Palestinians’ bid to recognize Israel

A call for a sovereign Palestine necessitates recognition of Israel.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas at the UN 370 (R) (photo credit: Lucas Jackson / Reuters)
PA President Mahmoud Abbas at the UN 370 (R)
(photo credit: Lucas Jackson / Reuters)
Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, is planning to ask the UN General Assembly on November 29 to vote for recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state within the pre-1967 borders. If successful, this would upgrade the Palestinian Authority (PA) from being a delegation to the UN as a non-member “observer entity” to a non-member “observer State,” effectively paving the way for it to be recognized as a Palestinian state.
But an intriguing anomaly lies at the heart of Abbas’s projected bid that begs the following question:
In their zealous backing for the Palestinian cause, do all the supportive nations fully appreciate the implications of recognizing a Palestinian state within pre-1967 borders?  Simply put, the corollary of a sovereign Palestine within 1967 borders means that a sovereign Israel would be outside them. 
Hamas, the de facto government of the Gaza strip – an integral element in any future Palestinian state − understands completely the implications of what Abbas proposes to do, and is totally opposed to it.  Hamas utterly rejects the concept of two states in the Holy Land. It believes there should be just one − a fundamentalist Islamist state, with Israel eliminated from the map of the Middle East.
In all honesty, this is probably what Abbas and his Fatah party also want (Abbas has been pictured on a number of occasions next to a map of the old British Mandate Palestine surmounted by the Palestinian flag, with no mention of Israel. Moreover, he has stated on many occasions   that he will never acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state). It's just that the Fatah-led PA choose to reach their ultimate objective by more devious means than the total refusal to recognize the  “enemy” while simultaneously pursuing armed resistance against it.
Some 36 countries represented in the UN General Assembly – not all of them with Muslim majorities – sympathize more closely with Hamas than with Fatah simply because they do not recognize Israel as a state. These include Algeria, Venezuela, Bolivia and Pakistan.  Furthermore, Egypt’s new president is a member of the extreme Islamist organization the Muslim Brotherhood, which in turn is supported by Hamas. The MB is also supported by Turkey, Libya, Tunisia, and of course, Hezbollah, which is lodged firmly in Lebanon’s body politic.
Do these groups, and like-minded states, appreciate the fact that support for a sovereign Palestine in a two-state solution also means support for the sovereignty of Israel?  If they do indeed realize this, how many of them will then oppose Abbas’s bid for recognition? My guess is none. After all, every one of them believes that in granting Abbas the recognition he seeks, they will ultimately be poking Israel in the eye.
The fact is, Abbas is not only fighting for recognition of a Palestinian state, he is fighting a rearguard action against Hamas to retain control of the West Bank.      
When Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, the idea was that Abbas, as president of the PA, would call for free and fair elections across the Palestinian body politic. The ensuing elections then yielded Hamas 74 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council while the ruling Fatah party only received 45. Without an overall majority, President Abbas accordingly formed a national unity government led by Ismail Hanniyeh of Hamas.
But sharing power with Fatah did not suit Hamas. In mid-June of 2007, within four days, their  “Executive Force” seized control of the entire Gaza Strip in a bloody coup d'état. Abbas responded by dissolving the national unity government and forming an emergency government led by Salaam Fayyad, based in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Efforts at reconciliation between the two major power blocs within the Palestinians began as early as 2008, but consistently failed.  This is because they attempted to reconcile the irreconcilable. In Hamas’s eyes, Abbas’s peace initiatives − ineffective as they have been − have placed the PA beyond the pale. Hamas remains what it has always been – an extreme Islamist and terrorist organization committed to the destruction of Israel.  It is also committed to overcoming Fatah and taking control of the whole of the Palestinian entity.Therefore, in making his UN bid, Abbas will be speaking on behalf of only West Bank Palestinians, and only for those prepared − for the present at least − to live alongside a sovereign Israel. Of course, in by-passing face-to-face negotiations and taking unilateral action, Abbas will have thrown a wrench in the diplomatic works of the peace process. Every agreement between the two sides – including the Oslo Accords which currently govern relations between them– begins with the premise that negotiations between the parties is the only acceptable path to a settlement.
Abbas has embarked on a perilous journey. If he receives UN recognition for a sovereign Palestine within the 1967 boundaries, he will ipso facto have confirmed Palestinian recognition of Israel. He is gambling that a PA success at the UN will – at least in the eyes of ordinary Palestinians –, out-trump Hamas’s persistent refusal to recognize Israel. For Abbas, the battle against Hamas is the one battle he must win – however much of a long shot that is.The writer is the author of “One Year in the History of Israel and Palestine” (2011) and writes the blog “A Mid-East Journal” (