About the recognition of the Palestinian State

by François Lazar December 5th 2014

Last December 2nd, following in the footsteps of Sweden, the British parliament and the Spanish State, the French National Assembly voted a resolution to recognize a Palestinian State on the territories that were occupied in 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Those are presented as positive attempts at stabilising a chaotic situation. Is this, however, really the case?

Some may have considered these resolutions as victories. True, they came at the end of a 51-day long and especially barbaric offensive, against the Gaza people last summer. The offensive was characterised by the magnitude of destructions and the number of deaths, yet also by the stubborn resistance of the Palestinian people, and the growing rejection of the figure cut by the State of Israel in international public opinion. On November 18th, in the Spanish State, the Parliament decided to ask the government to recognize the Palestinian State at the moment it would consider most timely. Actually, the proposed non bill Act [i.e. which does not emanate from the executive and is not binding for the government], which was adopted asked the government to seek every move for a coordinated action in collaboration with the international community, especially with the European Union, taking fully into account the legitimate preoccupations, interests and aspirations of the State of Israel. Meaning that the relation with the Palestinians is subordinated to the interests and aspirations of the leaders of the Israeli State, right at the moment when the Rajoy government has just lifted the embargo on weapon exports to Israel.

The parliamentary debates prior to the votes in these countries show several similarities. First: insistence on recognizing a Palestinian State when nobody, not a single deputy is able to say what such a State would look like after the negotiations. This is quite telling on the meaning to the manoeuvre. Should this insistence be related to the unprecedented crisis, which is rocking the very bases of the Israeli State both internally as well as among its traditional endorsers.

During the summer, highly critical positions could be heard from Jewish circles, especially in North America. A recent opinion poll published on Friday December 5th by the Brooking Institution, along the same lines, affirms that the two state solution to the conflict enjoys growing support in the United States. Roughly two-thirds of the people in the polls have declared they are ready to support a single democratic State should a two state solution prove non-viable. The same opinion polls show that only 24% of the answers say they ‘prefer the Jewish rather than democratic character of Israel’. The same poll shows that Americans increasingly (67%) oppose the settlements in the West bank. The report, very widely circulated in US media comes at the moment when the government coalition in Israel broke down last week due to the tensions caused by Prime Minister Netanyahu's determination to affirm the identity of the State of Israel as a Jewish State. Let us now look closer at the debates in Parliament in France. It should first be noted that, though the text was voted by the left parties, i.e., the Socialist, Communist, Green and Radical (centre left) parties, the debate in Parliament showed a broad consensus on a crucial point summarised by François Asensi, the Left Front deputy: in the State of Israel hundreds of academics, senior military, peace activists have understood that the creation of an independent and democratic Palestinian State was the safest warrant of security for Israel, which is something we hold dear. This is a commonly held opinion. The Palestinian State is the best way to warrant the security of Israel in conformity with the spirit of the Oslo Accords which SP and CP leaders (just like right wing ones) declare they hold dear. It should be reminded that the Oslo Accords which brought about the creation of the Palestinian Authority, essentially aimed at forming a Palestinian administration and especially a Palestinian police corps acting as the subsidiary of the Israeli occupation forces working in close collaboration with them. Then, later on in the debate, the same deputy said that voting the text means saying Yes to the right of peoples to self-determination, Yes to peace and negotiations founded on international laws

How can one mention the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination without mentioning the present mobilisation of the Palestinians in all the territories of historical Palestine who, in each and every demonstration, have reaffirmed their unity chanting we are one people? SP deputy François Loncle gave the answer on December 2nd (the day of the vote), when he declared that the text that was to be voted: tends to encourage Palestinians and Israeli to conclude a historical compromise. For the Palestinians, the required compromise was already an old tale. They would have to give up on over 80% of the historical territory of Palestine. The right to return is not a symbolic demand. It expresses the very identity of the Palestinian people, who are made up of refugees, a people where families were expelled from their lands and who were brutally separated over 60 years ago. Further in his arguments, François Loncle notes that a petition launched by Elie Barnavi, the former Israeli ambassador in Paris, was endorsed by over 700 Israeli public figures. Elie Barnavi states that, unless a Palestinian state is created, the very future of Israel is at risk. Once again the focus is on the future of the State of Israel.

Defending the position of the UMP (right wing) Christian Jacob, while criticising the joint initiative of the Socialist and French Communist parties states: Yes to a Palestinian State, but never endangering the security of Israel that France has always considered as a non-negotiable pre-requisite.

