Why the United States should recognize a Palestinian state

James Miller, Staff Writer

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Since 1947 the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict has created turbulence and numerous violent conflicts across the Middle East. As a result of these conflicts, thousands have died and people across multiple countries today live in fear of rocket attacks and air strikes. This conflict has created war for, not only Palestine and Israel, but also Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria. Because of its close relationship with Israel, the United States has even been pulled into the political fray. Over the last several decades numerous attempts at peace have been made, but none have created any sense of resolution.

Through all of this, the United States has stood by Israel and proclaimed them without fault in the conflict. As a direct result, we have refused to even recognize the Palestinian state created by the 1947 United Nations resolution that also created Israel. The United States has fallen under criticism from, not only Islamic nations in support of Palestine, but also our traditional allies. At the end of last year, the United Nations General Assembly voted to accept Palestine as a Non-Voting Observer State, and according to CNN just nine nations, of the 190 voting members, voted against the measure.

The United States’ opposition to the measure was criticized by western nations, like France and Spain. So with its current stance, it’s clear the United States is an the undesirable position of unilaterally supporting an Israeli position. The ultimate question, then, is whether this policy is promoting or hindering peace. And we can see that the recognition of a Palestinian state will promote the peace process for three key reasons. First the legitimization of Fatah as a governmental body in Palestine, second, the weakening of Hamas and other terror groups, and finally the demonstration of American goodwill will boost our credibility with Palestinian and Muslim leaders.

First we have to look to at how the legitimization of peaceful groups, like Fatah, can help promote peace and civil obedience. According to a July 2012 CIA World Factbook estimate, 4 million people live in the regions (West Bank and Gaza Strip) that would create the basis for an independent state. Ever since Israel seized control of these territories in 1967 there has been little ability for the Palestinians to claim their territory as their own nation. As a result, there has been significant violence on both sides. Palestinians have fought Israel to claim an independence Israel is strongly opposed to.

As of 2003 the larger Palestinian territory, the West Bank, has been controlled by a peaceful moderate political alliance known as Fatah. This group has successfully petitioned the UN for membership and pursued talks with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu. The group won most of the credit for the UN accepting them as a member state with the number of Palestinians viewing Fatah favorably jumping nearly 13 percent. By the recognition of Palestine, the United States can further increase this important influence and favorability of Fatah by crediting them as the legitimate government of the Palestinian people.

With this approach the United States can encourage growth of a peaceful, stable Palestinian government that supports Israeli existence and seeks only peace and their own country. This approach rejects the continued extremism of all involved and will result in less violence, a more stable region, and decayed influence of American enemies like Iran.

Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas went as far as to state, “As long as I am here in this office, there will be no armed warfare. Never. We don’t want to use terror. We don’t want to use force. We don’t want to use weapons. We want to use diplomacy. We want to use politics. We want to use negotiations. We want to use peaceful resistance. That’s it.”

The United States ought to promote peaceful groups like Fatah, which can in turn can provide stability to a volatile region.  Providing stability and peaceful leadership to Palestine can create peace and will push Israel to accept the Palestinian state and promote the peace process. The status quo of violence and oppression cannot be allowed to continue and the best method of promoting change is found in recognition. But recognition of Palestine cannot be exclusively tied to the promises of peace from Palestinian leaders. We have to look at how recognition could affect the groups that do promote violence.

According to the Guardian, the recent UN admittance of Palestine as a nonmember observing state “helped to offset a little of the prominence achieved by the rival Palestinian faction Hamas.”

Hamas, a terrorist fundamentalist Islamic group, strongly opposes the current peace attempts in the region and remains a bitter rival of Fatah, Israel, and the peace process. Hamas senior official Izzat Rishaq publicly stated that Hamas will rely only on “heroic resistance” to create a Palestinian state. Essentially this terrorist group is unwilling to assist in the creation of a peacefully established nation.  Unlike the Fatah, Hamas wants violence and the destruction of Israel.

Unfortunately, however, current events are strengthening Hamas’ hold on the Gaza Strip. Violence between Israel and Hamas controlled Gaza has caused anti-Israel sentiment among Palestinians and has further improved Hamas’ status as a pro-Palestine revolutionary group. Fatah has been losing ground, but should Fatah see its star rise with US recognition of it as the legitimate government of a Palestinian state, then public perception of Hamas will inevitably fall. A step forward for Fatah is a step back for Hamas.

The establishment of an independent state would bring about new free elections, which Hamas would be hard pressed to win because of the elections being the result of Fatah’s work. Recognizing an Independent Palestinian State will decrease the prevalence of terrorist groups like Hamas and secure future Palestinians, Americans, and Israelis.

Granting Palestine its independence also gives Fatah motivation to fight terrorism both domestically and abroad. The largest concern facing a sovereign Palestine would be the mistrust of its nearest neighbor Israel. In order to prove to the Israelis the Palestinians’ good intentions, intensive antiterrorism programs would inevitably arise in the new nation. Terrorists would no longer be capable of seeking refuge in Gaza; this would reduce the overall strength of Hamas and other terror groups in the Strip.

According to Ziad J. Asali, the President and Founder of the American Task Force on Palestine, “The only way out of the situation in the Middle East is to establish a State of Palestine alongside Israel so that there will be an end of conflict. There is no other solution to end the conflict in reality.”

A 2011 poll by the Brookings Institution found 86 percent of Arabs regard the resolution of the Palestinian conflict as among their top concerns, 85 percent have a “somewhat” or “very unfavorable” view of the United States, and 80 percent say their negative attitudes are reactions to U.S. policies, including our one-sided support for the state of Israel. The United States has not been the most successful country in establishing peaceful relations with Middle Eastern nations. If, however, the US decided to recognize an independent Palestine, we could change the general public opinion on the US. No longer would the US be acting one-sidedly; rather, it would be ushering in goodwill to the area as a whole.

According to Michael Desch, International Security Professor at the University of Notre Dame, “Putting an end to the Israel­-Palestine conflict would be good not only for the Palestinians and the Israelis, but most importantly it will advance U.S. interests.”

By recognizing Palestine, the US will be able to gain a greater influence in the entire middle eastern region because we would be acting similarly to almost every other middle eastern nation. All the members of the Arab League have formally recognized Palestine and a few nations have recognized Palestine even longer. If the United States ever wants to become considered a reputable partner to middle eastern nations, we have to show them our ability to understand and agree with their positions on certain issues.

If we recognize an independent Palestinian state, inevitably middle easterners will recognize American goodwill towards them. Better relations with the Leaders of middle eastern nation will result in fewer conflicts or worldwide tensions. One of the best steps to world peace would be establishing an independent Palestinian state. By giving the Palestinian Authority the power to rule over a its own sovereign nation, ultimately the United States would be showing the Palestinians and other Muslims that we are not always the bad guy and that the decisions we make are based upon what we believe the best policy to promote peace would be.

Currently there is no American solution to the problem of Palestine. Leaders of Israel and the United States blindly follow the idea that eventually both sides will tire of violence and find some mystical way to achieve peace. But permitting a status quo of violence is not the way to peace. America can step in, recognize Palestine, and guarantee that the path to peace begins now. Israel won’t be happy. But in the long run, recognizing Palestine as a free and sovereign nation will promote peaceful and good governance of Palestine, reduce terrorism against the West and Israel, and create goodwill within the Middle East toward the United States. Today we have the chance to finish the violence that began in 1947 and promote peace and prosperity for generations to come.

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