By Gil Maguire
On Friday, Brazil formally recognized the State of Palestine based on its pre-1967 borders with Israel, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Brazil did so at the request of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
This recognition, by the world’s fifth largest country, and an emerging new world economic superpower, may prove to be a monumental development in resolving the 63-year-old conflict over Palestine. While President Abbas has previously threatened to appeal directly to the United Nations for recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state and may well yet do so, the United States is likely to veto any UN Security Council resolution recognizing Palestine as an independent state. A state-by-state individual recognition of Palestine would avoid the problem of a US veto or attempts by the US to structure a recognition of Palestine so that it best favors Israel’s interests.
A recognition, country by country, also allows each country to affirm key legal principles in the long conflict: First, that while Israel had the right as a belligerent power to militarily occupy the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza as a result of hostilities during the 1967 war, it could not take adverse actions against the Palestinian population, such as forcibly transferring Arab and other non-Jewish inhabitants from their homes to foreign countries (ethnic cleansing), transferring Jewish Israeli citizens to occupied lands in the West Bank and East Jerusalem portions of Palestine (illegal settlements), or annexation of occupied lands into Israel, such as occurred in the East Jerusalem area of Palestine and the Golan Heights area of Syria.
UN General Assembly Resolution 181, the 1947 UN Partition Plan for Palestine, had divided the British mandate of Palestine into two separate states, one Jewish, the other Arab. Israel had conquered about half of the proposed Arab state in its 1948 wars with the indigenous Palestinians and several invading Arab nations. By the end of its 1967 Six Day War, Israel had conquered and occupied the remaining 22 percent of the portion of mandate Palestine allocated to an Arab state.
The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power from removing native populations from an area conquered and occupied (ethnic cleansing), prohibits an occupying power from transferring its civilians to the territory occupied (illegal settlements), and finally, prohibits an occupying power from annexation of occupied lands into the territory of the occupying power. Israel has violated all three prohibitions from the Fourth Geneva Convention. Its conduct of illegal ethnic cleaning, continuing illegal population transfers (illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem), and illegal annexation of Jerusalem, constitute serious war crimes and crimes against humanity under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state including the entirety of the pre-1967 West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, reaffirms the illegality of Israel’s policies of ethnic cleansing, population transfer and settlement building, and annexation of East Jerusalem.
As virtually all nations view Israel’s population transfers, settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and annexation of Jerusalem as illegal, formal recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state, including pre-1967 borders, by an overwhelming number of nations would seem likely. Faced with the reality of world-wide recognition of the State of Palestine, the US may be unwilling to veto a UN resolution aimed at confirming and recognizing the Palestinian state which after all was originally created by UN Resolution 181 in 1947 which established a separate Arab and Jewish state in mandate Palestine.
If the Palestinian state is ratified and recognized by the UN then it could use its power to sanction Israel if it fails to fully withdraw from illegally occupied territories in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In the event the US were to veto such sanctions, individual countries could impose their own sanctions against Israel for its failure to withdraw from occupied territories.
Judging from the immediate strong negative reaction by US lawmakers to Brazil’s bold recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state, Israel and its US supporters and lobby are very worried about this new, promising approach by the Brazilians aimed at finding justice and a homeland for the long-suffering Palestinian people.