Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Is Palestine a State That We Can Recognize? Why Spain is wrong to recognize Palestine

Is Palestine a State That We Can Recognize?

I've always struggled to understand that sort of cognitive and emotional imbalance that Europe shows towards the Jewish-Arab conflict. On the one hand, we can't deny the importance of Israel as the only advanced democracy in the Middle East, nor the enormous relevance of the Israeli state from an economical, commercial and technological perspective. But, on the other hand, we can't help feeling weak, insecure and lost when citizens demand actions and answers about the civilian victims of the occupied territories, about persisting poverty, bombings and the barren destruction that shames us all.
A few weeks ago, Sweden unilaterally recognized Palestine as a state. Today, the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party is debating a proposal that calls for Spain to recognize, also unilaterally, what is known as the "Palestinian state."
In order to recognize a state, it must first exist in both geographical and political terms. That is, it must have a defined territory with internationally accepted borders and an established government that effectively runs that territory. This is not true of Palestine, where in reality we must talk about two governments and two territories: Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza.
They both share many things, such as the profound corruption that ultimately afflicts the Arab population in both territories. Billions in international aid -- whose purpose was to fund the construction of yet inexistent national structures -- have enriched the leaders of both organizations. But both these "governments" also share certain relevant traits that are worth highlighting in order to consider the matter at hand:
-- The Fatah government hasn't called elections since 2006. It has shown that it is incapable of controlling its own armed factions, and it has allowed for daily violations of basic human rights and civil liberties. Fatah encourages violence against Israel and hails terrorists through schools and the media. Moreover, it promotes ethnic cleansing, proclaiming that it won't allow any Jewish citizens to remain in a Palestinian state (even if only 20 percent of the Israeli population is Palestinian).
-- Hamas' government came to power through a bloody coup d'état that included hundreds of Fatah members massacred on the border. It is a terrorist group, according to the European Union denomination. Hamas shares a close ideology with the jihadism of the Islamic State which as part of its objectives seeks to kill all Jewish people. Hamas' bloody history against civilian targets is well known, just like its unfettered use of civilian life in order to achieve its goals.
Can we, therefore, talk about a "Palestinian state" that is capable of being recognized? Or is it rather an artifice destined to become a new failed state in a region where there are already too many? Will it become another state where the most extreme ideologies would be funded and legitimized? A new site for soldiers to travel to on international missions?
The Spanish government, with Foreign Minister Margallo directing the negotiation, has proposed an alternative text to that presented by the Socialist Party. This text includes in its first points the spirit of the two-state solution, but it ends by sliding into a "one way or the other we'll recognize it." No conditions whatsoever.
Once again, let's analyze the situation: Is this a favorable course of action for our country's interests? What reasons can the Spanish government call upon in order to support this kind of resolution within the EU, a stance that would break with the traditional Spanish posture of maintaining an equal distance and respect towards UN accords and alignments? Furthermore, isn't it irresponsible for a weak country with territorial problems of its own to champion initiatives of sovereignty recognition and statehood for non-states that don't even meet the minimum requirements applicable?
I have no doubt that the peaceful resolution of this conflict is one of the top priorities in the international stage. Europe has to be relentless when the time comes to intervene and demand the fulfillment of all compromises from both parties. But I can't see how the unilateral recognition of the Palestinian state can help in the current context. It doesn't safeguard Israel's security. It doesn't stabilize an already turbulent scenario. And it doesn't encourage the essential need for democratic non-violent governments that respect human rights and promote the coexistence of Arabs and Jews in the area.
From my point of view, the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state would mean an endorsement or validation of Fatah and Hamas' methods, which promote violence and allow for the outsourcing of conflict resolution. These methods invalidate the Oslo Accords and the bilateral negotiations that try to arrive at a two-state solution -- the solution, do not forget, required and maintained by the European Union. A solution that is our responsibility to make possible and feasible.
This blog post originally appeared on The Huffington Post Spain and was translated from Spanish.

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