How should we respond to European recognition of a Palestinian state?

As the old saying goes, the devil is in the details.

By Michael Brown, Frontpage Magazine

On May 22, the nations of Norway, Spain, and Ireland announced their intentions to recognize a Palestinian state. As reported in the Epoch Times, the announcement prompted “Israel to immediately recall its ambassadors to the three nations.

How should we respond?

As described by the leaders of these three countries, they are calling for, “Two states, living side by side, in peace and security” (Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store), “with mutual security guarantees” (Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez), and with “Ireland’s dream” being “that the Israeli and Palestinian children of May 28th 2024 will grow up to be neighbors at peace” (Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris).

Israel’s response was harsh and swift, referencing “the Irish-Norwegian folly,” in the words of Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Israel Katz.

Katz claimed in a post on X that the announcement undermined Israeli sovereignty and endangered its security, stating, “Today’s decision sends a message to the Palestinians and the world: Terrorism pays. After the Hamas terror organization carried out the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust, after committing heinous sexual crimes witnessed by the world, these countries chose to reward Hamas and Iran by recognizing a Palestinian state.

“This distorted step by these countries is an injustice to the memory of the victims of 7/10, a blow to efforts to return the 128 hostages, and a boost to Hamas and Iran’s jihadists, which undermines the chance for peace and questions Israel’s right to self-defense.”

Then, speaking directly to Ireland, he posted, “Ireland, if your goal was to reward terrorism by declaring support for a Palestinian state, you’ve achieved it.

“@SimonHarrisTD, Hamas thanks you for your service.”

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Accompanying the post was a 19-second video depicting some of the horrors of the October 7 massacre with the caption, “Hamas: THANKS IRELAND.”

Why this extreme reaction from Israeli leadership? After all, the Irish government called for “the unconditional release of hostages held by Hamas and ‘full, safe, and unhindered’ humanitarian access to Gaza.”

Prime Minister Sánchez said that recognition of the Palestinian state was a necessary step to “empower the Palestinian National Authority against Hamas, a terrorist group that must disappear.”

In addition, don’t most Israelis share the dream of living side by side in peace and prosperity with their Arab neighbors?

What, then, was so wrong with this formal recognition of a Palestinian state?

First, these nations have no authority whatsoever, legally or morally, to tell Israel what to do with the disputed territories, territories that were acquired in the midst of defensive wars.

Who appointed these three countries the arbiters of the Middle East?

Second, as the old saying goes, the devil is in the details, in this case, the details of what, exactly, constitutes a Palestinian state. Palestinian leadership in Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank) has made it clear that no Jews could live in a Palestinian state (in contrast with Israel being home to more than two million Palestinian Arabs).

As noted by Eric Mandel in The Forward in 2018, with reference to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech to the United Nations Security Council, Abbas put forth a serious proposal for a two-state solution “if your goal is a Palestinian state ethnically cleansed of every Jew.”

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There are now reportedly more than 500,000 Israeli Jews living in the West Bank, all of whom would have to go based on this pollyannaish vision.

To repeat: who gave Norway, Spain, and Ireland the right to expel half a million people from their homes?

Third, the announcement is completely unrealistic, envisioning a peaceful way to oust Hamas from power as well as envisioning Abbas and the PA as serious peace partners for Israel.

As Mandel noted in 2018, “In 2014, he told the Arab League, ‘We will never recognize the Jewishness of the state of Israel.’ In 2016 in Sudan, he reiterated that he would ‘recognize the State of Israel, and that is it. However, a Jewish state is not my affair. I will not recognize it at all and I will not accept it.’

In December, his chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said Palestinians need to strive to reclaim ‘historic Palestine, from the river to the sea.’

And this January, clearing up any ambiguity, Abbas asserted from the safety of his West Bank compound that the state of Israel is a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism,’ and rejected any Jewish ties to the land.

“As for accepting Israel’s legitimacy and right to a state, Abbas asserts that Israel’s occupation started in 1948, not 1967. This means that he believes Israel proper to be occupied, not just the West Bank and Gaza.”

This is Israel’s wonderful peace partner?

And to the extent that Abbas and other Palestinian leaders call for a one-state solution, they do so with the caveat that it must include the “right to return” for multiplied millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees, thereby overwhelming the demographics and effectively ending the idea of a Jewish state.

As for the popularity of Hamas, it surged in the West Bank after October 7.

As the Irish Times (!) reported regarding a major poll conducted last December, “In the survey, 72 percent of respondents backed the Hamas-led attack of October 7th in which 1,200 people were killed, according to Israel, and some 240 taken hostage. Support for the attack was higher among Palestinians in the West Bank, at 82 percent, than in Gaza (57 percent).”

Additionally, “About 44 percent of West Bank residents support Hamas, the survey found, an increase from 12 percent in September, while 42 percent of Gazans (up from 38 percent) expressed support for the militant group, which runs Gaza. Some 60 percent in Gaza expressed support for the armed struggle against Israel, as did 70 percent in the West Bank, where 490 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers since the Gaza war began.”

Clear enough?

Fourth, the announcement undermines Israel’s efforts to eliminate Hamas from power, instead encouraging the violent Palestinian resistance with the idea that, with perseverance, they will achieve their goals, as support for Israel’s offensive wanes.

By all means, let us continue to work towards and dream about the peaceful and prosperous coexistence of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.

But announcements like this are as unhelpful as they are untimely. Israel had good reason to react so sharply.