By Rami G. Khouri
Oct. 08, 2014
The announcement by the new centre-left government in Stockholm last Friday that it intended to recognize a state of Palestine should trouble the Israeli government and all those Zionists who assume that the current situation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can remain as it is indefinitely.
The Swedish announcement at one level was just one more sign of the political and popular opinion trends around the world that continue to show support for a two-state solution that treats Israelis and Palestinians equally.
At another, more important, level, it signals that Israel is wrong to believe that while the Palestinians can always muster a majority of developing countries at the U.N. General Assembly, the “countries that matter,” in other words the Europeans and North Americans will always hold off any serious diplomatic moves against Israel by supporting it without reservations.
The Swedish move is both symbolic and substantive. It is symbolic because Stockholm would be recognizing a state that does not actually enjoy any sovereign powers. It is substantive, and should frighten Israel, for signalling that even Europeans and other people who matter to it will eventually become fed up with Israel’s violent, extremist and colonialist policies and demand real changes in its behaviour toward the Palestinians.
We saw this in the past year when the European Union initiated implementation of its decision to ban dealings with Israeli organizations or institutions based in or that benefit from the occupied Palestinian territories. The Swedish move is likely to open the door to other such decisions by European countries that have been timid to date in pursuing policies that mirror their rhetoric of supporting a two-state solution that sees Israelis and Palestinians living in adjacent states with equal rights.
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, in his inaugural address, did not say when his country would recognize the state of Palestine. However, he made the important point that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be resolved only through negotiations “in accordance with the principles of international law.”
Israel and its Zionist supporters around the world have always worked hard to prevent the Palestine- Israel conflict from being adjudicated in arenas where international law prevails. That is mainly because they are fully aware that Israel is contravening this body of law, through collective punishment, illegal annexation of land, unlawful colonization, disproportionate militarism and more. Israel and the U.S. have also vigorously fought Palestinian plans to place the case for Palestinian statehood before the U.N. and other international arenas.
The Israeli preference, which the United States as the sole mediator in recent decades has always supported, has always been to demand that only through direct negotiations could the conflict be resolved. Yet in over 20 years of direct negotiations since the Madrid peace conference, followed by the Oslo Accords, there have been no far-reaching breakthroughs. That is because the Palestinians insist on their national and territorial rights under international law, while Israel insists that any agreement must accommodate the gains of Zionist colonialism and institutionalize Apartheid-like arrangements that legally and institutionally make Palestinian partial rights subservient to the greater absolute rights of Israelis.
Israelis claim that the Swedish recognition could lead other major European countries to follow suit, which could pre-empt the results of future negotiations over a Palestinian state and its borders. Those who support equal rights for both Israelis and Palestinians argue precisely the opposite – that recognition of a Palestinian state and its borders is necessary because negotiations in the existing unbalanced power equation, under pro-Israeli American mediation, have led only to more Zionist colonization and the shrinking of the land area of any future Palestinian state.
The Swedish foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, more or less said this when she declared via social media Monday that, “two less unequal partners would facilitate negotiations.” She also noted – a thought that we are likely to hear from other Western countries, I expect – that, “We must respect Israeli reaction – but we are prepared to lead the way.”
In other words, the world is keen to ensure the safety and vitality of an Israeli state within its pre-June 1967 borders. However, it is not willing to put up with indefinite Israeli criminal actions such as colonization, siege, and the Judaisation of Jerusalem.
Israeli reactions to the Swedish announcement by the prime minister and foreign minister predictably emphasized two central tenets of Zionist propaganda and diversionary tactics, by saying: “Unilateral moves are contrary to agreements. They will not bring peace closer, they will distance it.” And, “If what concerns the prime minister of Sweden is the situation in the Middle East, he would better focus on the more urgent problems in the region, such as the daily mass murder taking place in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the region.”
Israel wants to keep the world’s eyes off its actions and instead to address other crimes in the region, while leaving the negotiations in the hands of the U.S.- Israel combine that has driven them into the ground since 1992. Sweden sends a welcomed message that this formula is a proven failure, and other approaches, anchored in law and true reciprocity, must be tried.
Rami G. Khouri is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR.