IN THE MEDIA

Move to recognise Palestine is premature and dangerous

Jun 21, 2023 | Ahron Shapiro

Oslo Accords signing ceremony in 1993 with then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (left), then US President Bill Clinton and former PLO leader Yasser Arafat
Oslo Accords signing ceremony in 1993 with then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (left), then US President Bill Clinton and former PLO leader Yasser Arafat

The Daily Telegraph – 21 June 2023

The Victorian Labor State Conference’s recent decision to pass a motion calling for the Federal Government to recognise “Palestine” this parliamentary term is a reckless move. It breaks Australia’s long-standing bipartisan approach towards Israel and the Palestinians – an approach that has allowed Australia to maintain an open and cooperative relationship with Israel much to our mutual benefit, and also stand for the only initiative that can improve the lot of Palestinians – a negotiated two-state solution.

In addition, recognising statehood should be treated as a serious matter in the world of international relations. There are universally accepted guidelines for making such determinations – the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States.

The Palestinian entities in the territories Israel captured from Jordan (the West Bank) and Egypt (the Gaza Strip) fall far short of meeting the above criteria.

Moreover, for an Australian government to consider unilaterally recognising “Palestine”, one must first ask which one? The one controlled by a crumbling Palestinian Authority in the West Bank that has in recent years left a power vacuum in northern West Bank cities of Jenin and Nablus filled by armed gangs? Or the one in the Gaza Strip controlled by the terror group Hamas, taking turns launching indiscriminate rockets into Israel with its partner-in-war-crimes Iranian proxy Palestinian Islamic Jihad?

The truth is that in order to recognise “Palestine” today, Australia would have to create a double standard – one for “Palestine” and one for every other place, which would destroy Australia’s credibility among its Western allies, and undermine the peace process, including treaties like the Oslo Accords which forbids such unilateral steps.

To recognise “Palestine” is to dismiss history itself and ignore why such a country doesn’t exist in the first place.

The UN Partition Plan of 1947 allowed for the creation of a Jewish State and an Arab State. The partition plan, while accepted by the Jews, was completely rejected by the Arabs. It was rejected, because they were not interested in a two-state solution, but rather the complete rejection of any Jewish entity at all – no matter what borders it existed in.

After Israeli statehood was declared in 1948, the Arab world invaded hoping to destroy the newly formed state, but ultimately failed.

Up until 1967, when not a single Jewish settlement existed, there were no moves at all to create a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, controlled by Jordan and Egypt respectively.

This pattern of rejectionism has repeated itself many times. After the 1967 defensive war, Israel offered to return its newly captured territories for a peaceful resolution and was met by the infamous three NOs from the Arab League’s Khartoum Resolution, which stated quite explicitly: “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.”

Nevertheless, Israel has continued to pursue peace and in 2000, 2001 and 2008 offered the Palestinians the creation of a new state that gave them all they claimed to want, but was rejected each time.

The Palestinians continue to reject all overtures to peace, declining all negotiations since 2014.  This history proves that those who argue that Palestinian statehood must be recognised – in defiance of international law criteria – to “save” a two-state solution have it completely backwards. It hasn’t happened because Palestinian leaders have repeatedly said no to it, and now refuse to negotiate, not because Israel won’t agree.

Punishing Israel and rewarding the Palestinians for their intransigence through premature recognition is only going to make the problem worse – because this is precisely the current counterproductive strategy of the Palestinian leadership. They seek statehood imposed by the international community without negotiations or a peace deal and the continuation of the conflict – something that would benefit no one.

The converse is also true. If recognition of statehood is withheld until the end of negotiations, even the most vehement peace rejectionists on the Palestinian side would be confronted with the reality that only peaceful discourse can bring positive changes, and that yesterday’s mortal enemy can be tomorrow’s peace partner, with all the dividends that come with it.

For the benefit of the Palestinian future, no less than the Israelis, the Albanese Government must firmly remind their ALP colleagues in state branches and at the national conference of the wise words of the late former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon who described his transformation from a rigid ideologue to an outspoken peace proponent responsible for Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza.

“What you see from here,” in a position of national leadership, he famously told the hard-line backbenchers in his party, “you don’t see from there.” Albanese needs to tell his party colleagues the same thing.

Ahron Shapiro is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.

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