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Aryeh Green
Author of "My Israel Trail"

Israel: Welcome the recognition of the ‘State of Palestine’

Mandate for Palestine
Mandate for Palestine

Israel: Welcome (& celebrate!) the recognition of the “State of Palestine”

The recent recognition of “Palestine” (without borders) by Ireland, Norway and Spain has engendered all sorts of criticism and scorn, not least by Israeli leaders, focused on how it seemingly rewards the Hamas massacre of October 7th.

There are two problems with that line of argument.  First, many counter: “Hamas doesn’t represent the Palestinians” (i.e. there are other leaders not tainted by the horrors of the Hamas attacks).  True or not – mostly not, as the PLO and Fatah, led by Mahmoud Abbas, are responsible for at least as many attacks, if not more, than Hamas – this counter-argument suggests that holding all Palestinians responsible for the Shabbat bloodbath of Oct. 7th is somehow an unfair form of collective punishment.

Second, the reference to Oct. 7th doesn’t address the claims to independence of those Arabs who self-identify as Palestinian, irrespective of the countless terror attacks they and their leaders and representatives have carried out over the past few decades – claims accepted by the majority of the world, and in fact by the majority of Israelis still.

Here’s an alternative, strategic approach for Israel, and our supporters, to take: Embrace this decision by these three leading European countries, and the many Arab and Muslim nations (and others) before them, who have recognized the legitimacy of a 23rd Arab Muslim nation-state.

This may seem surprising, coming from a conservative Israeli, but is not meant to be merely provocative.  Writing as one who has supported the idea of an independent (free, liberal, democratic) Palestine for over thirty years, I believe there is a way to adopt and support the idea – but from a different angle, one which has been unjustly dismissed as irrelevant in serious discourse about resolving the Arab-Israel conflict.

In fact we can help Norway, Spain and Ireland (and all the rest) to move a step further.  They’ve acknowledged the acceptability of an Arab claim to an independent state in the territory of what was once called The Mandate for Palestine, established by the international community via the Treaty of Rome over 100 years ago, validated by the League of Nations and then by the UN in its founding Charter in 1945.  The UN General Assembly in its Resolution 181 in 1947 called for an Arab State as well as a Jewish State in parts of the Mandate territories – a decision the Palestinians still look to as legitimizing their claim to some form of statehood or independence.

But Norway and its recent partners haven’t suggested what the borders of this State of Palestine should be.  A reasonable person with just a little knowledge of the history of the region would be forgiven for presuming they are referring to the majority of the land initially part of the Mandate for Palestine – not, in fact the areas many people think of when advocating for a “Free Palestine” (ie. not the mountains of Judea and Samaria, or the “west bank” of the Jordan River, and the strip of coastal land called Gaza).

Let’s apply a simple and universal formula, one based on international norms in the post-colonial period, on law and precedent, and on logic.  Recognition of a movement for independence – whether for the Basques or Catalans, the Irish, the indigenous peoples of Norway, the Tibetans or Kurds or other ethnic and national groupings seeking an independent state, or of course the Arabs who identify as Palestinian – should apply to the greater part of the territory in question, in particular if claims for independence are disputed and/or if other nations stake an equal or more powerful claim to the same land.

Applied to what was once termed “The Palestine Question”, it really is elementary: 70% of the territory of Mandatory Palestine has been occupied by a colonial usurper, the Bedouin tribe of the Hashemite dynasty.  Great Britain reneged on its promise to give them the Hejaz and Mecca, where they once ruled (in present-day Saudi Arabia), and as a consolation prize unilaterally invited the family to rule over the bulk of the area of Mandatory Palestine (as well as a brother to do the same in the newly-established state of Iraq).  The lion’s share of the area of mandatory Palestine was first set up as an emirate (“Trans-Jordan”), which then gained independence as “Jordan”.  (For this argument, we’ll ignore the historical fact that all of the Mandate, in the international instruments which established it, was intended to be held in trust for the establishment of a Jewish homeland.)

Spain, Norway and Ireland can and should augment their recognition (meaningless, really, without any borders for this putative “State” of Palestine) with explicit acknowledgment of the historical injustice caused to the local residents of mandatory Palestine on the east bank of the Jordan River and all Arabs who now identify as “Palestinian”, when Great Britain (with the blessing of the Allies) parachuted a non-resident foreign autocrat to serve as Emir and King (and vassal).

Considering also that 75% of the citizens of this present-day Jordan in fact self-identify as “Palestinian”, the reasoning becomes even more compelling.  Jordan should be encouraged to change its name back to “Palestine”, to welcome all who identify as “Palestinian” to affiliate with – if not to move to – this old-new “State of Palestine”, thus providing once and for all an elegant, historically-accurate and pragmatic resolution of the Question of Palestine.  This would give expression to their desire for a national identity connected to their land, and real meaning to the recognition of the State of Palestine by Ireland, Norway, Spain and so many others.

Many countries have changed their name in recent decades to better express their national identity (and to throw off the remnants of colonial oppression) – Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Zaire (Congo), Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) and Myanmar (Burma) immediately come to mind, but the independence and naming of European nations like Croatia, Slovakia, even Turkey (now Turkye) and many others proves the practicality of the suggestion.

