Nicholas Jagdeo

How Premature Recognition of a Palestinian State Jeopardizes the Peace Process

Currently,  the Israeli government and the interim government of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Authority, are bound by the Oslo Peace Accords, with Oslo I being signed in 1993 in Washington, DC, and Oslo II being signed in 1995 in Taba, Egypt. The signing of the Oslo Accords saw the official cessation of violence and mutual recognition of the two parties: with the State of Israel recognizing the Palestinian Liberalization Organization (PLO) as the sole, legitimate negotiators for the Palestinian people in the matter of the establishment of a future Palestinian state; and, secondly, with the PLO recognizing the already-established State of Israel.

The acceptance of the Oslo Accords by both parties has largely brought an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While there have been Palestinian civilian-led conflicts (such as the Intifadas in the early 2000’s) and the refusal of extremist, terrorist groups in Palestinian society (such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad) to recognize the right of the State of Israel to exist and these terrorist agencies have pursued their own agendas regarding – and conflicts with – Israel, the Oslo Accords between the PLO and Israel remain intact. We can safely surmise that there is no conflict between the State of Israel and the Palestinian signatory to the Oslo Accords, the PLO, which established the interim governing body of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Authority. The current situation between the two can be described as a “peace process”, with the ultimate, future aim of the creation of a Palestinian state; that is, a “peace solution”. The State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority/PLO are not at war and have not been since the signing of the Oslo Accords; both governing entities work together closely on security and economic issues, water management and other pertinent areas applicable to both populations.

What the Oslo Accords brought into effect was a peace process which entails the cessation of violence, mutual recognition of competing claims to independence, the agreement that both sides work together and share the land, and it ultimately defined the parameters of bringing a Palestinian state into existence (the peace solution). The State of Palestine, therefore, does not yet exist; recognition of it, as demonstrated in this paper, would actually impede, if not actually discard, the peace process altogether. It is important to note this: the Oslo Accords did not hand the Palestinians a state, rather, it transformed the PLO from being a terrorist entity into being the only legitimate, political representatives of the Palestinian people to negotiate for the achievement of eventual statehood. Therefore, the following questions must be asked: what would recognition of a Palestinian state actually do for Palestinians?; and, how would recognition of a Palestinian state affect the peace process?

What does Palestinian statehood mean?

Statehood itself entails many parameters to ensure the successful birth and continued existence of a state. These include the ability to govern, recognized borders, the ability to enter into foreign relations with other countries, and a permanent population.

As it stands, the Palestinians do not have agreed upon borders, as this needs to be negotiated with Israel and determined through negotiations, compromises and possible land swaps between the two. While there is a population of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and in other countries in the Middle East, the Palestinians do not have the infrastructure necessary to effectively govern (water and electricity being the main obstacles at present). Their economy is not developed enough to be self-sustaining; corruption is rampant; their democratic institutions and framework are not in place; and there is little investment into their utility infrastructure. Palestinian statehood, therefore, remains unachievable at present.

However, both sides agreed (and continue to agree) that eventual Palestinian statehood should and could happen, but this, again, is entirely conditional on direct negotiations which must be conducted in good faith between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority to iron out disagreements and to give the Palestinians enough time to implement the necessities for statehood. While one can easily point out instances where either side was intransigent in both getting to the negotiating table and in negotiations itself, neither has abrogated the Oslo Accords, and it remains steadfastly in place.

What do the Oslo Accords stipulate?

It is important to note that a major stipulation of the Oslo Accords is that neither side take unilateral steps to either derail the peace process or to further their own interests. In 2012, the Palestinian Authority took the unilateral step at the United Nations General Assembly to be recognized as a country and was upgraded from a UN observer to a non-member observer state. Since then, the Palestinian Authority has continued to pursue recognition as an independent State of Palestine from individual countries. This is, of course, not allowed by the Oslo Accords.

