine, where many
countries in the southern and northern hemispheres seem to ultimately agree
that it is time to liberate the fate of Palestine from American hegemony. In
the long run, and considering the growing rebalancing of global powers, for
Palestinians, this is a good start.
However, the question remains:
Will there be a capable and savvy Palestinian leadership that knows how to
take advantage of this global shift and utilize it to the fullest extent for
the benefit of the Palestinian people?
- Ramzy Baroud – www.ramzybaroud.net -
is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of
several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. He is currently
completing his PhD studies at the University of Exeter. His latest book is
My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).
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