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Only Sovereignty Can Bring Peace With Palestine

Steve Helmeci |
October 19, 2014 | 9:50 p.m. PDT



All conflict becomes old at some point, and recent actions by Western European countries show that the international community is growing weary of the ever-present, shockingly bloody Israel-Palestine conflict. 

Since the 1947 UN Partition Plan designating 55 percent of Palestinian land as the Jewish State of Israel, conflict between Israeli settlers and Palestinians has repeatedly erupted. The situation was exacerbated in the years following the implementation of the plan, when Israel claimed all of the land of the former Palestine, with the exception of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, amounting to 78 percent of the regional total. Throughout its remaining history, Israel has been plagued by terrorist attacks by Palestinian insurgents, and Israel has responded with force to every inkling of insurgency in the Palestinian territory, not to mention attempts to annex and settle even more Palestinian land. A more detailed retelling of the conflict and how it has arrived at its current standing can be found here.

More recently, an intense conflict between Israel and Hamas - a Palestinian militant group holding power in the Gaza Strip - raged for 50 days, from July to August 2014. The conflict started over the kidnapping and eventual execution of three Israeli students by Hamas militants in the West Bank, and was exacerbated by a revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem. Israel launched ground and air offensives against the Gaza Strip in the hopes of removing Hamas from power. 

The final death tolls of the conflict were 2,130 Palestinians, a UN-estimated 70 percent (approximately 1500) of which were civilians; and 67 Israelis, 64 of which were soldiers.

Despite a ceasefire agreement that was reached on August 26, and no further regression into conflict, the brief war has re-ignited international interest in the peace process. Many countries see that the best way to achieve said peace in the region is through a two-state solution, thus necessitating a global recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state.

Meanwhile, Israel’s proclamation that it will build 2,600 housing settlements on land that is across the green line, or the official border separating Israeli and Palestinian land, has sparked increased international scrutiny, with even the White House warning Israel that it risks alienating "even its closest allies" if it continues with settlement building outside of its allotted borders.

As an example of this, on October 13, the House of Commons in the United Kingdom voted 274-12 in favor of recognizing Palestine as a sovereign state. While the vote is merely symbolic - Prime Minister David Cameron and his cabinet members abstained from the vote, meaning it does not change Britain’s official foreign policy - it came as a shock to the Western world, as the United Kingdom has historically been one of the most staunch supporters of Israel.

In Sweden, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven unilaterally changed the country’s stance on Palestine this month as well, making it the first Western European country and first European Union member to formally recognize Palestine as a state. While questions remain regarding the legality of Löfven’s unilateral action, it remains a tremendous step forward for Palestine as it seeks full recognition from the international community.

A day after the vote in the British Parliament, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius stated: “From the moment that we say there must be two states [Israel and Palestine], there will be a need for recognition of the Palestinian state, that goes without saying.” Fabius continued: “The only question is what are the procedures and how to be most effective. What we want is not a symbolic issue but to be helpful to peace.”

While France has no immediate intention to recognize Palestine, the rhetoric from the government leads one to believe that, should a peaceful, two-state settlement not occur swiftly, France will likely move to recognize Palestine as a state as well.

As it stands, over 130 nations formally recognize Palestine as a state, with all except Sweden coming from Eastern Europe, Africa, South and Central America, Asia and the Middle East. The United Nations also granted Palestine “Non-Member Observer State” status in 2012, meaning that Palestine retains all of the rights accorded to UN member states except the ability to sponsor resolutions and vote on substantive resolutions. Only nine nations voted against allowing Palestine to observe the UN; those nations being Israel, Nauru, Palau, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Czech Republic, Canada, Australia and the United States. The final vote was 138-9, with 41 abstentions.

For obvious reasons, all revolving around its close ties to Israel, the United States has not recognized Palestine as a state, and does not appear to have any plans to do so. While it is commendable that the United States is showing such loyalty to a close ally, it may be time to revisit our policy on the statehood of Palestine - and not solely because even our allies are beginning to reconsider their policy with regard to Palestine.

It is not the place of this column to assign blame for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to one party or the other. All violence is a two-way street, provoked and cultivated by actions of both sides. Israeli encroachment into Palestinian territory and Palestinian terrorist retaliation have both been to blame for the violence and bloodshed that has plagued the region for decades.

That said, peace and reconciliation is a two-way street as well, and it can only be made possible by mutual respect and equality of international standing.

One side cannot expect to receive all of its wishes if any semblance of peace is to be reached in Israel. The only plausible resolution to conflict in the area must include a two-state system, where both Palestine and Israel are granted sovereignty and both respect the sovereignty of the other. Encroachments on both sides into territory of the other - whether for occupation or terrorist purposes - are the root of the majority of the conflict in the region, and only out of respect for sovereignty will these encroachments be halted.

I understand that it may not be a popular opinion in this country, but peace in the region cannot be realized until Palestine is granted statehood. Even then, incredible barriers still exist to the stability and longevity of such a peace, but mutual respect of statehood and sovereignty is a good place to start.

"Global Turning Points" is a new NT column on the critical international issues you might have overlooked. Check back Thursdays or read more here.

Reach Columnist Steve Helmeci here.



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