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Lord Weidenfeld of Chelsea

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The Dangerous Consequences of Palestinian Statehood

Posted: 09/20/11 02:28 PM ET

The bloody riots in front of the Israeli embassy in Cairo, followed by the visit of an over 200 strong Turkish delegation led by Prime Minister Erdoğan, his blazing speech against Israel and for the recognition of a Palestinian state, and finally Egypt's threats to "revise" the peace agreement with Israel create a dangerous atmosphere of crisis, even of war, in the Arab world. Subliminal anti-Jewish sentiments of the masses, on which the former Egyptian regime had imposed limits, remind me of the dark last years before the war in Hitler's Germany.

Erdoğan's ambition to be recognised as mastermind and trailblazer in the Middle East gives his rhetoric a sabre-rattling undertone. In his efforts to win over all Arab states, and especially those which particularly benefit from the West in military and economic terms, to politics that are unfriendly towards Israel, he attempts to influence mainly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Thus Prince Turki Al Faisal, important diplomat and former head of intelligence of the Saudi realm, threatened the US in the New York Times that if they took sides with Israel in the question of Palestinian recognition they would lose the friendship and any kind of cooperation with the kingdom. This is particularly important since Saudi Arabia was the only one amongst the Arab states to advocate constructive peace plans and the recognition of the Jewish state.

Prime Minister Erdoğan tries on the one hand to identify himself as proponent of personal freedom by warning President Assad to stop his brutal prosecution of the Syrian opposition, but on the other hand he is meek with regard to the question of international sanctions against Syria. He wants to keep room to manoeuvre on both sides of this international controversy. He knows that Russia and China would veto heavy sanctions against Damascus, let alone regime change, in the Security Council.

The more one contemplates the implications of even a symbolic recognition of a state on the West Bank and in Gaza, the more dangerous appear the consequences. Any kind of illegal violent measure against Israel on the part of Hamas and Hezbollah, any form of terrorism on its soil, from sea or air would in the case of an Israeli retaliation be denounced as act of aggression against a sovereign state and would have incalculable international ramifications. The temptation to provoke Israel militarily, to boycott it through the media, culturally and economically would be limitless. But most of all, each incident would diminish considerably the potential of serious and promising negotiations or even prevent them.