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The Israel Palestine question

16 September 2011

10:32 AM

16 September 2011

10:32 AM

After a hiatus, the Middle East Peace Process is about to return to the international
stage. The Palestinians are pushing at the UN for recognition. Nobody knows yet what they will actually ask for: full statehood or just upgrading their UN status to "non-member". But,
whatever the language of the resolution, the issue will be contentious. By some estimates, 126 states are poised to back the Palestinian request, including France, India, Brazil, Spain. The US will
not support a Palestinian move, nor is Germany likely to. Britain remains undecided, hoping to help the Palestinians draft a resolution that other Europeans can sign up to.

It’s not clear what Britain and European governments should do. Peace is made between enemies, not at the UN and more pressure will not necessarily yield a greater commitment from the Israeli
government. Israel already feels beleaguered by the changes in Turkey and Egypt, by the ongoing efforts to delegitimize the state, and by the terrorist attacks from Hezbollah in the north and Hamas
in Gaza. The issue of the ICC is also problematic: Palestinian hopes of "lawfare" against Israel should they be given access to the court will not advance peace. For more arguments
against recognition, read the recent pamphlet by the Henry Jackson Society.

Despite that, I’m drawn to a "yes" vote. First, the UK would undoubtedly undermine its credibility in the Middle East if it votes "no", and at a time when David Cameron has
worked hard to revive Britain’s image in the region. More importantly, Israel may be beleaguered but it does not yet feel pressured, and few historical peace deals have come about without some form
of pressure on the senior faction. A bit of pressure might actually help.

In addition, pressure on Israel could help the Obama administration persuade Binyamin Netanyahu and the US Congress that peace may be the only way to secure Israel. A "yes" won’t
admittedly change much on the ground, but a "no" vote could well trigger more Palestinian anger with their leadership, which might lead to even more violence directed against Israel. For
more arguments in favour of recognition, read the recent pamphlet by the European Council on
Foreign Relations

I’m leaning towards a "yes" but a qualified one where the Palestinians make very clear they accept the State of Israel, and forsake access to the ICC (for a period). But what do you think
Britain should do?

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