A change in paradigm

Palestinians attach great importance to the recent series of Latin American states that have recognized an independent Palestine on the 1967 borders. Although Israel is downplaying this phenomenon, Palestinians look at it as part of general change in the attitude towards the Palestinian-Israeli conflict of many prominent members of the international community.

While Latin America is perhaps distant and its countries not as influential in our region as for example the European Union, China, Russia and the United States, their recognition is important for other reasons. Most of them were previously supporters of Israel, coming under the influence of the United States and its foreign policy leanings. Some Palestinians have even recalled that Brazil, one of the countries to recognize Palestine today, chaired the United Nations session in which the UN recognized Israel.

These changes are important not only in and of themselves, but because they are indicators of an increase in international support for an independent Palestinian state and, more importantly, the growing willingness of the international community to play a more direct role in ending the Israeli occupation and creating a Palestinian state. Other indicators include the similar tendencies to upgrade Palestinian representation in Greece, Spain, France and Norway.

Not least were the positions expressed by the European Council of Ministers in December and the last Quartet statement of March, all of which have moved significantly towards actively supporting an end to Israeli occupation and allowing for the creation of a Palestinian state.

And although these are not necessarily developments with immediate or direct impact on the reality on the ground, they are perceived by Palestinians as part of an international attitude that is determined to help end the conflict in one way or another.

Three main factors are playing into these developments. If they continue according to current trends, these factors may further push along the international community’s position. First and most important is the continuous success in the performance of the Palestinian Authority, which has demonstrated that Palestinians can govern themselves like many independent peoples. The Palestinian Authority has shown itself as able to build state institutions, maintain law and order, reform itself, fulfill international obligations and improve basic social services, and even improve the economy, despite all of the interferences and damage done by the occupation.

The second factor is continued Israeli violations of international legality and of its obligations to the peace process and its terms of reference, especially the roadmap. Continuing settlement expansion is Israel’s single most dangerous policy, convincing more members of the international community that it is neither fair nor logical to leave the task of ending the occupation up to the whims of the occupier, as embodied in bilateral negotiations.

The final factor playing into international responses is Palestinians’ continued rejection of the occupation and legal resistance to settlement expansion by all possible legal means, whether through popular resistance or via international law and world organizations.

The Palestinians–who are still committed to bilateral negotiations–believe that if the United States continues to fail to bring Israel into compliance with its obligations or show seriousness in negotiations, perhaps a paradigm shift will be necessary. By moving from the bilateral approach that has been promoted as the only way to solve this conflict into a multilateral approach that allows the international community to take up in a direct way its responsibility of ending the occupation, perhaps Palestinians will achieve the freedom enjoyed by most others in the world today.