The Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” (if you can call it that) recently has been lethargic when existent. Of late, there has been much discussion of a Palestinian declaration of statehood, likely through a United Nations resolution. The ideal declaration of Palestinian statehood would be in conjunction with a final-status peace agreement between the two sides. However, Palestinians are rightfully pessimistic about short-term peace process progress. This is not due, in any part, to lack of Israeli efforts, but rather because the Palestinian governments refuse to suppress violence, renounce terror, and agree to negotiate without self-defeating preconditions. Approximately one year ago, Tony Blair asserted, “The two state solution begins not with a state of land, but with a state of mind.” The Palestinian governments (yes, “governments” is very much so plural) are not in that state of mind.
Should a Palestinian state be created without the auspices of a peace covenant, it is in the United States’ interest to recognize it. Moreover, precedent holds that the United States should recognize Palestine in 11 minutes, as it did with Israel on May 14, 1948. The United States will lose vast amounts of Palestinian political capital if it refuses to recognize a Palestinian state as the EU, Turkey, South America, and other global-players do.
(Read this Washington Post piece by Aaron David Miller outlining why Palestinians should not declare unilateral statehood this fall, particularly through the United Nations and without a peace agreement.)
But, the United States should not recognize Palestine in total accordance with United Nations resolution (any UN declaration likely will skew boundaries; the U.S. should abstain in any Security Council vote and then offer an official recognition from the State Department or the White House afterward). Instead the U.S. should offer a conditional recognition of Palestinian statehood, temporarily pursuant to modified 1967 armistice lines. The U.S. should officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s single, unified capital. Prior to legitimate elections, Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad should be the recognized leaders of a Palestinian state with a capital in the West Bank. Any Palestinian land not independent of Hamas’ governance should not be recognized by the United States, and the U.S. must continue to demand that Hamas renounce all terrorist activities, amend its charter of hate, and recognize the State of Israel. Palestine must recognize Israel’s right to exist as an independent, Jewish democracy and must agree to immediately begin negotiations with the Israeli government to achieve a final-status accord.
U.S. recognition of Palestine would put Israel in a very difficult situation. Israel cannot recognize a state hell-bent on its annihilation, but it also must make every effort, as a Jewish democracy, to promote regional self-determination and democratic principles. Certain Israeli policies are valid under international law in part because Israel is dealing with a people, and not a state. The United States should not compel its most important regional ally to recognize Palestine immediately. When Israel recognizes Palestine, it must be on Israel’s own terms.
The Palestinian people have every right to statehood; however, they must act in a peaceful, organized, legitimate manner.