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Feb 1, 2024, 5:11pm EST
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Semafor Signals

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Growing Western push emerges to recognize a Palestinian state

Insights from Haaretz, Foreign Affairs, and The New York Times

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A boy wearing a Hamas headband holds a Palestinian flag as protesters gather for a demonstration in support of the Palestinian people on October 27, 2023 in Ramallah, West Bank.
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
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The News

A growing number of Western countries are reconsidering their policy on recognizing Palestinian statehood, as the war in Gaza creates a renewed push for a two-state solution to bring about lasting peace with Israel.

The U.S. State Department is reviewing options for a possible recognition of a Palestinian state, Axios reported, potentially in exchange for normalized relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

EU officials have emphasized that a two-state solution is the only credible solution to the conflict. And British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said last month that there should be “irreversible progress” towards the creation of a Palestinian state – although a government spokesperson said his comments did not represent a change in policy.

Even so, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has doubled down on his opposition to a fully independent Palestinian state, saying he “will not compromise on full Israeli security control” over Gaza and the West Bank.

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SIGNALS

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A nascent Biden Middle East strategy may include Palestinian statehood

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Sources:  
Foreign Affairs, The New York Times, Vox

In an article for Foreign Affairs written shortly before Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan wrote that the Middle East was “quieter today than it has been in two decades.” (The words have since been removed from the online version of the article.) For critics, the words were an indictment of the Biden administration’s lack of focus on the Middle East. But there are growing signs that a new “Biden doctrine” is emerging to tackle the growing crisis, with a demilitarized Palestinian state a central strand, The New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman wrote. Biden administration officials have been talking to experts inside and outside the U.S. government to establish how such a state might look, he wrote.

Opinions are split on impact of potential US recognition

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Sources:  
Los Angeles Times, Gregg Carlstrom on X

Josh Paul, a former State Department official who resigned in protest over U.S. arms transfers to Israel following the Hamas attack, wrote in an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times that U.S. recognition of Palestinian statehood would create a more even playing field for negotiations, moving the focus from “the occupier and the occupied” to “two entities that are equal in the eyes of international law.” But recognition alone will have little impact unless Israel agrees to work towards a two-state solution, Gregg Carlstrom, The Economist’s Middle East correspondent, wrote on X. The only way U.S. recognition of an independent Palestine would make a real difference is if “it’s accompanied by serious pressure/punitive measures on Israel,” Carlstrom wrote on X.

Israeli opposition to an independent Palestine goes deeper than Netanyahu

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Sources:  
Foreign Affairs, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Gallup, Haaretz

Netanyahu and his rightwing administration are to blame for the lack of progress towards a two-state solution, two former Israeli officials and an entrepreneur-activist argue in Foreign Affairs, stating that “partition, despite the security risks it might pose, is essential to preserve Israel’s identity as a democratic state for the Jewish people.” But even a moderate Israeli government that supported a two-state solution would find their ability to act in the short term limited by “the Israeli public’s utter lack of faith that they can live safely alongside a Palestinian state,” according to Israeli political scientist Jonathan Rynhold.

One Gallup poll conducted in the weeks after Hamas’ attack on Israel showed that only 25% of Israelis supported a two-state solution, while 65% were against it. Given the widespread fear and trauma in Israel, talk of a two-state solution is “nothing more than grand posturing,” a former Israeli official wrote in Haaretz.

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