Editorial: Recognizing Palestine doesn’t solve the issue


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We hear of more chaos in the Middle East almost daily: beheadings, terrorism, and civil wars seem to dominate the region. How can one part of the world harbor so much unrest? The turbulence escalated this week when the new left-leaning government of Sweden has decided to formally recognize Palestine as a state.

Before the establishment of the European Union, several Eastern countries voiced support for Palestine. Sweden’s recognition marks the first time a country in the contemporary EU has vowed to recognize the state of Palestine as a sovereign state.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict spans decades, and a resolution has been attempted by many former presidents. Israeli author Avner Falk has referred to the dispute as “the most intractable conflict in our world.” Both sides maintain deeply rooted emotional connections with their corresponding sides.

The vast majority of international leaders agree that a two-state solution is the best course of action. Most importantly, though, the players at stake here generally support this resolution as well. In 2013, Gallup conducted a poll surveying the percentage of Palestinians and Israelis who support establishing “an independent Palestinian state together with the state of Israel.” The results found that 52 percent of Israelis supported this solution along with 70 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and 48 percent in the Gaza Strip.

In essence, putting the politics and emotion aside, the numbers indicate that peace is possible.
Certain factors, however, hinder a long-lasting agreement. The variables surrounding a peace agreement include borders, the status of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and Israeli concerns about terrorism. Until these issues are hashed out, peace will never exist.

Despite international criticism, Israel has continued its settlements in disputed areas. Most recently, it has signed off on additional construction of housing developments in the neighborhood of Silwan, just east of Jerusalem. The construction projects and settlements anger Palestinians, who believe that Israel should hold off on any new settlements until an agreement is in place.

Without a unified government, the Palestinian people are divided into more and less radical groups. This, in turn, has made it difficult for them to rally behind a single message. The more extreme groups, the largest of which is Hamas, have been known to commit terrorist attacks in Israel. This summer, Hamas dramatically increased rocket fire, reaching a peak of around 80 rockets on July 7. This caused Israel to retaliate militarily, leading to thousands of Palestinian casualties, most of them civilians.

Because Sweden’s recognition of Palestine offers no concrete solutions to any of these factors, the action only inflames the tension on both sides. The Palestinians, emboldened by this new international support, will perceive even more injustice. Israelis, on the other hand, feel backed into a corner. Israel Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has indicated that he believes Sweden would be better off focusing on other issues in the Middle East.

Gerald Sorokin, a former associate professor of international relations at the UI, doesn’t think Sweden’s move would count for much.

“Sure, it’s a vote of approval for the Palestinian aspirations, but it’s being done in such a way that it will not push the process forward. It won’t make the Israelis more likely to make concessions or take risks that would be necessary in pursuit of some kind of peace negotiations,” he said. “Instead, it’s going to put the Israelis on the defensive.”

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board believes that while Sweden’s recognition of a Palestinian state is well-intentioned, it does not bring either side any closer to a resolution. The obstacle lies in rallying Palestinians behind one position and finding middle ground with the Israelis. Polling indicates that a consensus between the populaces does exist. Only once such an agreement is reached should the international community provide its full support.

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