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Outside View: Recognition to what end

By ASAF ROMIROWSKY, UPI Outside View Commentator

PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- In terms of economics the notion of mutual recognition refers to international agreements in which two or more countries agree to recognize one another and guarantee free movement of goods and services without the need to harmonize member states' national legislation. A good illustration of this would be the European Union.

The Middle East is no Europe and in the Israeli-Palestinian dynamic, although the notion is referenced, it actually refers to a more basic construct that is one's actual existence -- in other words, do Palestinians recognize the existence of a Jewish State? And can Israelis and Palestinians live side by side in peace?

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It has become clear that the answer is "no" and that Palestinians would rather ignore the basis of this understanding and focus on the so-called economics of the equation. That is, since there is no trade and no exchange of goods between Israelis and Palestinians they should ignore it altogether.

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But let us not forget that there is no actual Palestinian state and that Israel is dealing with a non-state actor governed by radical Islamist ideology and, second, the largest Palestinian export product is violence and terrorism, which, in turn, is used to target innocent civilians in Israel.

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Consequently, when mutual recognition between Israelis and Palestinians has been raised over the years it has been dismissed by the Palestinians as an excuse Israel uses in order not to meet the Palestinian demands.

As such, Yasser Arafat in his day and now Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have always been able to convince Palestinian society that this was an Israeli red herring, especially given the economic connotation as it explains the superb Israeli gross domestic product versus the one not found in Palestinian society.

Moreover, the Netanyahu government's "absurd" insistence that recognition is the main obstacle to peace only validates this Palestinian narrative.

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So when Abbas addressed the U.N. General Assembly this past September after submitting application for recognition of a Palestinian state he said that, "the PLO and the Palestinian people adhere to the renouncement of violence and rejection and condemning of terrorism in all its forms, especially state terrorism, and adhere to all agreements signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel."

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Although, the statement may sound politically correct the fact is that recognition is conveniently absent from this statement and many others like it.

Now with the recent Fatah-Hamas cozy relationship where Fatah has laid a path for a Hamas take over, we are now seeing a new push by the Palestinian Authority to declare past agreements signed between the PLO and Israel as null and void yet another indicator that even past agreements where recognition was assumed are no longer applicable and that Hamas is indeed calling the shots.

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As Mohammed Shtayyeh a member of the Fatah Central Committee and one of the Palestinian Authority negotiators with Israel underscored when he was recently quoted saying that the Palestinians may cancel the agreements signed between the PLO and Israel.

Mutual recognition still represents the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Following U.S. President Barack Obama's speech in Cairo on June 4, 2009, on U.S.-Muslim concerns, including the Palestinians, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu delivered his own speech at Bar-Ilan University stipulating that Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Netanyahu unequivocally stated that the "basic condition for the termination of the conflict is honest and public recognition by the Palestinians of Israel as the Jewish people's nation ... we need the Palestinian leadership to get up and say, 'We've had enough of this conflict.'"

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Finally, Palestinian society never saw Israel's existence as a theological or political "right." The only right in the Palestinian narrative is their own connection to the land, although they do see Israel as a temporary military fact. There will come a day, the narrative goes, when they will be able to defeat the Israelis.

So although, it has been 95 years since the Balfour Declaration and 64 years of Jewish independence in Israel, Zionism is still fighting for global recognition.

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(Asaf Romirowsky is a Middle East analyst and an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Forum.)

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(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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