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America’s Palestinian Pickle

"The World in a Cloverleaf"
(Wikimedia Commons)
"The World in a Cloverleaf" (Wikimedia Commons)

Last Friday, the United Nations General Assembly voted to invest the Palestinian delegations with nearly all the rights granted to full-fledged members of the body. Earlier that day, E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced that a few member states, including Spain, Ireland and Slovenia, would recognize Palestine on May 21st. Assuming that his prediction pans out, this would indicate a major shift in policy, but not an unprecedented move considering that 144/193 countries worldwide, including many European countries, such as Poland and Hungary, already recognize Palestinian statehood. For many sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians, such recognition will be received as a welcome step towards Palestinian sovereignty, however, as one can expect, such a step may remain solely symbolic until more powerful countries get involved.

As we stand today, the Palestinian Authority lacks many of characteristics of statehood. Palestinians are denied basic human rights, including freedom of movement and civil protections, while they are subjected to Israeli law administered through IDF officials. To make things worse, the structural weaknesses of the PA, aggravated by systemic corruption and chronic lack of funds, has led to the increasing vulnerability of the proto-state to both external (e.g. Bezalel Smotrich) and internal (e.g. Hamas) threats who seek to undermine both the political and security aims of the organization. Though still barely functioning, the PA is showing signs of imminent collapse, a fact that bodes ill for the prospects of regional stability.

Though most Israeli security officials and Western diplomats see the PA as a necessary evil in a fight against greater threats, many Israeli and American politicians continue to view the implementation of a viable two-state solution as both sacrilegious and naïve. Ignoring the overwhelming dictates of realistic security fears, many in both Israel and the U.S. still resist the notion of Palestinian statehood on political grounds, accusing the PA leadership of inciting against Israel, of paying “blood money” to families of convicted terrorists, and of conducting itself belligerently on the world stage. However, due to the war, the PA has reemerged as the viable, moral alternative to Islamic fundamentalism. The increased transparency of the PAs comprehensive security collaboration with the IDF, a fact now acknowledged by even the most ardent of American Zionists, eager to single out Hamas, severely undermines the exaggerated polemics aimed at the PA leadership and renders much of the propaganda ineffective.

What, then, continues to prevent the U.S. from actively facilitating the establishment of Palestinian statehood? I propose that the lack of active American government support for Palestinian statehood derives from the complexities of the hegemonic relations that influence the region, especially those with China. Throughout its history, the PLO, which currently administers the PA in the West Bank, has maintained strong ties with the Chinese. Over the past few years, as China has grown to threaten the unipolar, American-dominated world order, Palestinian groups, including the PLO, have increasingly gravitated towards Beijing as a strategic alternative to the West, which has, in turn, doubled down on its support of Zionism.

The events immediately preceding the war, specifically the successful Chinese-mediated accord between Iran and the Saudis, and the ill-fated American-backed counter-negotiations involving Israel, demonstrated to many outside observers the hegemonic nature of the current conflict. The war has only complicated things further, distancing Israel from the Chinese and strengthening its material and political dependence on the U.S. Sadly, the Chinese are increasingly being seen in Israel as conscious enablers of Islamic terror and the leaders of an ‘axis of evil,’ a racist narrative that threatens to plunge the region into a prolonged and bloody proxy-war. The PA, on the other hand, has continued to invest in its ‘subversive’ relations with China, as its way of compensating for the seemingly unbridled Western support of Israel’s aggressions.

If powerful Western countries do eventually recognize Palestinian statehood, such actions would inevitably bring about significant changes not only for Israel and Palestine, but for the world at large. In many ways, the act of recognizing Palestinian statehood could be interpreted not only as a limited diplomatic gesture aimed at protecting Palestinian civilians from Israeli aggression, but as tacit approval of Palestine’s strategic pivot to China in its ongoing attempt to circumvent the West. In essence, Western recognition of a Chinese-leaning Palestinian state would legitimize diplomatic interests that run counter to those of the bloc itself, a self-defeating enterprise for most American politicians.

Currently, Palestine’s Chinese leanings do not pose a threat to the U.S., as Palestine is weak and occupied by Israel. However, the imposition of a Western-backed Palestinian state on Israel would almost certainly force Israel’s hand and disrupt not only U.S.-Israeli relations but internal relations between the U.S. and Europe as well. Politically, many Israelis would feel betrayed by the West’s duplicity and would begin to reconsider Israel’s dependence on American support. Furthermore, the Palestinians would leverage Israeli security interests against the West more efficiently, applying anti-establishment pressures on European political leaders through informal Israeli security channels (e.g. Mossad).

Lying at an important strategic crossroads, Israel and Palestine could potentially serve as a much-needed bridge between the East and West, and between Europe, Africa and Asia. However, by facilitating such relations, the distinct, rigid boundaries of West and East would dissolve, leaving a new, multipolar world order that would threaten elements of the present global establishment. While most of the world would greatly benefit from decreased tensions between the U.S. and China, many fear the unknown, and those in power do not easily relinquish their ill-gotten status.

Though I must admit my pessimism, I do hope to see a peaceful resolution of these mounting tensions in the coming months. I am encouraged by the stated intent of some Western countries to recognize Palestine, but I fear the destabilizing effects that such proclamations may bring if left unsubstantiated by greater Western powers. While Spain, Ireland and Slovenia may mean well, they lack the clout to effect any real change, and only time will tell if the major players are willing to play ball.

About the Author
Originally from Westchester, NY, Aryeh made Aliyah 7 years ago.
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