The United States recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on December 6, 2017 in a move that President Donald Trump said was a “long-overdue step.” Many countries disagreed, and viewed the announcement as premature, claiming that such recognition should be done in conjunction with a broader peace process and mirror whatever the Israelis and Palestinian Authority themselves agree to.
If anything, Trump’s move was very late considering the recognition that had been afforded to the Palestinian Arabs over the previous decade.
Recognition of Palestine
In 1988, the Palestinian Liberation Organization declared its independence. Israel and the western world ignored the declaration of the noted terrorist organization, while fellow Arab and Muslim countries quickly recognized the State of Palestine.
Within a few years of the PLO declaration, the Israelis and Palestinian Arabs signed the Oslo Accords (in 1993 and 1995) which put in motion a peace process, including the creation of a Palestinian Authority (PA). As part of those agreements, both parties agreed that the PA would have limited powers regarding international relations (Article IX), including having no ability to obtain official recognition from other governmental bodies.
“In accordance with the DOP, the Council will not have powers and
responsibilities in the sphere of foreign relations, which sphere includes the
establishment abroad of embassies, consulates or other types of foreign missions and posts or permitting their establishment in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, the
appointment of or admission of diplomatic and consular staff, and the exercise of
When the leader of the PA, Yasser Arafat (fungus be upon him) failed to deliver on peace and launched a second intifada in September 2000, the peace process ground to a halt. Any movement by world organizations and governments to provide additional recognition on key issues for the Israelis and PA was put on hold.
Yet the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas pushed forward with seeking global recognition, even as he lost control of the Gaza Strip in 2007.
Abbas began with Costa Rica (2008) and Venezuela (2009) before making significant headway with the major countries in South America.
In 2010, Abbas got Brazil and Argentina to recognize Palestine, despite commitments in the Oslo Accords that the PA would not take such steps. The Israeli foreign ministry released a statement that “Recognition of a Palestinian state is a violation of the interim agreement signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 1995, which established that the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will be discussed and solved through negotiations…. All attempts to bypass negotiations and to unilaterally determine issues in dispute will only harm the trust of the sides and their commitment to agreed upon frameworks for negotiations.”
In 2011, other South American countries recognized Palestine including Chile and Uruguay. UNESCO followed suit and admitted the “State of Palestine.” Shortly thereafter, Iceland became the first country in western Europe to recognize Palestine, with borders based on the 1949 Armistice Lines. By the following year, the United Nations began calling the entity the “State of Palestine” in all official documents.
Remarkably, at the end of the third Hamas war on Israel in 2014, Sweden became the second western European country to recognize Palestine.
Recognition of Jerusalem
While Abbas’s PA actively sought recognition of a state since 2008, Israel was fighting three wars from Gaza and a “stabbing intifada.” Israel was not busy lobbying the world to recognize Jerusalem as its capital, but focused on getting the world to stop the Islamic Republic of Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons while it declared its intention of destroying Israel.
While the Palestinian Authority was playing offense, Israel was playing defense.
At this point in time, with over 20 countries and United Nations entities recognizing Palestine over the past decade despite the explicit statements in the Oslo Accords, isn’t it well past time for countries of the world to recognize the capital of Israel?
Alternatively, if countries are truly concerned with the peace process, they can strip their recognition of Palestine, and leave the Israelis and PA to negotiate their peace, including matters related to borders, settlements and Jerusalem, and ultimately embrace the conclusion of the parties. Impartiality demands one or the other.
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