For Green François de Rugy, If the present resolution shows to the Palestinians that a political solution is possible, it cannot take their place to conduct the needed evolutions. In clear speech, Palestinians are requested to give up their defence against the brutalities of the occupying power. As if the military occupation of Palestine, the confiscation of lands, the continued expulsions were not the root causes of the present situation.

As she went into the detailed meaning of the resolution, Elisabeth Guigou, SP chairperson of the Foreign Affairs committee said: Our country was one of the first and most ardent defenders of the entry of Israel into the community of nations. France has never spared its efforts for the right of Israel to exist in security. Today, as we have seen, and as it is faced with unprecedented crisis because its traditional endorsers in public opinion are one after the other caving in, everything must be done to rescue the State of Israel which is the guarantee of order in the Middle East, even against itself, even against the democratic aspirations of the Jewish populations which are preferred in the role of oppressors. Behind the declarations, the reality on the ground cannot fit with such demagoguery. French-Israeli journalist Charles Enderlin interviewed on November 25th, in the French weekly Telerama said: When I meet Palestinian leaders, I ask them: 'do you think you will have a State with 380,000 settlers?' (...) They answer: 'we are quite well aware that we will have no state at all, the West Bank has become a series of spots and dots, it is no longer possible to create a State with territorial continuity' (…) I cannot imagine that the experts in embassies, in Europe or even in the USA are not aware that 380,000 or even 10,000 settlers can be evacuated. The idea of two States is done and finished.

Unless the point is to establish a State in patches of territory administered by the Palestinian Authority and controlled by its police funded and armed by the major powers.

Much is said about the right of the Palestinian people to a State, but: what is the Palestinian people?

The Palestinian people bereft of their lands since 1947-1948 is divided into four main entities: the Palestinians from inside, officially called Israeli Arabs; the refugees scattered in dozens of refugee camps in several Arab countries but also in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip; the inhabitants of the territories occupied since 1967, and the Diaspora Palestinians. What State could represent such a group? A State made up of patches of land linked together by tunnels? Unless the National Assembly considers that the Palestinian people as we have just depicted them are not the same people. Could one expect anything else from Elizabeth Guigou or Laurent Fabius, the most pro-Israeli representative of the French government (i.e. who has given unconditional support to every repressive attack against the Palestinian population, not forgetting last summer's slaughter) during the whole history of the Fifth Republic? What people are we talking about when speaking of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination? The two-State solution has long been a framework enabling Israel's governments to blame Palestinians for the failure of negotiations. Also, in the spirit of the Oslo accords, it is a framework meant to break the unity of the Palestinian people, shackle them, stamp out any possibility of democratic evolution which would necessarily put established order at risk. Fighting for equal rights for all the populations living between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River is incompatible with the restricting and prison-like framework of the Palestinian State.

Today, Laurent Fabius relays the US leaders and announces a new impetus given to peace negotiations between Israeli and Palestinians, with a view to reaching a final agreement within two years, with the preparation of a new international conference. In 2003 already, George Bush had given himself 2 years to finalise negotiations on a status. In 2010, Barack Obama announced the creation of a Palestinian State within two years. The plan outlined by Fabius takes up the 2002 Saudi peace initiative, which proposed the normalisations of relations between the State of Israel and the Arab League countries in exchange for the withdrawal of Israel from the territories conquered in 1967 and a fair solution to the problems of the refugees. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (who boasted he was the Israeli person with the largest amount of Palestinian blood on his hands), a member of the Socialist International like Fabius, has just explained that this plan should be considered despite the likely difficulties in negotiations with the Palestinians. Barak explains that he thinks the going will not be smooth – Palestinians are not easy to talk to, as I well know. Step-by step agreements may be needed and even unilateral stages, in coordination with the United States and the Quartet. Once again, as usual, the conclusions are dictated even before new negotiations start: Palestinians are not easy to talk to.

One remark before I conclude. Throughout the debate in Parliament in France, not a single deputy ever so much as mentioned the issue of lifting the blockade of Gaza where some 2 million women, children and men are, according to United Nations agencies, undergoing a humanitarian catastrophe of unprecedented magnitude. Which is the better option: passing a non-binding resolution recognizing a Palestinian State which will never come into being and which one can easily condone, or – concretely - the demand for the lifting of the Gaza blockade? Does this issue not concern the whole labour and democratic movement?

From DIALOGUE REVIEW ( www.dialogue-review.com )