The Palestinian National Authority (PNA), the official government of Palestine (which controls the West Bank, but has essentially no power whatsoever in Hamas-dominated Gaza), will be petitioning the United Nations General Assembly for recognition as an independent state. The United States and Israel oppose the PNA’s move, but I figure it’s a good idea. Give ’em the recognition they want. Why not?
With Palestine as a recognized, sovereign state, Israel would have to do in the West Bank what they have already done in Gaza: withdraw completely. Asking Israel to do this flies afoul of the basic precepts of international law. All else being equal, Israel has every right to the West Bank and Gaza territories, since Israel was attacked by its neighbors and seized those territories fair-and-square in the war that resulted. Never in the history of the world has the country that got attacked been asked to return the territories it won in the war that followed. But Israel supposedly wants a two-state solution too, so let’s hold ’em to it.
But giving Palestine the gift of formal recognition as a sovereign state comes with a big catch for the PNA, which is why I would advise them to be careful what they wish for. As an independent state, the PNA will be expected to be responsible for securing itself (since Israel will no longer have authority), for defending itself, and for preventing its people from committing acts of war against neighboring countries.
When Hamas launches rockets from ‘occupied’ Gaza (which hasn’t actually been occupied since 2005), it’s technically an internal Israeli matter. As such, Israel’s military response gets characterized as wanton criminal destruction akin to, say, Muammar Gaddafi’s attacks on his own Libyan people. I disagree with this characterization for a long list of reasons, but I can at least see the logic. By neutral outside judgement, without the benefit of historic context, the people of Palestine are Israeli citizens who were born and raised in Israeli territory. By that standard, they are oppressed; they have no say in Israeli government.
But when the Palestinian territories become an independent, sovereign territory—the ‘two state solution’ everybody supposedly wants—things change. Hamas’s rocket attacks on their Israeli neighbors would stop being an internal matter. They could no longer be characterized as an ‘oppressed people attacking their oppressors.’ No, the whole world would have to admit that they are what they really are: acts of belligerent, unjustified war that target innocent civilians.
Those of us who have studied the history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict already know this. With a formally recognized, sovereign Palestine, everybody else will have to admit it too. So I urge the PNA to go for it, and I urge the whole world community—us included—to support them in their bid for independence. And afterwards, I urge the world community to handle Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians the same way they would handle any other sovereign nation attacking its neighbors: with decisive, justified retaliation.