Israeli diplomat argues for symbolic recognition of Palestine for Israel’s benefit

Ramona Wadi 

Middle East Monitor  /  August 10, 2023

Australian diplomacy with regard to Palestine has recently veered towards clarifying Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories, as well as clearly declaring settlement expansion to be a violation of international law. Although not setting a timeframe for when the government will start adopting the terminology, the Australian Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, described the stance as being consistent with UN resolutions. The backdrop for this consensus is, of course, the two-state compromise.

Following Wong’s announcement, former Israeli Ambassador to South Africa and Director-General of Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, Alon Liel, penned an op-ed in The Guardian urging Australia to recognize the State of Palestine, citing the deterioration of Israel’s “democracy” under Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the hastening towards annexation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

“The flip side of this scale of growth of Israel’s settlement enterprise in this way is the impossibility of a Palestinian state,” Liel wrote.

Contrary to what Liel argues, recognizing the State of Palestine is not a pushback against Israeli settlement expansion and annexation. Urging Australia to recognize the State of Palestine has little to do with Palestinian independence and more with promoting defunct paradigms which will ultimately allow Israel to annex Palestinian land, at a lesser speed and possibly under a different government. Liel’s preoccupation is what the current far-right Israeli government can inflict upon its settler-colonial society, as Israel contends with destabilization from within.

Liel has clearly stated his contention with the far-right’s agenda, not with Israel’s existence as a settler-colonial entity that established itself on Palestinian land through ethnic cleansing and forced displacement. He mentions Australia’s involvement in the 1947 UN Partition Plan and its significance in terms of the two-state paradigm. There is no mention of how the Partition Plan facilitated the Zionist colonial expansion, nor how the two-state compromise protects Israeli colonization – both of which make recognition of the State of Palestine a merely symbolic gesture with no political weight.

Recognizing the State of Palestine within a colonial framework has no repercussions for Israel. The rhetoric Liel uses of “a secure and democratic Israel at peace with its neighbours” is not unlike the international rhetoric of Palestinians living at peace with their neighbours – also a stipulation in the Palestinian Right of Return which makes no mention of the proper terminology – the colonizers and the colonized.

If the international community recognized Israel as a colonial entity rather than a state, then recognition of a Palestinian state would indeed bear political weight. But decades of recognizing Israel and not the atrocities of its foundations and the ensuing decades has provided the settler-colonial enterprise with enough impunity, so much that any recognition for Palestine cannot have an equivalent political significance. Keeping in mind as well that Palestine and Palestinians have been rendered humanitarian concerns, and recognition of the State of Palestine is further reduced to a statement that is buried under the politics of donor funding that prevent Palestinians from political independence.

“Given the urgency of the Israeli government and its unfolding extremist agenda, Israel needs Australia and its allies to help protect the democratic vision of its founding fathers, as enshrined in Israel’s 1948 declaration of independence,” Liel declared towards the conclusion. Only there is no democratic vision in colonialism and colonial violence, as Israel and Australia know too well.

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger; her writing covers a range of themes in relation to Palestine, Chile and Latin America