Premature recognition of a Palestinian state by any country is purely symbolic, and it does not reflect the reality on the ground. The current Palestinian Authority administration has governed for more than sixteen years in a four-year mandated term. The lack of voting rights of Palestinians to change their current administration signals that, at present, a democratic State of Palestine cannot exist as the tools of democracy simply do not exist there. Freedom of media and speech is extremely curtailed and reports of honor killings of Palestinian women and its LGBTQIA community are rampant, with many fleeing to – and receiving – asylum status in Israel. Indeed, as explained above, there is also the added worry that they Palestinians have no developed economy to be self-sufficient. Thus, what would recognition of a Palestinian state lead to or achieve? The entrance of another nation into the family of nations, but one which is unable to fulfill its mandate to its people, not just democratically, but even more importantly, in providing basic necessities?

Is there a moral aspect to recognizing Palestinian statehood outside of the Oslo Accords?

Pro-Palestinian activists, and indeed, the Palestinians themselves, argue that countries have a moral right to recognize a State of Palestine; indeed, Trinidad & Tobago is currently being courted by the Palestinian Authority to do so. But in so doing, with a symbolic recognition of Palestinian statehood, Trinidad & Tobago – and the wider Caribbean – would actually perpetuate the conflict and the goal of actual Palestinian statehood would be greatly deferred, as on the ground realities do not reflect the ability of the Palestinian Authority to actually govern within the framework of an independent state. While the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) – the organization responsible for the administration of aid to Palestinians – continues to exist, its existence demonstrates unequivocally that an economy does not exist in the Palestinian Territories. UNRWA itself continues to provide necessities to the Palestinian people which its government cannot. The recognition of a Palestinian state thus negates the continued existence of UNRWA and invalidates the receipt of aid; no independent state should have foreign aid as its only means of economic stimulus. It is important to note that the Palestinian Authority does not even have its own currency; it uses the Israeli shekel for trade. With no independent monetary policy and no economy to even have a proper fiscal policy, what then, would recognition of a (inevitably, failed) state contribute to the betterment of the life of an average Palestinian? Indeed, one can argue that any country which gives the Palestinian Authority recognition as a state with its current deficiencies is actually doing a disservice to the Palestinian people and immorally sanctioning the continued dismal reality of life for an average Palestinian.

How the Oslo Accords remain the only viable framework for a peace solution.

Let us return to the Oslo Accords and the limitation it puts on both sides when it comes to undertaking unilateral steps. The architects of the Oslo Accords were able to foresee that any viable peace process and eventual peace solution must entail agreements and painful compromises between two parties which had previously been engaged in conflict. Israelis and Palestinians, the architects foresaw, could not build toward a peace solution without working together in the peace process. The architects were also wise enough to determine that any attempt at peace imposed by outsiders would never truly result in peace; thus, peace between Israelis and Palestinians – and the eventual peace solution – is only something which Israelis and Palestinians can determine through direct negotiations. Therefore, countries which are recognizing a State of Palestine are not allowing Israelis and Palestinians the opportunity to solve their own conflict. Indeed, in acting in this way, external countries are, once again, acting as colonialist agents: imposing their solutions on Israelis and Palestinians.

The tiny strip of land which currently holds the State of Israel and the future State of Palestine would forever have their destinies intertwined. As such, negotiation, collaboration, and bilateral agreements were and are the keys to laying the foundation for future cooperation when a Palestinian state would be realized. By binding the hands of both Israelis and Palestinians from acting independently of each other in securing an agreement, the Oslo Accords ensure that neither could take steps at the disadvantage of the other. Little has been discussed how this Palestinian unilateral move of premature statehood recognition abrogates and contravenes the Oslo Accords. For Trinidad & Tobago to be a faithful partner for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and eventual peace solution, it must stand by and promote the Oslo Accords and the parameters set forth therein. With the Oslo Accords clearly stating that Palestinian statehood can only be achieved through direct negotiations with the State of Israel, any country recognizing a Palestinian state when one does not exist – and one which Israel does not agree to – would simply contribute to a climate where all future countries (and those seeking independence) would think that their commitments and declarations can be tossed aside depending on global emotions at any given time. And this is the crux of the problem: emotionalism replacing logic in the pursuit of international relations, global order and peace. Every country has a right to independently set its foreign policy as it serves that country’s agenda, but the question must be asked: in recognizing Palestine as a state in a current climate of extreme emotionalism and sensationalism, would Trinidad & Tobago be faithful to its own foreign affairs policy? Can Trinidad & Tobago morally encourage a unilateral move which harms the peace process? And how moral would Trinidad & Tobago actually be if it symbolically recognized a Palestinian state, but in so doing, would encourage a dissolution of the peace process and continued misery of the Palestinian and Israeli peoples?

