Unilateral recognition of a Palestinian State

This is a guest post by Stephen Hoffman

This post is the text of a letter Stephen recently sent to his MP

On Monday 13th October, the House of Commons will debate the following backbench motion: “That this House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel. One amendment that has been proposed to this motion is: “At end, add’, on the conclusion of successful peace negotiations between the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority.

This is an an amendment that I fully support as it presents the best way of achieving a two state solution that will protect Israel’s security and lead to the creation of a stable Palestinian state not beset by divisions and violence, whilst ensuring Palestinian dreams of sovereignty are met in a way that does not threaten Israel’s existence.  As a constituent of yours I would like you to consider taking part in this debate and supporting the amendment.

As I am sure you have noted from previous emails I have sent to you I am a strong supporter of the two state solution and that is why alongside my involvement in Israel advocacy groups I support efforts by organisations such as One Voice who work with grassroots activists in the Palestinian territories and Israel to support the two state solution.

However, I firmly believe that the best way of achieving the two state solution is through multilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian authority. I believe this is the best way of achieving a mutual agreement and I do not think unilateral moves such as preemptively recognising Palestine as a state helps with this. In fact I believe it does the opposite, as it harms peace negotiations. This is because from the Israeli side they will not be able to trust the Palestinian Authority as much and it will also lead to the Israeli population hardening against peace talks.

I also feel that it will make a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict even harder than it already is. This is because if we immediately endorse the Palestinian maximal positions endorsed by the UK and other nations, it will make it much harder to make the necessary tough compromises on issues like Jerusalem and refugees. It will also encourage the current path of inciting violence against Israelis by funding terrorists and producing books that promote hatred against Jewish people. Furthermore, this will send signals to Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu that he has no partner for peace and therefore can build more settlements that does further damage to the peace process. In other words unilateral recognition of a Palestinian State will work against the majority of Israelis and Palestinians who want peace.

I also fear that unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state could act as a catalyst for violence. I believe this is a very real threat in the West Bank, where with the tensions bubbling on the surface there is always the very real threat of a third Intifada. Unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state will raise expectations for many of the immediate establishment of a Palestinian state and when these demands cannot be met, the response could be violence, which will sow distrust between Israelis and Palestinians and without trust the two state solution becomes very difficult to achieve.

In the past including in the Camp David Accords in 2000 and under Ehud Olmert in 2008 Israel has offered significant concessions that would have led to a comprehensive peace deal and the creation of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state. Tragically the dreams of a Palestinian State were crushed first by Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas who did not accept these offers that would have led to peace and the formation of a Palestinian State. I still believe there is a chance though for negotiations and the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian State will work against this.

Finally in recent months both Israeli and Palestinian leaders have taken decisions and spoken in ways that are harmful for peace. The Palestinian Authority has continued to incite violence against Israelis through its funding of terrorists and promoting hatred of Jews in educational books that they publish. At the same time Netanyahu has continued to build settlements that damage the chances of a two state solution. I do not think Palestinian’s leaders current rejectionist stance should be rewarded through recognition of a unilateral Palestinian state at this present time, due to the fact it will embolden Palestinian and Israeli leaders to reject the path of peace.

For all these reasons I urge you to support the amendment and to throw your influence as my MP behind a negotiated and lasting peace. I would also be grateful if you could pass on my comments on to the Middle East Minister, Tobias Ellwood MP and I would welcome receiving any response he gives to my views.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards,

Stephen Hoffman