Palestinian statehood: Perils of unilateral European recognition

Europe must pressure Abbas to end this unremitting incitement and violence against Israel and recognize its right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Mahmoud Abbas (photo credit: REUTERS)
Mahmoud Abbas
(photo credit: REUTERS)
On Thursday this week, the European Parliament will vote, in what is all but a foregone conclusion, to recognize a Palestinian state.
The following day, the French National Assembly will do likewise. We have already seen the UK and Spanish parliaments voting to recognize the state of Palestine in the last month, and Sweden has gone even one step beyond a symbolic parliamentary vote, with the Swedish government already fully recognizing a Palestinian state.
The culmination of these votes represents a dangerous domino effect, with more states and multilateral institutions likely to follow suit.
Although in most cases the intentions are honorable, in effect these votes are premature and counterproductive, only rewarding Palestinian intransigence and terrorism, and will only exacerbate the conflict, not bring the parties closer.
European states must first and foremost ask themselves exactly what kind of Palestinian state they are recognizing: is it one that is committed to peace and a two-state solution? Or one that is based on terrorism, hate and the denial of Israel’s right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people? Is it a Palestinian state that includes Hamas, a genocidal Islamist organization embraced by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction and listed by the EU as a terrorist group? Is it a Palestinian state headed by the same Abbas who instead of lowering the flames of hatred and violence in Jerusalem is pouring kerosene on them by continuing to incite against Israel and Jews, with statements like “Palestinians will not allow Israelis to contaminate the Temple Mount,” which is one of the holiest sites to Jewish people, or that “[t]he Jews must be barred by any means from entering the Temple Mount compound... They have no right to enter”? And what about the borders of this Palestinian state? Does it include both the West Bank, which is governed by the PA, and Gaza, which is still controlled by Hamas? What about Jerusalem? A state must have defined territory with internationally recognized borders, infrastructure and an established government running that territory with one voice. Not one of these three elements is currently present – but it can only be so as the end-product of difficult compromises by the Palestinians, the result of a willingness to negotiate with Israel in good faith with a view to ending all claims.
As German Chancellor Angela Merkel said this week, rejecting unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood, Palestinians and Israelis can solve their long-running conflict “only through negotiations.”
“We see how difficult that is,” she added, “so we also believe that unilateral recognition of the Palestinian state won’t move us forward.”
Nobody more than Israel and the Israeli people want to see peace in the region. Israelis have made many sacrifices and concessions in order to achieve this, in the hope there will be a Palestinian partner to reciprocate. Instead, as we saw in the horrific Har Nof Synagogue massacre in Jerusalem last week, in which five Israelis were murdered, the Palestinians are literally trying to bludgeon their way to statehood.
What message does unilateral recognition send? To the Palestinians it says: if we stick to our positions, if we do not compromise or negotiate, if we continue to use violence and terrorism, we will be handed what we want on a silver plate. In reality of course, it will not change anything on the ground, only direct, bona fide negotiations with Israel will.
It will only embolden Palestinian extremists, perpetuate the conflict and encourage further attacks against Israel by Palestinians as a means to reach their political goals.
Furthermore, such premature recognition of a Palestinian state rooted in violence, terrorism and radical Islamist ideology only sets an example for other terror groups, such as Islamic State and Boko Haram. Now they may ask: “Well, if the Palestinians can get statehood like this, then why not us?” Unwise and dangerous decisions like this only risk perpetually inflating Palestinian hopes and exacerbating an already tense situation in the Middle East, pushing the region even closer to war when nothing eventually comes of these motions, votes and resolutions.
If the EU wants to be respected in the region and considered an honest broker, it must cease singling out Israel for incessant opprobrium, and especially its pathological obsession over settlements, and must stop rewarding Palestinians for intransigence and terrorism.
Europe must instead pressure Abbas to end this unremitting incitement and violence against Israel, to recognize its right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people and to enter into real, sincere and bona fide negotiations with Israel. Only such negotiations can bring about Palestinian dreams of statehood, not empty votes in Europe.
The writer is an international human rights lawyer, freelance journalist and Middle East analyst based in Israel.