Sweden’s recent responsible decision to officially recognize the State of Palestine was quickly followed by the British Parliament’s vote for similar recognition. The Swedish and British moves, clearly grounded in a desire for peace, are a last-ditch effort to save the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. These developments reflect the shift in European public opinion in favor of a free Palestine. The Swedish and British acts, which put new moral pressure on Israel to end the occupation, have created greater space to address a range of unfulfilled Palestinian rights.
One of the strangest arguments Israel makes against recognition of Palestine by other countries is the claim that such decisions are unilateral acts that obstruct the possibility of peace, and that a Palestinian state can only be established through negotiations. This claim adds insult to injury, as those who champion it, whether they are Israeli or American, know three very clear facts.
The first fact is that negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships died a long time ago. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu killed the possibility of any fruitful results by not fulfilling his commitments and by carrying out an unprecedented expansion, in both intensity and size, of Israel’s illegal colonies spread throughout occupied Palestinian territory. Negotiations will never succeed as long as the balance of power is so skewed in Israel’s favor.
Secondly, the side that is acting unilaterally is clearly Israel. It is the side that is expanding settlements—at a 124 percent increase in 2013, compared to the year before. Israel is continuing the process of annexation and Judaization of the occupied territories, and it has conducted three very destructive wars against the Gaza Strip in only six years, committing what all supporters of human rights agree to be war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Israeli government is the one that liquidated the Oslo Agreements, leaving intact only the scraps from which it benefits. It is the one dividing and cutting the land of the future Palestinian state into ghettoes and bantustans.
Third, unilateral Israeli measures are destroying the very last opportunity for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and the two-state solution. It is now clear, from the course of the previous years, that the Israeli government simply aims to gain time—to have enough time, in other words, to liquidate the possibility of an independent State of Palestine and continue the process of annexation that it has been steadily carrying out since 1948.
For Israel to succeed it needs Palestinians to sit still, to abstain from any form of resistance, be it nonviolent, diplomatic or political.
Twenty-one years of Oslo have exposed the never-ending series of negotiations for the farce they are, a delaying tactic to prevent a mutually agreed outcome. Israel has used negotiations as a cover for settlement expansion and to enhance and deepen internal Palestinian division. In short, the peace process has become an alternative to peace itself—the same peace of which Israel is so dreadfully afraid. More than that, negotiations have become Israel’s go-to weapon each time the Palestinians try to take any initiative to level the balance of power on the ground or in the international arena.