The Palestinians are in a determined drive to win broad international recognition for statehood, with a new approach. On Monday they were in Brussels to curry favour with the European Union, insisting they are ready to manage an independent state once EU aid has helped them forge the institutions for it. Yet peace negotiations have the brakes firmly on.
Israel’s stance pushed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to redouble his efforts in the quest for recognition. Relaunching talks with Israel failed last autumn when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to prolong a moratorium on the building of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land captured by Israel in the 1967 war.
There are some 200 of these settlements in the Palestinian West Bank, with half a million Israelis living in them. The Palestinians want their own state free of these settlements, and based on 1967 lines.
Israel does not agree with this. Netanyahu spelled it out once more in a speech to a joint meeting of the US Congress – that is the House of Representatives and the Senate. His enthusiastic listeners responded repeatedly on their feet.
Netanyahu said “We’ll be generous about the size of the future Palestine state. But as President Obama said, the border will be different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967.”
Netanyahu said Israel would accept a Palestinian state when the Palestinians say they accept Israel; Abbas’s unity pact with the militants Hamas would have to go; Israel would keep troops in the Jordan Valley and insist that Jerusalem never be divided.
Abbas moved his recognition campaign into a higher gear. He opened an official Palestinian embassy in Lebanon. Already around a hundred countries have said they will recognise a state of Palestine, including Brazil, Argentina and Chile.
In the United Nations arena, the Palestinians are trying to soften US opposition to their plans, with reminders of President Barack Obama’s statement a year ago: “When we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations: an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel.”
The Palestinian campaign’s symbolic chair, marked ‘Palestine’s right’, is raising real concern in Israel.