President Obama, recognize Palestine now! – Sam Bahour, Geoffrey Lewis and Nomika Zion/TheHill
The absurd notion that, during his current trip to the White House, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has now signed on to a two-state solution after only eight months ago saying that he would never allow a Palestinian state to emerge is material for George Orwell’s book, 1984.
The recent outbreak of violence in the streets of Israel and Palestine is a wake-up call to all those who seek peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The United States holds a key to bringing the violence to an end and putting the parties on the road to realizing, what the U.S. and virtually every other nation in the world has called for, the implementation of two states, Israel and Palestine. We call on President Obama to act now and recognize the state of Palestine, a process started by Republican President George W. Bush. This single act is urgently needed in order to provide the next U.S. president with a platform that places both Israel and Palestine on equal footing, at least in terms of formal U.S. recognition.
The urgency of taking such an elementary political step was amplified a few days ago by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, writing in The Forward in an article titled, How I Would Reaffirm Unbreakable Bond With Israel — and Benjamin Netanyahu (November 4, 2015). She wrote, “Ever since President Truman waited only 11 minutes to recognize the new nation of Israel in 1948, Americans have believed that Israel is more than a country — it’s a dream…” Palestinians have been waiting 48 years and the inability for the U.S. to act to recognize Palestine speaks volumes. As candidate Clinton revels at Israel the “dream,” Palestinians and Israelis are living Israel, the nightmare, with deadly results.
Palestine’s application for full membership in the United Nations still awaits a vote of the Security Council, where only a United States veto stands in the way. Likewise, the United States remains one of the few states that has not yet recognized Palestine. Palestinians have reached a point of total despair given the world’s superpower has paid lip service for 48 years to a solution to the conflict based on two states, but has refused to recognize Palestine. This single political act is the only meaningful one at this late stage in the conflict and in Obama’s administration. Anything less, even a new UN resolution against the continuing illegal Israeli settlement building, will be placed on the bookshelf with the dozens of past similar resolutions.
Where many are grasping at straws for new strategies to compensate for so many past diplomatic failures, the only real strategy left is the realization of the state of Palestine on the ground. This is the missing link to get negotiations back on track and to give Palestinians hope for the future, not to mention saving the two-state solution from total collapse. U.S. recognition of Palestine would be the first concrete political step that would open the way to an entirely new dynamic upon which the end game would no longer be an unknown, allowing all stakeholders to focus on state building instead of ideological debate.
We call on President Obama to recognize Palestine and support its full membership in the United Nations, an act in total alignment with U.S. foreign policy in support of two states for two peoples. Such recognition would place both Israel and Palestine on equal political ground, with both states given recognition, and both states needing to define their borders based on the 1949 Armistice Agreement (1967 borders), as articulated in numerous U.N. resolutions.
Yesterday, Netanyahu addressed the liberal think tank Center for American Progress (CAP). Haaretz Columnist Peter Beinart suggested several choice questions he should be asked at the event, among them, “How gullible do you think we Americans are?” Mr. Beinart rightfully answers, “Not gullible enough, I hope, to let Bibi leave CAP without being confronted about what he really believes.” Regrettably, these were ignored. Netanyahu should have heard a clear and loud voice that his statement during his last election campaign that there will be “no Palestinian state on [his] watch” must not only be retracted, but the time has come for Israel to understand that recognizing a Palestinian state and removing the boot of military occupation from Palestinians’ necks so they can actually build a free state is necessary.
If the U.S. wants to save Palestinian and Israeli lives, it is time to put real political capital on the table. Recognizing the state of Palestine, next to the already recognized state of Israel, would be an act of leadership, a commodity sorely missing for so many years on this issue.
Bahour is a Palestinian-American business consultant living in Ramallah and chairman of Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy. Lewis is an American attorney and has been active in a number of Jewish organizations both in Boston and nationally. Zion is a resident of Sderot, Israel and a member of Other Voice, an organization of Israelis that engages in dialogue with the people of Gaza and seeks a political solution to the conflict.