Netanyahu's re-election makes recognising Palestine more urgent than ever

Netanyahu's re-election makes recognising Palestine more urgent than ever
Comment: EU member states should recognise both parties in the peace process as states on an equal footing, writes Muhammad Shehada.
5 min read
23 Apr, 2019
Netanyahu was forced to forge an election alliance with two far-right parties [AFP]
As the dust settled on Israel's election, Israel's president Ruvi Rivlin, confirmed last week that Benjamin Netanyahu would be the country's prime minister for a fifth term. 

In a desperate attempt to cling to power, Netanyahu's trademark promise in his 2019 election campaign stated that if re-elected, he would work on annexing the West Bank, in coordination with the Trump administration.

The international community responded with deafening silence to this dangerous announcement, perhaps hoping that it was merely campaign rhetoric, but to think of it as such would be foolish and misleading.

Netanyahu will impetuously trade anything - however unjust - in return for shielding himself from the 
three pending criminal indictments against him.

The key to Netanyahu's pursuit for immunity lies in his ability to keep his governing coalition intact. However, such a task would prove impossible if Netanyahu doesn't comply with the whims of Israel's most extreme constituencies; which now includes five extreme and far-right parties that are even further to the right than Netanyahu's Likud.

In practice, this means that withdrawal from the West Bank - up until now a fatal taboo – and consequently peace with the Palestinians, is now entirely off the table.

For instance, Israel's Union of Right-Wing Parties, whose leadership includes members of the terrorist group Kahana that is dedicated to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, is one of the main parties that Netanyahu critically depends on to maintain his ruling coalition.

Netanyahu will impetuously trade anything

The Union's leader and notorious settler, Bezalel Smotrich, stated in reference to the peace process that, "if we see that withdrawal plans are being advanced, we'll topple the government at the first step."

Furthermore, Smotrich openly boasted that "in exchange for enacting legislation that, in one way or another, buries the indictments against Netanyahu, the prime minister will have to coordinate the 'Deal of the Century' with the US, in a manner that enables Israel to declare sovereignty over the settlements, and assures that no settler will be evicted."

In other words, "immunity for sovereignty."

One can easily assume that Trump - who most recently recognised Israel's sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights to boost support for Netanyahu in the elections - will undoubtedly ensure that his deal will stand in line with Netanyahu's wishes vis-a-vis the West Bank.

Last Monday, rumours about Trump's deal caused former European leaders to warn the EU against it, and urge the EU to commit to the two-state solution, despite potential pressure from the Trump administration. Last November, a senior EU official told me that "by no means, will the EU accept Trump's deal."

Denouncing Trump's deal or working to preserve the two-state solution is one thing, but advancing the two-state solution and reprimanding Netanyahu's anti-peace rhetoric is quite another.

The first option is no longer sufficient in the face of imminent annexation, while the best - and perhaps only - way to achieve the second, is for EU member states to recognise both parties in the peace process, and thereby recognise the state of Palestine.

Israel wouldn't dare endanger its strategic and geopolitical interests with such major EU powers

This would not only give the peace process some long overdue momentum, but it would also put both parties on equal footing.

It's crystal clear that the Palestinian state exists in the West Bank and Gaza. What it needs now, is official international recognition that would eventually force Israel to follow suit.

Then negotiations on borderlines could resume normally between two sovereign countries, just like anywhere else in the world, instead of furthering the leverage Israel has over the Palestinians, by designating them a stateless group of people.

EU countries such as France and Ireland are seriously considering recognising the Palestinian state, but unfortunately, some member states evidently fear a strong Israeli backlash in retaliation to taking such a step, similar to that experienced by Sweden in 2014 for its brave recognition of Palestine.

For too long, EU member states have been threatening Israel with the recognition of Palestine in order to return them to table, with Israel fully confident that such move is unlikely to happen. The backlash it would likely cause, could perhaps be avoided if recognition comes from a central and hegemonic power, such as France, Germany or the EU itself. 

Israel wouldn't dare endanger its strategic and geopolitical interests with such major EU powers.

For instance, Israeli officials never dared to question 
the remarks of Russia's deputy foreign minister, Mikhail Bogdanov, who stated that Hamas and Hizballah are "legitimate sociopolitical" groups. Sweden's foreign minister however, was severely bullied for pointing out the radicalising impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on young Palestinians.

To wait and do nothing would be a heinous betrayal of 71 years of continued Palestinian martyrdom

EU member states could stand together in recognising Palestine, to minimise Israel's attempts to single them out. Already, since 2014, the parliaments of France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Italy, and Ireland have all overwhelmingly adopted resolutions calling on their respective governments to recognise the state of Palestine.

These governments need only to uphold the most democratic value of honouring their people's choice to recognise Palestine.

In conclusion, the upcoming unilateral assassination of prospects for peace by Netanyahu's ruling coalition leaves no room for the EU to continue standing idly by and acquiesce to Israel's determined and open dismantling of the two-state solution, all with the blessing of the White House.

To wait, do nothing, and merely verbally denounce Israel's unprecedented assault on the peace process would be a heinous betrayal of 71 years of continued Palestinian martyrdom, and the most basic principles of humanity and morality.

The least EU member states could do in protest to Netanyahu's gang is to finally recognise the state of Palestine according to the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as it's capital.

Muhammad Shehada is a writer and civil society activist from the Gaza Strip and a student of Development Studies at Lund University, Sweden. He was the PR officer for the Gaza office of the Euro-Med Monitor for Human Rights.

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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab.