Commentary Magazine


The Dubious Embrace of Palestinian Unilateralism

A new craze is sweeping European politics: Palestinian unilateralism. One by one Europe’s parliaments and governments are choosing to endorse recognition of Palestinian statehood outside of any peace process with Israel. In doing so these democratic assemblies are sabotaging the very peaceful two-state outcome that they claim to believe in. And yet for many of those driving these moves, although they may talk the language of peace, this is now becoming about something quite different. It is not so much ending the conflict that appears to be galvanizing these parliamentary resolutions, but rather a completely warped notion of “justice.” Realizing the obsession of Palestinian statehood is the goal, regardless of whether it brings peace or not.

Just this week the Spanish parliament voted in favor of such a move advocating recognition of Palestinian statehood, with 319 parliamentarians supporting the motion and just two opposing, and one abstention. Similar votes have already passed the British and Irish parliaments and the French are to have an equivalent vote at the end of the month. In these countries the parliamentary motions in question have been non-binding on the governments, although the French president already appeared to express support for backing unilateral Palestinian moves at the Security Council. The Swedish government, meanwhile, officially recognized Palestinian statehood back in October.

For anyone genuinely committed to a peaceful two-state outcome it should be plain enough to see that such votes can only hinder attempts to achieve a meaningful resolution of this conflict. Quite apart from the fact that these purely symbolic resolutions do nothing material to make Palestinian statehood a reality, they actually make reaching a two-state agreement still less likely. After all, the reasoning behind the two-state process was that the Palestinians would receive sovereignty in return for committing to safeguard Israel’s security. But if Palestinians are led to believe that ultimately the world will intervene to force their state into being, then all incentive to reach an agreement with Israel is nullified.

By supporting Palestinian unilateralism European countries threaten to wreck the possibility of the very land for peace agreement that they themselves have repeatedly insisted they wish to be the guarantors of. Because when it comes to land for peace they are telling the Palestinians that they can now get the former without having to give the latter in return. What Europe’s parliamentary assemblies are conspiring to create is a two-state non-solution in which conceivably a Palestinian state might be made a reality, but the conflict would only continue, and in all likelihood intensify.

The problem is that Israel and many of her supporters have in fact unwittingly laid the groundwork for such an outcome. Since the advent of Oslo, Israel has been embarking on a peace process that hasn’t brought it any closer to peace, but has gradually eroded its claim to much of the territory it holds and with that its international standing. The eagerness to end the conflict with the Palestinians by establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank has led Israel to surrender its claim to these territories, so inadvertently accepting the role as an illegitimate occupier of Palestinian land. As such, for the rest of the world creating a Palestinian state is becoming less and less about achieving peace and more and more about winning “justice” for the Palestinians.

After all, European lawmakers can hardly have failed to notice the way things have been going. Quite the opposite. Not only are they well aware that twenty years of negotiations have gone nowhere, but they must also have noticed that far from Israel’s territorial concessions advancing peace, these moves have only assisted Palestinian militants in waging war and in the process getting as many of their own people killed as possible. And yet Europe’s politicians don’t seem to care.

Another thing that they can’t have missed, and don’t seem to care about, is what Palestinians have actually done with sovereignty when they’ve achieved it. The brutal theocratic despotism of Hamas in Gaza cuts a pretty chilling impression of what life might be like in a Palestinian state of the future. Yet equally Mahmoud Abbas’s semi-autonomous polity in the West Bank is not only deeply undemocratic, it is also viciously oppressive of its own Palestinian population. And what’s more, rather than use this opportunity for nation building, Abbas and his gang have instead channeled their energies into endless incitement against Israel, the consequences of which we are only now beginning to see borne out with incidents such as this week’s horrific synagogue attack in Jerusalem. As Ruthie Blum pointed out in her recent Israel Hayom column, the way is being paved for Islamic State in Israel.

If European parliamentarians really cared about making peace through two states a reality then they would be doing everything to make it clear to Palestinians that intransigence, incitement, and violence will get them nowhere. Yet having lost interest in such tiresome matters as security and stability for Israelis and Palestinians, Europe’s politicians prefer to champion an abstract notion of “justice,” no matter how many people get hurt along the way.

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4 Responses to “The Dubious Embrace of Palestinian Unilateralism”


    As a supported of Oslo, the handshake on the lawn and the Clinton, Barak/Arafat peace process, I am heartsick at the outcome.

    But it was the right way to go. Events have confirmed that.

    My argument at the time, including in a note to Norman Podhoretz, was that I too had deep reservations about the success of Oslo, but still supported it whole heartedly. Because Israel could survive everyone’s distrust and hostility, except that of its own people. With the population split and fighting itself, there was no hope and no future.

    Thus Oslo and a sincere and generous offer to the Palestinians was essential. Not to convince the world, but Israelis that their country was in the right, that it wanted to be fair to the Palestinians and wanted peace, that it was doing all it possibly could, that it wore the white hat.

    Those who had deep doubts about letting Arafat back in and handing him the WB and Gaza and who suspected that it would not bring peace, like Norman Podhoretz, were proved right. But so was I.

    Bad as things are, with the peace prospect a tool for Palestinian PR, and only that, with Europe baying at Israel’s heels, and the US turning hostile, the situation remains manageable. Because Israelis are united. They are not fighting each other. There is no self doubt. Because they know they tried, very hard. They will prove tougher and more enduring than the Europeans and the Palestinians. Oslo, its failure, has given them that strength.

  2. ELLIOTT GREEN says:

    “Justice” for “palestinians,” a people that never existed in history, is simply another stage in the long history of European Judeophobia.


    This will only coalesce Israeli public opinion, which now appreciate the intent of Europe and its animus toward Israel.

    It”s only a matter of time before Muslims create their own states in Europe,just like ISIS has in Iraq. What makes them think that own their boundaries are so sacrosanct? Thew are setting a dangerous precedent for themselves.

  4. DAVID LEVAVI says:

    Odd policy you folks at Commentary (or “Contentions” or whatever you’re calling it today) seem to have. My attempt to comment on this post at 12:45PM on 11/20 was rejected with a pro forma “Sorry, comments for this post are closed.”
    Yet here is a comment accepted at 4:45PM the same day. If you find my comments offensive have the courage and courtesy to say so plainly. Small wonder this poorly designed,user-unfriendly website elicits so few comments.

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