The elephant in the room: October 7, 2023

Let us now address the issue which directly led to the current situation as it is today: that is, the events of October 7, 2023. As a reminder, there was a ceasefire in place, which Hamas annulled by storming southern Israel and massacring, raping, pillaging over one thousand innocent Israeli civilians: Israeli-Jewish, Israeli-Christian and Israeli-Muslim alike. Two hundred and fifty Israeli and international citizens were forcibly kidnapped, where one hundred and thirty-three continue to be held with no visits from the Red Cross, no communication with their families and many of the women hostages continue to experience weaponized sexual violence. To ignore the attack of Hamas and reward the Palestinians with recognized statehood will, predictably, incentivize terrorism around the world. Simply put, the events of October 7, 2023 cannot be directly rewarded with Palestinian statehood, as the two would forever be associated with each other: terrorism for gains. At this juncture, we must remind of Trinidad & Tobago’s own painful history with Islamic extremist terrorism in 1990 and the painful scar of that day which continues to reverberate in Trinidadian society; the brave and powerful counterattack by the Trinidadian national armed forces and the surrender of the terrorists can be directly applied to the events of October 7, 2023. For Trinidad & Tobago to recognize Palestinian statehood is, in effect, the forgetting of our own past, and setting ourselves up for an uncertain future with hostile anti-state elements which remain in Trinidad & Tobago.

The importance of reliable information

In the aftermath of the Hamas-Israeli war, the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza released unconfirmed reports of several thousand Gazan civilians who had been killed. By March, 2024, Hamas was touting a figure of more than 30,000 dead. Worldwide – countries, international organizations, peace agencies and other NGO’s – accepted these figures without vetting them. At the end of April, 2024, when Hamas admitted they’d inflated the figures, and gave an estimate of 19,000 civilian casualties, did any of these organizations listen to the updated figure released by Hamas? Indeed, we must ask if, in Trinidad & Tobago, we are aware that the initial, sensationalist figure of 30,000 has been downgraded to 19,000 by Hamas? Furthermore, it should be understood that Hamas has labeled every death in Gaza since October 7, 2023, as a result of Israeli aggression; including the deaths of Hamas terrorists and those who die natural deaths. If there have been 19,000 deaths since the start of the war, and if one would trust the figures released by a free, open and democratic Israel that 12,000 Hamas terrorists have been eliminated, then one must also stand in awe that in an urban war that has lasted six months, only 7,000 civilians have died – civilians who may have died also from natural causes!

How recognition of a Palestinian state emboldens the Israeli right

Let us now pivot to the political climate of Israel. Admittedly, the current government of Israel is one of the most right-wing in Israeli history, but the shift of the Israeli voting populace to the right of the political spectrum must be understood in the historical context, particularly regarding the security issues Israel faces. Prior to the Intifadas of the 2000’s, Israeli society was largely politically center- and/or left-leaning in terms of hopes for peace with the Palestinians. With the election of Hamas in 2006, its brutal insurrection in Gaza in 2007, and the subsequent raining down of rockets on Israel, the Israeli population has become more cautious in its approach to the Palestinians and has moved toward the political right.

