Palestinian Statehood, the UN, and Israel as a “Jewish State”

Following Brazil’s recent declaration, Argentina has now recognized a Palestinian state in the pre-67 borders. Like the Brazilian announcement, however, this may not have an immediate effect on the ground but it is significant nonetheless.  As of now, the following Latin American countries recognize an independent Palestine: Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republican, Brazil, and Argentina.  Mexico, Peru and Uruguay have announced their intent to increase Palestinian diplomatic representation. The important thing is that such announcements of recognition bolster Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas’ efforts to rally international support against the continued illegal Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and maybe even UN recognition of Palestinian statehood. If 9 out of 15 UNSC members as well as 2/3 of the General Assembly vote to recognize a state, then legally speaking, Palestine will have legal sanction as a nation to sue Israel in international courts for the continued theft of Palestinian land (see image below).

At this juncture, the newly launched Israel-Palestine negotiations have predictably run into another deadlock as far-right Israeli premier Netanyahu refuses to freeze illegal settlement construction in the Palestinian West Bank.  Mark Regev, Netanyahu’s spokesman, recently applauded Netanyahu’s willingness to come to the negotiating table without any pre-conditions (except that Israel be recognized as a “Jewish State”), while lambasting the Palestinians for  demanding a halt to the settlement construction as a precursor to starting the negotiating process.  It’s not unreasonable whatsoever for the Palestinians to make such a demand because to negotiate the status of their land while Israel is concurrently seizing and building on it is tantamount to negotiating peace with someone as they are slapping you across the face or discussing the splitting of a piece of pie while one is eating away at it.  Additionally, it can be said that Netanyahu does indeed have a pre-condition to the negotiations. While his government claims that only the Palestinians have pre-conditions, the Israeli government’s refusal to freeze settlement construction effectively means, “We won’t come to the negotiating table to discuss the status of your land unless we can continue to build on your land at the same time.”

Furthermore, I believe that Israel’s insistence that it be recognized as a Jewish state is an indication of Israel’s long-term demographic strategy. 1/5 of Israel’s population are Palestinian citizens of Israel (or Israeli Arabs).   These Arabs are distinct from the 4-5 million Palestinian Arabs living under occupation in the West Bank and the open air prison known as the Gaza Strip.  Far-right Israeli leaders have repeatedly referred to Israel’s Arab population as a “ticking time bomb” fearing that with their current birth rates, Israel’s Arab population will one day become the majority inside Israel.  Thus, recognizing Israel as a Jewish state may be a precursor to either a land swap with the Palestinian Authority or a population transfer. After all, if Israel is officially recognized as a Jewish state, then what is to come of the state’s 1.3 million non-Jews? The theory is that Israeli lands where Israeli Arabs dominate will be transferred over to PA control in exchange for the large illegal Jewish-only settlement blocs that cut through the West Bank. Or, there will be a population exchange with the native Israeli Arabs transferring over to the West Bank in exchange for the return of the Jewish settlers to Israel proper. All this underscores the problem of having an exclusivist ethnic-religio state in a region where its indigenous population does not identify with that state’s self-proclaimed identity.

To learn more about the discrimination Israeli Arabs face at the hands of the Israeli state, see this short video titled ‘Israel’s unwanted citizens’.

Map Link: BBC

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