by Anna Mahjar-Barducci
In direct violation of the Oslo Accords, which call for settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute by direct negotiations, Brazil and Argentina have formally recognized the state of Palestine as a free and independent within 1967 borders. This includes the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. Uruguay has already announced that it also will proceed with a similar recognition in the coming month of January. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said that he expects Paraguay to recognize Palestinian statehood in the next few days, followed by Bolivia and Ecuador.
The decision of the two South American States provoked harsh reactions in the US and in Israel. The United States. Officials said that direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians are still "the only way" to reach peace in the Middle East. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor commented: "They [Brazil and Argentina] never made any contribution to it [the peace process]… and now they are making a decision that is completely contrary to everything that has been agreed so far; it is absurd." Palmor said that such a disappointment would be conveyed by Israel to the concerned governments.
When two of the major stakeholders in the peace process, Israel and the US, seem to be so deeply against the idea of having recognition separated from direct negotiations, why has the Palestinian Authority launched a worldwide campaign to have more and more countries recognize the "State of Palestine"? US papers are calling it the "Palestinian Plan B" -- an alternative to the peace deal with Israel. The idea is to convince as many countries as possible to recognize a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, and use that to lobby the United States not to veto recognition by the U.N. Security Council.
The reason for such a plan can also be found on the fact that the Palestinian Authority is trying to have the UN General Assembly to accept a state, which would then give the PA standing to bring prosecutions against Israel in international courts.
In the meantime, US President Barack Obama has said that he hoped the Palestinian mission would become a full UN member in 2011.
Further, if the Palestinians right of return should be accepted, as proposed by the Palestinians, that would bring history not back to the pre-1967 situation but to the pre-1948 situation, when Israel did not yet exist.
Nabil Shaath, a senior Palestinian aide, said that Chile and Peru might also recognize Palestine. Other Latin American countries such as Mexico and El Salvador are poised to join soon. Costa Rica, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela have already done so.
The Brazilian Foreign ministry said the recognition was in response to a request made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva earlier this year. Argentinian Foreign Minister Hector Timerman said that the decision is based on a "deep desire to see an advance in the negotiation process (between Israel and the Palestinians) leading to the establishment of a just peace in the Middle East."
There are actually approximately 100 countries that have already recognized the "State of Palestine," most of them after Yasser Arafat declared a state in 1988. These countries are either of the Islamic world, African states or Eastern European countries whose recognition came when they were still under the Soviet Union.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas intends to go further and is now setting his sights on Europe, asking Turkey to serve as a go-between. After a joint news conference with Abbas in Ankara, Turkish President Abdullah Gul seemed supportive, adding that negotiations can only resume once Israel freezes settlement construction.
Turkey wants "everyone to recognize the state of Palestine," with east Jerusalem as a capital, Gul said, though he did not make clear whether this should be done outside the framework of negotiations. The European Union is supporting U.S. efforts to restart negotiations, though some European states have upgraded Palestinian representation in an apparent show of support.
Israeli columnist Israel Harel writes in Haaretz that the whole approach to the peace process should be reconsidered and that "Americans should revolutionize their approach and concentrate their efforts on those who hold the key to peace: the Palestinians." Says Harel that "as a first step, the Arabs must be brought to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and as the national home of the Jewish people, in a public and binding way. As part of a peace agreement they must declare, on behalf of all their factions, the end of the conflict between the Jews and the Palestinians and a complete relinquishment of the right of return. A binding Arab commitment to these three elements will convince many Israelis who today do not believe in the Arabs' desire for peace to reconsider their position."
So, rather than having more states to recognize an undetermined "Palestinian State," regardless of what its governance might be in such an event, it might be wiser to induce the Arab camp to have a more flexible approach on these points,. which are also what brought failure all previous peace processes, and what might bring failure to a Palestinian state should, for example, Hamas decide to take it over, easily done in one afternoon.
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