We should note that attempts by media to cast Israeli politics as “left is good, right is bad” is weak, simplistic, and entirely wrong; and it does not truly explain the nuances of Israeli politics, Israeli concerns about security and Israeli experiences which have led to this right-ward shift. The Israeli right is not the devil; nor is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the face of all evil in the world. Rather, the right in Israel exists as a response to Palestinian terrorism. One can imagine that, perhaps, had the Palestinian population fully embraced the peace process, and had the countless years of Hamas-aggression which culminated on October 7, 2023 not occurred, then the political left in Israel would have continued to dominate. As it stands, many Israelis are suspicious of the sincerity of Palestinians when it comes to peace, and this is reflected in security issues being one of the main platforms on which Israelis vote. In fact, the Israeli civilian distrust in the genuineness of the Palestinians – both its people and leadership – when it comes to the peace process has meant that, largely speaking, is reflected in the very robust right-wing parties. Indeed, many of the right-wing political parties within the governing coalition have not endorsed a two-state solution. While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has grudgingly endorsed this reality with his ascension as prime minister in 2009, his words and actions have not lined up since then. Intransigence – both on the parts of Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas – have resulted in the cessation of direct negotiations for around a decade. This is brought into focus at this point because it is meant to remind the government of Trinidad & Tobago that any Trinidadian recognition of Palestinian statehood would indirectly embolden and empower the Israeli right, which, by and large does not endorse the Oslo Accords, the peace process or the peace solution as outlined therein; the result, therefore, being a further deferral of Israeli-Palestinian negotiation and cooperation, and, alas, further alienation of the implementation of an actual, tangible Palestinian state.

In prematurely recognizing Palestine, would we alienate a reliable partner?

In deciding to recognize a State of Palestine, Trinidad & Tobago is faced with many questions, dilemmas and issues regarding its own security, its own historical alliances with Israel and its own moral quandary. Since 1962, Trinidad & Tobago has enjoyed diplomatic relations with Israel. Indeed, we must remember that Dr. Eric Williams traveled to Israel in June, 1962, to canvass support for Trinidadian independence, which Israel’s then Prime Minister, David ben Gurion, freely gave. We must also remember that former Prime Minister, Patrick Manning, was the last sitting head of government to meet with Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, in November, 2005, before Mr. Sharon fell into a coma in January, 2006. The cordial and warm relationship with Israel cannot be jeopardized. Indeed, the sitting PNM government and cabinet must therefore ask if the decades of cooperation, close ties and historic shared values are worth risking for a premature recognition of a state which will not see any real on-the-ground effects of this recognition. We must also ask the very realistic question: how would recognition of Palestine benefit the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago? Israel remains the world leader in water management, agriculture, technological innovation, medical ingenuity, and, of course, security and defense abilities. Are we willing to risk all of this cooperation for a country that does not realistically exist as yet and has nothing to contribute to the furthering of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago?


We urge the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Amery Browne, and government of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago, to be cautious in its decision regarding recognition of a State of Palestine, as this would have long-lasting detrimental effects in the Middle East, and would, inevitably, stall the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and would therefore jeopardize the peace solution. Trinidad & Tobago has largely taken a neutral role when it comes to the issue of Israel-Palestine, and we recommend that this position of neutrality continue to be chosen. It allows us freedom to comfortably stay out of the situation and lends credence to us as being stable partners for peace in the long term. While the other Caribbean islands have acted hastily, emotionally and without any true understanding of the situation on the ground, Trinidad & Tobago must not follow this emotional, uninformed myopic lead of the other islands; rather, the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago must remain impartial, neutral and above the fray of emotionalism. We must recognize a State of Palestine, yes, but when one actually does exist within the framework of the Oslo Accords. This time is not now.

May peace come speedily in our days and may the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago be a catalyst for this peace.

The following was written by the Understanding Israel Foundation on April 2nd, 2024 to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in response to the decision being made on the issue of recognition of Palestinian statehood by the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

About the Author
Nicholas Jagdeo is the founder and executive director of "Understanding Israel Foundation", a Trinidad & Tobago-based NGO which is lobbying for greater relations between Trinidad & Tobago and Israel. Nicholas' debut novel, "The First Jew: The Resurrection of Abraham", is available on in print and kindle formats. He is a Schusterman Foundation ROI Alumni (2019) and holds a Master of International Business, an MSc in Strategic Leadership and Innovation, and is currently pursuing his MA in Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
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