OECD states should recognize Palestine in response to new Israel gov't - opinion

An appropriate response to the new Israeli government's increased settlement building should be the boycotting of all settlements.

 US PRESIDENT Joe Biden meets with PA head Mahmoud Abbas, in Bethlehem, in July. The US, among others, needs to recognize the State of Palestine or cease mouthing the mantra of the two-state solution, says the writer.  (photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)
US PRESIDENT Joe Biden meets with PA head Mahmoud Abbas, in Bethlehem, in July. The US, among others, needs to recognize the State of Palestine or cease mouthing the mantra of the two-state solution, says the writer.

What should be the appropriate response of the international community (especially OECD countries where Israel is a member of the club) to the new Israeli government (or the one before this one, and the one before that one, etc.)? There are a number of appropriate responses. The first one is recognizing the State of Palestine on the basis of the June 4, 1967 borders.

This should have been done years ago, as soon as it was clear that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was based on the solution of two states for two peoples. All of those countries have long recognized Israel and have deep economic and political relations with it. In a conflict that is so asymmetrical, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, leveling the playing field as much as possible is crucial to the success of trying to make peace.

This was not done until today and with the withering away of the viability of the two-state solution, recognition of the State of Palestine might be the only way to breathe some life into the almost deceased body. This is not such a radical proposal because the 138 member states of the United Nations already recognize the State of Palestine, but most of the OECD member states have not.

There are some countries that have looked at this possibility seriously but now is the time for action, not more thinking about it. Spain, France, Luxembourg, Italy, Norway (to name a few candidates), and especially the US and the UK which both bear a great deal of responsibility for where we are today need to come out and recognize the State of Palestine or to cease mouthing the mantra of the two-state solution. Enough hypocrisy.

ISRAELIS WALK with flags in the Bat Ayin settlement in Gush Etzion on the West Bank, last month.  (credit: GERSHON ELINSON/FLASH90)ISRAELIS WALK with flags in the Bat Ayin settlement in Gush Etzion on the West Bank, last month. (credit: GERSHON ELINSON/FLASH90)

Increased settlement building? Boycott all Israeli settlements

An appropriate international response to increased settlement building and the “legalization” (in quotes because all settlements are illegal under international law) of the non-authorized settlements (which have always had the full recognition and support of all previous Israeli governments since they were built), should be to boycott all settlements. I am not talking about labeling products produced in Israeli settlements with their place of origin. That is a ridiculous step that even settler leaders laugh at.

I am saying that if settlements are illegal under international law, then all settlement products should be illegal under international law and they should not have any ability to enter any country that respects international law. Likewise, settlers should not receive visa-free access to countries in Europe, even if it means that all Israeli traveling to Europe must declare and prove their place of residence.

I want to make something clear. I don’t believe that any future government of Israel will be able to remove hundreds of thousands of settlers from their homes. After decades of living there, justice would not be done by creating injustice to the young generation of Israelis who happen to have been born where their parents went illegally. But at the end of the day, regardless of the eventual negotiated solution to the conflict, the majority of settlers will remain where they are.

UNDER WHAT jurisdiction they will live there, I do not know. What other conditions may be set to enable their remaining where they are, I do not know – it may be some form of the equal right of return of Palestinian refugees to Israel proper. What I do know is that the settlers will not be able to get away without a price being paid for their role in derailing the peace process and confiscating Palestinian land.

All of the above should have been the appropriate international response to all of the previous governments since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin (who at least tried to advance peace with the Palestinians). The appropriate international response to the Palestinians should be to demand free, fair and democratic elections immediately. In response to moves for democracy in Palestine, the rest of the international community should recognize the State of Palestine.

Yes, this is a kind of quid pro quo. The Palestinians must resolve their internal split. They must finally allow the people to elect their government (it has been 17 years since the last elections). The Palestinians must put their house in order, create good governance, fight corruption, rebuild law and order and demonstrate that they seriously wish to be a member state in the communities of nations.

The first step is holding new elections, which is the one thing that almost every Palestinian demands. The international community must also insist that the newly elected Palestinian government will announce that they will be prepared to return to any negotiating table at which there will be an Israeli partner interested in genuine peace with the Palestinian people.

The appropriate international response does recognize that the new Israeli government won a decisive victory in the elections, but that is only part of the story. The victory was not the stunning victory that Netanyahu presented. Netanyahu won by playing the system much better than the outgoing government. But his coalition received 2,304,964 votes. The parties in the outgoing coalition won 2,014,436 votes, a difference of 290,528. But if we also count in the votes for two more Arab factions (Hadash-Tal and Balad) the votes not for Netanyahu’s coalition amount to 2,649,140.

That does not change the results of the elections but it does contest Netanyahu’s claim that the Israeli public supports him and his new government. That is not true. Roughly half of Israelis support him and his government, and slightly more than half do not. I contend that those who do not support his government and what will be their policies are no less passionate about their opposition than Netanyahu’s supporters are about their beliefs.

But the international community, especially the OECD nations, support democracy and they know that democracy cannot truly exist without equality. Democracy cannot coexist with racist laws or policies that deny significant segments of the population their basic human and civil rights. Democracy cannot exist with occupation.

We Israelis in the opposition will make our voices heard loud and clear. I am calling for the friends of Israel, those who really care about Israel and not those who just pay lip service to Israel, to come out with their appropriate international response as proposed above.

The writer is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to Israel and to peace between Israel and her neighbors. He is now directing The Holy Land Bond.