JERUSALEM, Dec. 27 (Xinhua) -- After the breakdown of direct Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations in September and the inability of the U.S. administration to restart them, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has advanced its policy of asking countries around the world for their recognition of an independent Palestinian state.|
So far five South American countries, namely Argentine, Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay and Paraguay, have offered letters announcing their intention to recognize an independent Palestinian state in 2011, regardless of the outcome of the currently frozen negotiations.
In addition, France, Portugal and Norway have upgraded the status of the Palestinian diplomatic missions.
The Israeli reaction so far has been limited to harshly worded statements from the Foreign Ministry describing the letters as " highly regrettable" and claiming that "they are in fact shattering the foundation of the peace process."
Analysts told Xinhua on Monday that Israel's relative silence could be due to lack of clarity regarding what the letters actually represent in practical terms.
It should be noted that this is not the first time that the Palestinians have sought international recognition for an independent Palestinian state.
In 1988 the Palestinian Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), following which over 100 countries recognized an independent Palestinian state despite that it only existed de jure.
Gideon Doron from the department of political science at Tel Aviv University said that he was not sure the Israeli government knows how to respond to the increasing number of countries that now call for an independent Palestinian state as it is not clear what these calls imply.
"In public relations the Palestinians are definitely gaining points," Doron said, but he questioned the real meaning of these " points."
Furthermore, Doron did not see the move as a way of sidestepping direct talks, but "another component of the ongoing barging between Israel and Palestinians."
He was also surprise by the scarce coverage of the issue in mainstream Israeli media.
However, the amount of attention given to the actions of South American countries by the Israeli government may very well change, if, or once more European nations starts to issue similar calls for independent Palestinian state, according to Doron.
Mohammed Dajani, a professor of political science at Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem, told Xinhua that the lack of response by the Israeli government may be explained by the fact that the international pressure has not yet been built up.
"This has given the Palestinians some hope regarding the situation, so it is viewed positively from the Palestinians side. They are hoping that more countries will do the same," Dajani said, adding that many Palestinians are feeling frustrated after a long stalemate in the negotiations with Israel.
Dajani also reasoned along the same line as Doron, that the Palestinian call for more countries to follow the examples of the South Americans was part of the negotiation process between Israel and the Palestinians.
The initiative was meant to put "pressure on the Israeli side in order to resume the negotiations and stop the building of settlements," Dajani said.
The issue of settlements construction was the main reason behind the breakdown of negotiations in September. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas refused to continue the negotiation unless Israel extended its 10-month freeze on settlement building in the West Bank.
A DEAD END
While Dajani believes that the most important task for the Palestinians at the moment is to convince more countries to issue statements pledging recognition, others argue that such a move might turn out to be harmful.
Yoram Meital, head of the Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East and Diplomacy at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, told Xinhua that if a Palestinian state is declared and nothing happens on the Israeli side, some countries may lose their interest and engagement in the process.
"What I'm afraid of is that some countries would see this recognition as an alternative to pushing the parties back to the negotiation table," Meital said.
He described the South American countries as "early birds" and predicted that this momentum would soon be joined by a wave of other countries.
Meital raised the same question as Doron did about the actual intent of these declarations, arguing that "we should differentiate between the meaning of recognition and the practicability."
However, since a unilateral declaration by the Palestinians does not force Israel to recognize such a state, it would be of little practical implication.
Meital said that while the statements are important in public relations and on the international level, they could not act as a replacement for a serious political negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis.
Israel mulls stopping wave of Palestinian statehood recognition
by Gur Salomon
JERUSALEM, Dec. 27 (Xinhua) -- In the wake of recent announcements by several Latin American countries that declared recognition of a Palestinian state, Israel is attempting to prevent Chile and Mexico from following suit.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conversed with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera last week, asking that he refrain from announcing recognition of Palestinian statehood. Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon had relayed a message to that effect to his Mexican counterpart, Lourdes Aranda, local Hebrew-daily Ma'ariv reported Monday.
In tandem, Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren met with his Chilean and Mexican counterparts in Washington and requested that they not partake in what is perceived as a Palestinian drive towards a unilateral declaration of statehood. Several leading Jewish organizations in the United States stepped in to offer assistance to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
Brazil and Argentina triggered the wave earlier this month by recognizing the Palestinian territories as an independent state within the pre-1967 borders, and were followed by Bolivia and Ecuador. Uruguay said it will make its official announcement in early 2011. Israeli officials estimate that Peru and Nicaragua are next in line.
The announcements were slammed by the United States and Israel as counterproductive to the efforts to revive the Mideast peace process, which reached an impasse in late September.
"There are ongoing efforts to convince foreign governments that it's in no one's interests to prematurely recognize a Palestinian state that would have no significance on the ground except for pushing the Palestinians further away from the negotiating table," a senior official at the Israeli Foreign Ministry told Xinhua on Monday.
"You can see that since (the announcements were made), the Palestinians have hardened their pre-conditions to return to negotiations, mainly the recognition of the pre-1967 borders as a starting point," the official said.
Aside from resorting to the conventional diplomatic channels, Ayalon last week used the internet to criticize the recent announcements, comparing the recognition of a Palestinian state to using the "like" button on the social network site Facebook.
"The state of Facebook is more real than the state of Palestine, " local daily Ha'aretz on Sunday published Ayalon's remarks in his personal blog.
"Facebook is the 'like' state, and so is the Palestinian state recognized in Brasilia and Buenos Aires," wrote Ayalon. " Irresponsible governments are quick to 'like' the Palestinian state without actually checking out its profile: an authority without sovereignty, with no borders or territorial continuity, no economic ability or democratic culture."
The Palestinian National Authority is looking for "virual friends" in an effort to create "a virtual state," opined Ayalon.
Meanwhile, Britain is contemplating to follow in the footsteps of France, Spain and Portugal by upgrading the status of the Palestinian delegation in London to that of a diplomatic delegation.
In an interview he gave local daily Yedioth Aharonot a few weeks ago, British Foreign Secretary William Hague claimed his country preferred that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved via negotiations while declining to comment on the possibility of a unilateral Palestinian declaration of independence.