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War on Gaza: Why Palestinians doubt western promises of an independent state

As Israel continues to exterminate the population of Gaza, recent talk in western capitals about Palestinian statehood feels like a blatant hoax
A demonstrator waves a Palestinian flag during a protest in London on 21 February 2024 (Henry Nicholls/AFP)
A demonstrator waves a Palestinian flag during a protest in London on 21 February 2024 (Henry Nicholls/AFP)

As a number of western countries, including the United States, weigh their options for potentially recognising a Palestinian state, the Israeli government has publicly rejected any international attempt to impose a solution.

As Palestinians, we have suffered for decades from the Israeli occupation, theft of our lands, and killing and displacement of our people. Based on our long and bitter experience with the US and its allies, we have great doubts about the seriousness of their stated intentions.

Have western governments finally noticed the elephant in the room? Have they sincerely recognised the necessity of ending the occupation and injustice, or is this whole exercise little more than a palliative to absorb the anger of public opinion? 

The recent statements by western governments about recognising a Palestinian state are very broad, with no clear timetable or practical measures to force Israel’s compliance.

Palestinians cannot go back to an endless process like Oslo, which yielded no tangible results - and Israel should not be given veto power over the establishment of a Palestinian state.

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There are also many questions about the composition of our long-awaited state and its borders. Would it stand in accordance with UN Resolution 181, which delineated precise borders, or would it be based on the Trump-era “deal of the century”, which envisaged the creation of Palestinian bantustans and gave Israel a green light to annex much of the occupied West Bank?

The fate of Israel’s illegal settlements, inhabited by hundreds of thousands of settlers, is also unclear. Would they be removed? Would they become citizens of the new Palestinian state? 

And where would the capital of the new Palestinian state be - in Jerusalem, which the US previously recognised as Israel’s capital? What about the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees? 

Lack of trust

While western governments have been vague on the potential borders of a Palestinian state, they are clear on its ultimate function: a demilitarised nation that lives “in peace” with Israel, which is heavily armed and has a nuclear arsenal. 

As Palestinians, we do not place much trust in western talk of a Palestinian state, especially as the US continues to veto a ceasefire in Gaza. History has shown the West’s lack of seriousness in this regard, amid a litany of broken promises.

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In the 1990s, the Oslo Accords set a five-year timeframe for the recognition of an independent Palestinian state. Instead, the building of Israeli settlements, along with more killing and displacement of Palestinians, continued apace.

It is not likely that we are seeing a surprise awakening from these western powers, which still support Israel's criminal war on the people of Gaza

Western capitals repeated the promise of a Palestinian state with the “road map for peace”, proposed by the Quartet on the Middle East (the US, EU, Russia and the UN), which set a 2005 deadline for a final settlement. But to this day, Israeli settlement-building and occupation continues. 

And as the US in 2017 recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and pressured other countries to do the same, the world seemed to forget about the prospect of a Palestinian state. It no longer factors into the “Greater Middle East project”, whose new features were defined by the Abraham Accords.

The irony is that recent talk of a Palestinian state is coming from the same western countries that have participated in the genocidal war against the Palestinian people in Gaza, and rejected the notion of accountability for Israel at the International Court of Justice. The UK and US are collectively responsible for most of the disasters that have befallen the Middle East over the past century.

It is not likely that we are seeing a surprise awakening from these western powers, which still support Israel’s criminal war on the people of Gaza. Rather, this might be part of a plan to save Israel “from itself”, and to absorb public anger over Israel’s daily crimes against defenceless civilians in Gaza.

Saving face

Israel will be offered incentives and rewards in exchange for stopping the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza. The largest of these will be normalisation with Saudi Arabia and integration within the region. 

All this talk of a Palestinian state likely aims to save face for the Arab regimes complicit in the Israeli-western war against the Palestinian people, and to shield them from future repercussions, with the ultimate goal of resuming the Israeli-Arab normalisation process. Saudi Arabia is the likeliest candidate to join the day after the war stops.

Riyadh has conditioned normalisation on finding a “solution” to the Palestinian issue. Recent talk in Washington, London and Paris on this issue is mainly directed at the Saudi regime, pushing it towards the normalisation train. This would definitively break the boycott of Israel in the Arab and Islamic world. 

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This would serve the interests of Israel, the western countries that support it, and the Arab states that are eager to normalise with it. It would consecrate Israel as an advanced military and economic base for western hegemony over the region.

If these countries were honestly interested in establishing a Palestinian state, they would have taken the initiative years before this genocidal war. Globally, around 140 countries recognise Palestinian statehood, but this goal has been obstructed by the western states now using this issue as a political tool. 

If the recent talk is actually serious, then a Palestinian state must be recognised immediately, without waiting on Israel’s approval. If the West has learned from past mistakes, it would move to stop the war on Gaza, freeze settlement activity in the occupied West Bank, and ensure the application of international law. 

Talking about the recognition of a Palestinian state while the population of Gaza is being exterminated feels like a blatant hoax. What exposes this deception is giving Israel a veto over the establishment of a Palestinian state, even as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to reject “international diktats” and said Israel would “maintain full security control over all territory west of the Jordan River”.

We cannot expect western countries to pressure the extremist rulers of Israel to accept a Palestinian state, when they have so far failed - if they have even tried - to pressure Tel Aviv to stop the genocidal war it has been waging against Palestinians for more than four months.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

Fareed Taamallah is a Palestinian journalist who lives in Ramallah. He is a farmer and political and environmental activist.
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