Formal recognition of the state of Palestine would send clear message to Israel
‘The international community must move urgently to save the two-state solution – passivity is complicity’
‘Last March Benyamin Netanyahu was re-elected as prime minister and his government has now approved the construction of another 700 Jewish housing units in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.’ Photograph: REUTERS/Uri Lenz
Around 1,400,000 Palestinians were living in Palestine when David Ben Gurion proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel on May 14th, 1948. For the Jewish population of Palestine, which numbered fewer than 600,000, that day marked the realisation of Theodore Herzl’s Zionist project. For us, Arab Palestinians, it marked the beginning of the ongoing tragedy known as “Al Nakba”, a disaster with far-reaching consequences that brought about much pain and suffering, when 900,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes.
My family is originally from Al-Zib, a village close to Acre which was levelled to the ground and replaced by a park. Al-Zib inhabitants, just like 900,000 other Palestinians, were forced into exile and became refugees in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. Israeli historians now admit that this massive transfer of populations was mainly the result of a terror campaign, which reached its peak with the massacre of 254 Palestinian men, women and children in the village of Deir Yassin on April 9th, 1948. Deir Yassin was wiped off the map, as were 436 other Palestinian villages.
Hence, I was born and raised in the Diaspora, in the Lebanese capital Beirut. At the age of six, I started attending the Chatila refugee camp elementary school which was run by UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees). It is in this refugee camp that I saw first-hand the human misery, suffering and humiliation of my people, who, despite their hardships, maintained the hope of returning to Palestine one day.
At the end of the six-day war in 1967, Israel occupied the rest of Palestine, forcing another 440,000 Palestinians into exile.
The first Palestinian attempt to make peace with Israel took place when, on November 3rd, 1974, Yasser Arafat, chairman of the PLO, stood on the UN podium and called for the creation of a secular and democratic state for the two peoples. It is from this international podium that he launched his memorable appeal for peace: “Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand”. The Israelis did not heed this call.
The second one was in 1988 when Palestinian National Congress declared the Palestinian State on 1967 borders (recognising Israel de facto). Then under Yitzhak Rabin, in 1993 the Oslo Accord was signed, reflecting the wish and willingness to reach a negotiated solution.
Since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in November 1995 by an Israeli Jewish fanatic, the peace process has undergone many vicissitudes. The most recent initiative, supervised by Secretary of State John Kerry, collapsed after nine months in April 2014. Explaining the failure to a Senate Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on April 8th, 2014, John Kerry testified as follows:
“Unfortunately, prisoners were not released on the Saturday they were supposed to be released. And so day one went by, day two went by, day three went by. And then in the afternoon, when they were about to maybe get there, 700 settlement units were announced in Jerusalem and, poof, that was sort of the moment. We find ourselves where we are.”
In 1993 at the time of the Oslo agreement there were about 135,000 Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), now there are more than 600,000. This underlines Israel’s determination to maintain its occupation of Palestine. Last March Benyamin Netanyahu was re-elected as prime minister and his government has now approved the construction of another 700 Jewish housing units in the OPT.
His new government coalition consists of the most extreme parties in Israel. The incoming justice minister, Ayalet Sheked, has called for Israel to annex area “C” which represent 60 per cent of OPT (Haaretz, May 10th, 2015). Naftali Bennett, a person who proudly says “I killed masses of Arabs” and calls them “shrapnel in the buttocks” will be education minister. Eli Ben-Dahan is to be deputy defence minister, responsible for the Civil Administration in OPT – he has said that “the Palestinians are animals, they are not human, they are not entitled to live” (Haaretz, May 10th, 2015).
The international community must move urgently to save the two-state solution – passivity is complicity.
The formal recognition of the state of Palestine would be a clear message to the Israeli government that a two-state solution is the only way forward to lasting peace. Ireland recognised the state of Israel in 1963 (de jure), it is time to complete the logic of two states and recognise (de jure) the state of Palestine.
Ahmad Abdelrazek is Ambassador of the State of Palestine to Ireland