Bar Fishman

Forever and Ever: Why Mutual ‘Commitment’ Between States is Not a Promise

Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour speaks during a session of the United Nations Security Council, at the UN headquarters in New York, March 25, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP, an excerpt from The Times of Israel)

It may well be that rituals seem to break down and form anew of their own volition, but the rituals we adopt are not just representations of our identity; they are constitutive performances of that identity.

As Timothy Stacey, a researcher of ties between rituals and political action, relates in his book Saving Liberalism from Itself, rituals seem to break down and form anew of their own volition, much like the recent actions of Armenia, Spain, Norway, and Ireland in recognizing Palestinian statehood. Picture a grand wedding, complete with pledges of eternal love and commitment.

Still, as life evolves, not all these unions last. These declarations, much like wedding pledges, are rich in symbolism but often lack the resilience to undergo the trials of practical politics (realpolitik).

In recognizing Palestine, these nations engage in a ritualistic performance of liberal values. They indicate solidarity and a progressive stance, much like couples affirm their love in a grand ceremony. However, these indications, while ringing, often remain shallow. They are a part of a larger geopolitical planning where appearances matter more than substance.

Consider the deeper dimension of these actions: the tangency between domestic and international pressures. For many of these countries, recognizing Palestinian statehood is a way to align with popular domestic sentiments or to ingratiate with influential international blocs. It’s a strategic maneuver as much as a moral statement, reproducing public opinion and partisan-political motivations behind diplomatic gestures.

In a certain degree, these declarations made in the moment, influenced by current political climates, trends, and pressures. Just as wedding pledges are tested by the realities of married life, these diplomatic gestures will face the tough realities of international politics—the true test of their ability to sustain beyond the ceremonial context.

The broader lesson here is that in the domain of international relations, commitments are often short-lived. They are influenced by ever-shifting political landscapes, disposal strategic interests, and fluid alliances. The recognitions of Palestinian statehood by Armenia, Spain, Norway, and Ireland are symbolic acts that position these countries within a global narrative of progressive values. However, they are not binding promises, they are analogous to ceremonial promises.

So, while these waves of recognition are significant, they remind us that in international relations, as in personal commitments, the ceremony is only the beginning. The true test lies in the durability and sincerity of the promises made, which are often subject to the pressures and realities of a complex and ever-changing world.

About the Author
Bar Fishman is an M.A. Student and Junior Faculty Member in the Department of Communication Studies at Ben-Gurion University and Sapir Academic College. His research focuses on Political Science and International Relations in the Digital Era, with interests in Digital Diplomacy and Civic Participation.
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