n what is certainly the most forward-looking initiative on the Palestinian cause, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi announced that there was no longer any point in reviving negotiations over the establishment of a Palestinian state. Instead, we should move straight onto another stage: the formal recognition of the Palestinian state and granting it full membership in the UN. The Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, has echoed the proposal. During his recent visit to Cairo, he said his country would formally recognise Palestine even if the European Union did not. Israel, which has never had any intention of letting the Palestinians establish a state of their own, summoned the Spanish ambassador in protest. What it was actually protesting was the end of the loop of more than 30 years of perpetual negotiations leading to the explosion we see today, and the beginning of concerted action to take the necessary practical steps to implement the two-state solution, which is sought by the entire international community including Israel’s closest ally, the US.
Legally, President Al-Sisi’s initiative is grounded in a frequently overlooked fact, which is that Israel was established in accordance with the UN partition Resolution of 1947, which stipulated the establishment of two states, not one. In other words, Israel’s legitimacy is contingent on the establishment of an Arab state adjoining it. The practical nature of the initiative stems from the fact that arrangements for establishing the Palestinian state have met a slow death over decades of negotiations leading nowhere. The initiative is progressive in that it aims to foster a quantum leap from talks to a practical solution, and the timing for this could not be better. Never has the Palestinian cause captured global attention as it does today. Palestinian solidarity demonstrations have drawn huge crowds, often numbering in the hundreds of thousands. The pressure of public opinion is mounting on Western governments and beginning to yield results. France, Canada, Belgium, Spain, and other countries seem to be listening and are backing down from former pro-Israel positions while views of countries that support Palestinian rights are gaining momentum. So, Al-Sisi’s initiative has the ingredients for success. Will the international community seize the opportunity?
* A version of this article appears in print in the 7 December, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly