It is time for Israel to recognize Palestine

(Wikimedia Commons)
Palestinian flag. Photo credit to Rawan Nassrallah who made the picture available for free distribution under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Note that this image is a cropped version of the original image.

As Newsweek notes, “Palestinians seek to create an official state in the West Bank and Gaza.” A total of 137 countries, out of 193, already recognize Palestine as a legitimate state. The latest country to recognize Palestine was Colombia. Colombia’s President, Ivan Duque, is considered pro-Israel and declared in June 2018 the he was open to moving Colombia’s embassy to Jerusalem, but despite his support for Israel, he refused to reverse his predecessor’s decision to recognize the Palestinian state.

There is no reasonable doubt that the number of countries that recognize Palestine will continue to grow. It is time for Israel to realize that the creation of a Palestinian state is inevitable, and it is time for Israel to make it happen.

There are three reasons why Israel should make it its top priority right now to facilitate the creation of a Palestinian state.

The first reason is that Israel has a moral duty to ensure that a Palestinian state is created. Although the stateless status of the Palestinian people can be attributed in large part to Arab decisions, most notably the rejection of the 1947 UN partition plan, and the adamant refusal to discuss peace with Israel after the 1967 Six Day War, Israel is now a successful and powerful nation that benefited greatly from the land of Israel/Palestine. The other people on that land, however, the Palestinian people, is dispersed, dependent, and stateless. Fairness dictates that those who are more powerful should help those in need.

The second reason is that Israel is the only country at this time that can ensure that a Palestinian state is created. No other country can, especially without the cooperation of Israel.

The third reason is that Israel needs a Palestinian state to be created. As long as Israel occupies the West Bank and imposes a blockade on Gaza, the international view of Israel as a colonialist state that oppresses Gaza and inflicts apartheid on the West Bank will keep growing. Sooner or later, even the US will recognize the Palestinian state. The creation of a Palestinian state, on the other hand, would hugely improve Israel’s image among the nations of the world, particularly among the Arab countries that surround Israel.

However, if Israel waits for the Palestinians to be led by a pacifist leader who rejects terrorism and who recognizes Israel as a Jewish state, a Palestinian state will not be created for a very long time, and both peoples will pay a heavy price for that delay. Israel can immediately start taking steps to facilitate the creation of a Palestinian state.

Step 1: Dismantle any settlements outside of the large blocks. Although Jews should ideally be able to live in a Palestinian state or any Arab state, it is not realistic to expect a young Palestinian state to be able to guarantee their safety given the history of Arab antisemitism and given the decades of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Also, the new Palestinian state will need all its land, which is only 22% of Israel/Palestine (the percentage is even less if the Golan Heights is counted), to absorb the Palestinian refugees who cannot or do not wish to be placed elsewhere.

Step 2: Redefine the borders of the West Bank so that the large settlement blocks become part of Israel while transferring an equivalent amount of land from Israel to the West Bank. This may require moving some Israeli residents who live on the land that is transferred. The part of Eastern Jerusalem that is currently Arab (and where Jewish civilians do not venture) would become part of the West Bank. The small portion of the Old City that is highly contentious, including Temple Mount / Haram esh-Sharif, would initially be retained by Israel but declared a zone accessible by both Israelis and Palestinians.

Step 3: Complete the building and if necessary move some of the security fence to cover the full border between Israel and the West Bank.

Step 4: Officially recognize Palestine in Gaza and the West Bank, and recognize the Palestinian Authority as the government of Palestine.

Step 5: Notify the Palestinian government that the IDF will remain in the West Bank and that a blockade of Gaza will continue as long as necessary but only until a satisfactory security arrangement (which would include multiple steps) has been negotiated between Palestine and Israel and has been successfully implemented. The security arrangement should include protection of Jewish holy sites located in the West Bank and guaranteed access by Jews to those sites. It should also include a long-term solution on the joint administration by Israel and Palestine of Temple Mount / Haram esh-Sharif that includes access rights and prayer rights for both Jews and Muslims.

Step 6: In parallel to step 5, negotiate an economic agreement with Palestine that would include rules on movement of workers and trade, and that would aim to assist Palestine develop its economy.

Since steps 1 to 4 do not rely on Palestinian approval, even if the Palestinian government refuses to go along, there would essentially be a Palestinian state, albeit under the security control of Israel. By refusing to go along, the Palestinian government would only be hurting its own credibility and its support among Palestinians since it would be allowing the occupation and the blockade to continue.

If there is the political will in Israel to achieve the goal of facilitating the creation of a Palestinian state and therefore ending the occupation and ending the conflict, it can be done, and it can be done safely.

This is about Israel taking control and safeguarding its own future as much as it is about recognizing the Palestinians’ long struggle for self-determination. No delays and no excuses.

About the Author
Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin who lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. Fred supports Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, and he supports the Palestinians' right to self-determination in their own state. Fred supports a liberal and democratic Middle East where all religions and nationalities, including Palestinians, can co-exist in peace with each other and with Israel, and where human rights are respected. Fred is an atheist, a social liberal, and an advocate of equal rights for LGBT people everywhere.
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