Last year Palestine floated the idea of just declaring independence. President Obama quickly squashed that idea by making it clear we would not recognize an independent Palestine. (“You can’t just declare independence, you have to negotiate it,” said the president of the country that recognized Palestine’s number one enemy within a quarter hour of its non-negotiated declaration of independence.) I was disappointed then, and I’m even more disappointed now.
I’m not a big fan of unilateralism in world politics, nor am I a big fan of the U.S. throwing its weight around. But we can’t deny that the U.S. has weight, and just for it to move in any way involves throwing some weight. So let’s throw some weight in the direction of a two-state solution. And let’s do it now.
All President Obama has to do is to declare that the U.S. will recognize Palestine, and the Palestinian state will be legitimated. To be sure, this would be less weight-throwing than we’re doing right now, because we are the major roadblock to Palestinian statehood. We are–so far–powerful enough to prevent it from happening, but if we stopped opposing it, other states would jump at the opportunity to extend formal diplomatic recognition to the Palestinians.
But we have to do a little more than that. Supporting Palestinian statehood is–stupidly–seen as abandoning Israel. So we have to make it clear that we support both Palestine and Israel. We need to make a firm declaration that we will help to ensure the territorial integrity of both states.
That requires determining what the territory is for both states, and here’s where the U.S. really needs to use its muscle. After announcing that we’ll ensure the territorial integrity of both states, we need to point out that to do so we have to know where the borders are, so an agreement on borders needs to be concluded tout suite, and if the two sides don’t, we’ll lead the UN Security Council in drawing up a map that will be imposed upon them.
There’s where the devils in the details appear, of course, and I won’t pretend knowledge enough to say how or where the border should be drawn. And perhaps it actually needs to be a three state solution, with Gaza as a separate state from the West Bank (geographically divided states have a poor track record). I’m not claiming that part of it will be easy. But I do think it will be easier if the U.S. makes it more necessary by proclaiming its intent to defend the territorial integrity of a Palestinian state.