Why Not Recognize the State of Palestine?

By John Michaelson, August 6, 2012

 Why Not Recognize the State of Palestine?

The Palestinian Authority is going to the UN to ask to be recognized as an observer state.  It doesn’t seem like it should be a notable event, but it is fraught with danger.  Something like 100 countries recognize Palestine as a state and most of the Western countries have relations with the Palestinian Authority even if they don’t recognize Palestine as a separate country.  This isn’t all that special.  Legally, the PA has a customs union with Israel, after all.  Since 1998 the PLO has been allowed to sit in the General Assembly as an observer, though not as an observer state.

Now here’s the kicker: if the Palestinian Authority becomes a non-member observer state it is allowed to join the International Criminal Court.  Israel (like the United States) does not recognize the authority of the ICC, but nearly all of Europe does.  You can bet that the PA will try to use the ICC to screw things up for Israel.  If the Palestinian Authority convinces the ICC to indict an Israeli politician that person will have an impossible time conducting business outside of the United States and Israel. And you can bet that the Palestinian Authority will start pushing the ICC to hand down an indictment of genocide.  Given Israel’s stance on free trade and active foreign policy this is practically a political death sentence.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas is a canny politician.  He knows that he has the votes he needs to succeed in the General Assembly.  He must also know that becoming an observer state in the UN will not increase the Palestinian Authority’s power on the ground, but it will give him new levers to use against Israel.  The Israeli government is being wrongfooted and isolated by Abbas.  In times like these the American-Israeli alliance needs to be closer than ever.

John Michaelson

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