The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) raised the Palestinian flag for the first time yesterday over its diplomatic offices in Washington, DC – an act made possible when the State Department upgraded the PLO mission from a representative office to a general delegation last August.
Since the Obama administration’s attempt at bringing the Israelis and Palestinians together for peace talks failed soon after it started last September, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has been pushing hard for international recognition of a state on the 1967 Six Day War’s cease-fire lines. Several nations, notably in Latin America, have recognized a future Palestine. Last week the Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki announced that the PA will seek United Nations recognition for a Palestinian state this September.
The Palestinian flag flies above the PLO’s Washington, DC offices.
These moves by the PA – raising the Palestinian flag in DC and lobbying for recognition of a Palestinian state with specific borders – are nothing more than symbolic acts. Raising the flag will unlikely have a practical effect on U.S. policy and the U.S. will likely veto any measure in the UN to recognize a Palestinian state.
Nevertheless, these acts are significant. Each further legitimizes the Palestinian cause of creating a state outside of peace negotiations with Israel – a dangerous move for all parties involved. As the MidEast Quartet gears up for its next meeting in February, it should pressure the Palestinian Authority into focusing on negotiations rather than unilateral measures. After all, real progress towards a Palestinian state depends first on Palestinians moderating their untenable negotiating positions. And there is no substitute for negotiations.