In the past month, several European nations have been debating (non-binding) votes to recognize the State of Palestine. They started in Sweden, followed by a symbolic vote in France. Australia and Belgium are considering similar votes. Granted, these votes are non-binding/symbolic, and most importantly, the situation on the ground hasn't changed, and it's unlikely these votes will do much to change them. Prominent journalists such as Ali Abunimah actually denounce the proclamations, saying they "...may have good intentions in the minds of many, but...I believe that recognizing such a "state" is harmful to the rights of most Palestinians."
I have mixed feelings about these declarations myself. Many speculate that rather than a tacit support of Palestinians, these votes are more indicative of a growing frustration with Israeli action, including settlement building, and Netanyahu specifically. It's plain to see that Israel is swinging to the right, as most recently evidenced by the ousting of the last two ministers in the Israeli government that could even superficially be called centrist, Justice Minister Tipi Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid. Is recognizing a Palestinian state, even in this nonbinding way, just an attempt to get Netanyahu's attention and get him in line? If so, they don't seem to be working, or at least won't until bigger players like Britain and the United States join in, which is unlikely to be soon- or ever, in the current paradigm.
However, at the end of the day, I support these countries taking action to recognize the state of Palestine. Is it making life better for Palestinians right this second? Hardly. But having the words "state of Palestine" floating around in the zeitgeist isn't a bad thing either. Sure, the current "state of Palestine" is under military occupation and is completely not self-sufficient economically due to settlements, the seperation wall, Israeli-only roads, destruction of Palestinian property and farmland, and countless other Israeli action. Do we really want to cement a "state" that is barely worthy of the title? Is it just entrenching the occupation further and delaying the types of tough decisions that the international community will have to make if they ever want a viable Palestinian state to be a reality? I struggle with these questions- I won't deny that.
On the outside, it's a feel-good, relatively easy move. What could possibly be bad about recognition, even if it's recognition without teeth? What I would really love these countries to do is take some real action, either diplomatically or economically, to force Israel to stop its illegal destructions, arrests, construction, occupation, and blockade. We don't need rhetoric anymore- we've been going over this for decades. The Palestinians, and the Israelis, need a solution to this, now. Proclamations are great, and I am thankful for the fuel to the conversation about the needs and rights of Palestinians. However, we need action. Recent events must convince us that the status quo is untenable. Entire generations have grown knowing nothing but war, tragedy, and injustice. Proclaim- but also act. Stop sending arms to Israel. Stop selling goods produced in Israeli settlements. Start holding Israel accountable for breaking countless UN resolutions. Start publicly denouncing settlements, the arrest and detention of hundreds of Palestinians with no trial (including children), Israeli ministers who call for incitement and overt racism, and other illegal or, at least, unhelpful, Israeli actions. These nations have no problem talking very publicly about the problems with the Palestinians and their government (which do exist, undoubtedly). If you are truly non-biased parties who only want the best for both the Israelis and Palestinians, start acting like it. Stop treating Israel like the favored child who gets all the cookies, and Palestine like the black sheep who just needs to be a little more patient and behave a little better if it wants any of the crumbs. Hello- just look at Israel's most recent Jewish nationalism bill, a bigger threat to Israel's democracy and security than any Palestinian rock-throwing child could ever be.
Just recently, a very interesting poll was released asking Americans their opinion about this conflict. Overall, it's a pretty mixed response, with divisions among party lines, as is the case with pretty much all opinions in the United States these days. Most people still support a two state solution, although a growing number would support a one state solution if two states isn't possible (which is rapidly becoming the case; many would argue we are already there, and I would agree with them). Is recognizing a Palestinian state just delaying the inevitable decision to find a one-state solution? The position of the US, EU, and the international community in general is a two-state solution. But anyone who looks at a map of the post-Oslo West Bank, and hears almost weekly news stories about Israel seizing just a little bit more land, and simply drives through the West Bank through checkpoints and settlements (let alone considers the devastating isolation of Gaza from the West Bank) is left to wonder- a state where?
I know this all sounds like I'm opposed to the idea. And, like I stated, I am still wrestling with it. Abunimah makes a number of extremely valid points about the impacts of recognition on Palestinian self-determination, and I do worry about the trajectory of these recognitions when it is clear to me that a state of Palestine, in its current form, is laughable. However, if these proclamations bring this issue back into the public consciousness in a way that addresses Palestinian needs, Palestinian rights, and Palestinian security for once- as all previous efforts seem to address only Israel's- then I am left believing that recognition is better than the alternative, which is nothing. Palestine is physically disappearing before our very eyes. Many descendants of Palestinian refugees in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan have never even been to Palestine, and may stop identifying as Palestinian in future generations. If even in name only, recognizing a Palestinian state keeps it alive, and in turn keeps us alive, then I support it.