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Recognition of Palestine is tethered to an absence of vision

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Brussels, Belgium on March 27, 2017 [Dursun Aydemir/ Anadolu Agency]
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas [Dursun Aydemir/ Anadolu Agency]

One statement from Mahmoud Abbas’s speech to the UN Security Council last week focused upon the recognition of Palestine by UN member states; this has been overlooked. The context given by Abbas is, though, contradictory. Recognition, he said, has “further strengthened the status of the State of Palestine.” However, he also states that such recognition “is not a substitute for negotiations, but rather would enhance the prospects for success of negotiations.”

Such a statement exposes the subjugation imposed upon Palestinians through the Oslo Accords and the Palestinian Authority’s persistence in regurgitating the options of channels — such as the “peace process” — which have already determined Palestinian liberation as an aberration.

Since 2014, the PA has emphasised recognition as a victory rather than a preliminary process. This has added another dimension to the isolation experienced by Palestinians. On one hand, pursuing recognition has been framed within a discourse of legitimacy. However, the PA has also ensured that the terms for recognition play directly into Israel’s colonial agenda. This means that countries which have recognised Palestine are not playing any further role in a collective stance against the illegality of colonising Palestinian territory.

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Abbas’s endorsement of the two-state compromise, as well as his concept of recognition as the means to “enhance the prospects” for diplomatic negotiations, provide a degree of impunity for the international community. If recognition was to be constructed from within Palestinian demands, it would have ignited different dynamics; it would take Palestinians into consideration, rather than the PA, and allow the narrative forming from within to be the foundation upon which such recognition would have been forthcoming. As things stand, recognition of Palestine as requested by the PA carries with it the implicit agreement of acquiescing to Israel’s appropriation of Palestinian territory, its displacement of Palestinians and all the violations occurring through the military occupation.

This also means that there is little difference between the external impositions dictated by the international community and Abbas’s demands. In both cases, there is an agreement to isolate recognition from the other issues contributing to Palestine’s depletion. Since it does not challenge Israel’s existence, recognition is an expression of agreement with the limitations imposed upon Palestinians. Diplomatically, it creates a widespread niche of countries that have contributed to the international strategy of forcing Palestinians to contend with fragments, which is nothing new. However, since it is done under the guise of imparting something purportedly substantive for Palestinians, the rhetoric is different from that of US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, for example, who is clearly asserting her country’s work in isolating Palestine.

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Given that international consensus remains the two-state paradigm and recognition is not achieving anything with regard to challenging that framework, due to the two-state being a priority above recognition, it is safe to say that Abbas is promoting an agenda founded upon an absence of vision for Palestine. In terms of convenience, the absence of vision might instigate other countries to recognise Palestine. However, it is the elimination of accountability that makes it one of the options worth considering internationally, as it normalises Israel’s existence in Palestine. In terms of how exclusionary recognition can be, it is worth keeping in mind that the parameters decided by Abbas do not extend to Palestinian aspirations, particularly recognition of the right to liberation. Recognition, therefore, is yet another term being mangled for the purposes of extending Palestinian subjugation.

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