Global lawlessness and the responsibilities of statehood



A Palestinian child amid the rubble after Israel bombed Palestinian tents in Rafah, May 27, 2024 [Hani Alshaer/Anadolu Agency]

Among the positive fallouts from the recent decision by Norway, Spain and Ireland to recognize Palestinian statehood is an indirect vindication of the much derided ‘Two State solution’ in the Middle East. For those advocating a political settlement in the turbulent region, the latter solution, which recognizes the need for two peacefully coexisting states, is the only rational answer to the long-running dehumanizing conflict.

Accordingly, sensible sections the world over are likely to endorse Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris’ position, for instance, that recognition of Palestinian statehood ‘is an important step towards permanent peace’ in the Middle East. Hopefully, the example set by the mentioned countries would motivate other states to follow suit.

It could not be stressed enough that more and more of the world’s states need to rally round the ‘Two State’ principle, since mounting international pressure on Israel and its supporters for the implementation of the said formula for peace, is likely to bear some fruit eventually although positive results from the initiative cannot be expected in the short term.

Overwhelming international pressure is likely to make a dent or more on the policy positions of the US, for example, as the conflict evolves and the US has evinced some sensitivity to international opinion of late, although much more is expected of it, considering its strong official commitment to democracy. But hard, patient work lies ahead on the matter of Middle East peace for all quarters concerned.

There is much that those major powers that are seen as ‘Swing States’ could do to take the Middle East in the direction of a peaceful settlement. ‘Swing States’ are those countries that are in a strong position to influence world opinion positively. South Africa, India and Indonesia are three powers that qualify for ‘Swing State’ status currently.

South Africa, for instance, has proved exemplary in this regard. Its initiatives in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) have compelled the latter to call on Israel to ‘immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate’, which could bring about ‘the physical destruction of the Palestinians.’

This ruling is of a historic nature, considering that the world’s democracies in particular could be from now on compelled to speak out unambiguously against any future Israeli actions that are seen as atrocities. Besides, the ruling would draw their attention to the need to adhere to their professed principles in governance while interacting with the rest of the world. For instance, they could acquire some awareness of the need to avoid ‘double speak’ and hypocrisy in their dealings with the rest of the international community. But here too, immediate positive changes could not be expected internationally.

However, statehood carries important rights as well as responsibilities. While the right to self-determination is integral to national sovereignty and is an inalienable right of states, crucial responsibilities devolve on sovereign states as well and these carry equal weight as rights.

Some of these responsibilities are, the scrupulous observance of International Law, compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, respectful recognition of the rights of other states, compliance with the requirements of the UN system and notable deference to the principles of multilateralism and international cooperation.

Needless to say, a future Palestinian state would need to carry out these responsibilities, while enjoying in full the rights due to it. Once the final geographical boundaries of Palestine and Israel have been decided upon, ideally with UN mediation, these states would carry the weighty responsibility of living with each other cooperatively and peacefully. Unless the states concerned live up to these expectations, it would be futile to speak in terms of the ‘Two-State Solution’ for the Middle East.

Of course, these requirements apply to Israel too and it would need to prove itself worthy of UN membership, going ahead. Thus far, Israel has left much to be desired in this repect and it is up to its principal international backers, such as the US, to awaken it to its international responsibilities. The US could begin by strongly impressing upon Israel the need to put a halt to its seemingly uncontrollable urge to expand its presence on Palestnian land. In case there is no cooperation on this score by Israel, the US should consider cutting off arms supplies to the former.

Likewise, Palestine’s international backers would need to convince a future Palestnian state of the need to consistently abide by International Law and its prime requirements.

States such as Iran should perceive that it would not be doing the Palestinian cause or the Middle East any good by aggravating current regional tensions, unconditionally backing Palestine and seeking the destruction of Israel.

Peace in the region needs to be premised on Israel’s right to exist and on its right to defend itself, besides the above considerations. If a durable Middle East settlement is to be arrived at, these requirements need to be compoulsorily met and those states that have been advocating Palestinian statehood would need to be specially cognizant of them. Among other things, they would need to rein-in Iran and those regional actors that are supportive of it, since the latter sections stand accused of aggravating the Middle East conflict by staunchly backing militant outfits, such as Hamas.

Accordingly, besides the principal parties to the Middle East problem, their international backers too play a huge role in evolving a durable solution to the long-running conflict. If the Middle East problem has proved intractable thus far, such external quarters too are responsible for this situation of gridlock because their uncritical support for the antagonists has kept the conflict raging.

Therefore, all sections that are of relevance to the Middle East conflict need to come out of their entrenched positions if some progress is to be made towards a settlement. This responsibility cannot be averted anymore because the conflict is taking on increasingly horrific proportions as the days go by.

Right now, humanity is being shamed by the ongoing murderous violence in the Middle East. It is the responsibility of the world community to prove cynics wrong by restoring humanity to its primal dignity in theatres of relentless blood-letting such as the Middle East.

The UN would need to play a principal role in such epochal restoration efforts. It is the responsibility of states and their peoples to re-energise the UN, reinvest it with its former eminence and enable it to play its crucial role as the prime peace-maker of the world.