Moreover, recent centuries have seen the adjustment of borders between nations, and not least once those nations pursue peaceful methods of conflict resolution rather than war or terror.  So it is equally reasonable to allow for the possibility that once this State of Palestine not only is recognized by the world (led by Israel) but is established on principles of liberty, democracy and the rule of law, including living in peace with its neighbors, Israel may perhaps consider entering into some form of shared sovereignty or confederal arrangement in Judea & Samaria.

Radical?  You bet.  And not just the concept of Palestine-on-the-east-bank of the Jordan.  Radical also in the suggestion that Israel might accept such a proposal.  After all, one can make all sorts of arguments that there was no such thing as a “Palestinian” people less than a hundred years ago.

The original “Palestinians” were the Jews living under the British Mandate in the Land of Israel – hence the Palestine Post, today the Jerusalem Post; the Palestine Symphony Orchestra, today the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra; the Anglo Palestine Company, the original name for Israel’s national Bank Leumi; and the Palestine Regiment in the British army, etc. – all established and run by and for Jews.  The very concept of a distinct Arab “Palestinian” identity was foisted upon the residents of the territories (most of them or their parents recent economic immigrants from Egypt, Syria etc.) by Arab and Muslim leaders seeking the destruction of the nascent nation-state of the people of Israel in the land of Israel (ie. the Jewish state).

In over 3500 years of history of one indigenous people connected to this land – the Jews who came from Judea, the people of Israel connected to the land of Israel – there never was an independent “Palestine” or any entity with that name, nor a distinct language, nor a unique territorial or self-governing unit, nor a specific national or ethnic identity associated with the land, separate from other Arab cultures/languages/ethnicities in the Levant spanning present-day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the disputed territories (until the Palestinian Authority was set up as part of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO).  In fact, as most scholars and experts testify, Arab leaders of the time vehemently rejected any suggestion that there was a separate “Arab Palestinian” people.

But all those arguments fall on deaf ears today.  The existence of a community which assigns to itself the identity of Arab “Palestinian” – part of the Arab nation (“umma”) but with its own national aspirations, like so many of the modern states of the Middle East – is now asserted by them and accepted by most of the world.  And not just by the Arab and Muslim world but by many leaders and people in Europe, Asia and the Americas, including many otherwise educated and clear-thinking academics, journalists and political leaders (and activists, of course).  Including many Israelis – though the Hamas October ’23 massacre and its celebration and support by so many others has somewhat diminished this of late.

So as the old saying goes: Don’t fight ‘em; join ‘em!  Israel and our leaders should congratulate Ireland, Norway and Spain (and all the others), accepting and adopting their ‘recognition’ of the State of Palestine – as Gandhi would have it, promoting the true and good (and just) approach to resolving this quandary once and for all – with its location explicitly on the historic land which was and undeniably is over 70% of the territory known for decades as “Palestine” a hundred years ago, when the international community began the process of supporting the modern manifestation of the Jews’ two-thousand-year-long struggle to return to their ancestral homeland.

This approach serves everyone’s interests: The Palestinians and their supporters achieve what they say is their primary goal, an independent state on lands always part of any “Palestine” to date.  The US and Europe walk back a hundred years of colonialist support for the Hashemite’s repressive rule over a majority Palestinian population, and promote the ideals of self-determination once again.  Saudi Arabia, other Gulf states, Egypt and the other partners to the Abraham Accords can declare success in supporting the effort to set up a Palestinian state and move forward with their own strategic imperative of forming/strengthening their alliance with Israel as a bulwark against the Islamist/colonialist designs of both Iran and Turkey (and Qatar and China and Russia to boot).  And Israel can continue to ensure the safety and security of its citizens while remaining open to potential avenues of collaboration with Palestine if and when the latter is open and ready to pursue real peace and co-existence.

There is a powerful consensus in Israel after both Oct. 7th and the unprecedented missile and drone attack by Iran in April, let alone with the continuing threat from Iran-backed Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border, that no “Palestinian” Arab entity be allowed to rule in Gaza or the disputed territories of Judea & Samaria – and this unanimity of purpose will most likely last for a very long time, as long as is necessary to keep Israel safe from even the remote possibility of another such attack.  Given the historical and logical basis of the Palestinian people’s connection to the eastern mass of the former Palestine – e.g. the east bank of the Jordan River – this is the only solution which serves the interests of all involved.

Yes!  Recognize the State of Palestine bordering Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the Jordan River/Israel – ie. in the territory of present-day Jordan – and let peace ring out throughout the land.

About the Author
The author of My Israel Trail (www.myisraeltrail.com), Aryeh Green serves as chief strategy officer at EnergiyaGlobal, a renewable energy platform for Africa. A former senior advisor to Natan Sharansky in Israel's prime minister's office, he was the founder and director of MediaCentral in Jerusalem, a project of Honest Reporting providing services for the foreign press in the region. Aryeh is a frequent and captivating speaker on Israel, media issues, human rights, renewable energy, startup nation, and reasserting the legitimacy of Israel and Zionism. When not promoting Israel and renewable energy, or hiking the Land of Israel, Aryeh grows grapes and makes wine.
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