The Imperative for Equal Recognition in Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Saunders Portrait 2022
File photo: Sir Ronald Saunders.
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By Sir Ronald Sanders
In the ongoing discourse on international relations and human rights, one of the most enduring and complex issues is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Recent developments indicate a shift in the international stance towards this issue, particularly regarding the recognition of statehood for Palestine. This evolution in policy underscores the global community’s attempt to foster a balanced approach towards achieving a two-state solution—a vision that has eluded numerous peacemakers over the years.
Historically, the majority of the world’s nations have recognized Israel as a sovereign state since its establishment in 1948. However, recognition of Palestinian statehood has been contentious and uneven, with significant geopolitical implications.

Now, as of May 2024, 146 countries have officially recognized the State of Palestine.

The stance of powerful nations, particularly those in the West such as the United States (US), the United Kingdom, Canada, and key European Union members like Germany and France, has often been influenced by their own political and strategic interests. These countries have historically aligned with Israel, often citing the need for any recognition of Palestinian statehood to come through direct negotiations between the parties involved. This approach, while pragmatic in its aim to ensure peace through mutual agreement, has also been criticized for perpetuating an imbalance in negotiating power, which in turn has affected the dynamics of international diplomacy concerning this issue.
Recent statements from leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron, who expressed openness to recognizing Palestinian statehood at a “useful moment,” signify a potential shift in this longstanding policy framework. Such developments are vital as they highlight a growing recognition of the need for a more equitable approach in addressing this conflict.
The recognition of Palestine as a state is not merely a symbolic gesture. It has profound implications for the rights of Palestinians in international law, their ability to engage in diplomacy, bargain in trade and investment, and pursue legal actions internationally in protection of their territory and autonomy. This move could pave the way for more balanced negotiations, potentially leading to a sustainable peace agreement.
However, the path to peace is fraught with challenges. Recent escalations in violence and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza have underscored the dire consequences of prolonged conflict. Statements from global leaders and actions by countries in recognizing Palestine reflect an urgency to address these issues comprehensively.
Israel’s security concerns and the historical context of its geopolitical stance must also be acknowledged. However, the Israeli government’s actions, often described as measures for national security, have significant repercussions for the peace process because in Gaza they have crossed the line, in the view of many, that demarcates legitimate action in defence of national security.
The actions of the Israel army in Gaza, acting on the instructions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has brought the accusation of genocide into sharp focus. In a powerful essay in the New York Review of Books, Aryeh Neier, quotes the historian, Raul Hilberg’s argument that “the elimination of a people is ‘a step-by-step operation.’ First comes defining the group, then expropriating its resources, then concentrating its members in one place, and finally annihilating them”.
In his essay, Neier concluded that “ Israel is engaged in genocide against Palestine in Gaza”. There is, he says, “a sustained policy of obstructing the movement of humanitarian assistance into the territory”.
He went on to say that he believed that “Israel had a right to retaliate against Hamas for the murderous rampage it carried out on October 7”, but he also said that “to recognize this right to retaliate is not to mitigate Israel’s culpability for the indiscriminate use of tactics and weapons that have caused disproportionate harm to civilians”. He draws attention to the words of Israeli Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant, “I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed. We are fighting human animals, and we act accordingly.”
I cite Neier because he is a Jew and a survivor of the holocaust against the Jewish people in Nazi Germany. He cannot be accused of being antisemitic. Further, his work at Human Rights Watch (HRW), which he co-founded in 1978, is globally respected.
The repercussions of Gallant’s actions extend far beyond the tragic loss of 36,000 lives in Gaza. Despite clear warnings from its closest allies against missile strikes on densely populated areas, these advisories were ignored, leading to an attack on Rafah where over 46 civilians were killed—an incident Netanyahu later termed a “tragic mistake”, but did not halt the military action. This disregard for allied counsel and the resulting civilian casualties have precipitated a severe humanitarian crisis.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that the intensification of hostilities and the evacuation orders by Israel “have displaced more than 940,000 people from Rafah” in May alone. That number is greater than the entire population of Barbados and six independent countries in the Leeward and Windward Islands of the Caribbean. There is, the UN says, “the unconscionable prospect of a man-made famine”.
Recent charges by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Israeli and Hamas leaders for alleged war crimes, and the claims by US President Biden that there is “no equivalence” between them illustrates the complexities of balancing justice, accountability, and national interest.
President Biden’s position, along with the broader US policy, will play a critical role in determining the trajectory of the peace process. To gain support from the international community—where 146 nations advocate for the recognition of Palestine as a state—the US approach must be, and must be seen as, balanced and fair. This commitment to impartiality is essential for upholding the global consensus on the necessity of fairness in resolving this conflict.
The international community must foster an environment where both parties can negotiate as equals, unencumbered by the disproportionate influence or preconditions that have historically skewed the peace process.
Only through a genuine and balanced dialogue can the long-standing aspirations for peace in the region be realized.
(The writer is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the US and the OAS. The views expressed are entirely his own. Responses and previous
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