Over the past few months, numerous nations have taken the step of officially recognising a Palestinian state, or the right for Palestinians to have a 'sovereign' state of their own. Over the course of a few weeks at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Guyana and Peru all declared Palestine as a 'free and sovereign State". On January 19th, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev joined the chorus when he met with the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, in the West Bank oasis town of Jericho and reaffirmed his country's support for a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem.

While such moves are to be welcomed, we shouldn't allow them to obscure the reality on the ground in Palestine and Israel. For several decades, Israeli authorities have followed a policy of building illegal (according to international law) Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. As of early 2011, half a million Jewish settlers are living in over 150 settlements (comprising small to medium-sized towns) in both the Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem. The simple reality is that the extent of these settlements is such that, unless most of them are removed, there is simply no 'sovereign' Palestinian land on which a Palestinian State could ever be established. As a result, all affirmations by other nations, however well-intentioned, of a Palestinian right to statehood ring rather hollow.

To make matters worse, Palestinian towns on the remaining Palestinian land (apart from Gaza) are fragmented and cut off by these Israeli settlements and the extensive Israeli police and military presence that is used to protect them. It is not secret that, while talking about a peace process leading to an independent state, successive Israeli governments have done everything in their power to thwart the emergence of a Palestinian State. Two years ago, Haggai Alon, an adviser to the then Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz, told Ha'aretz that Israel was using the West Bank barrier to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state and that the Israel Defence Force was carrying out an "apartheid policy" in emptying the city of Hebron of Palestinians, setting up roadblocks across the West Bank and co-operating with settlers. "The actual policy of the IDF, especially in recent years, is creating profound changes that threaten to make it impossible to leave the West Bank," Alon said.

But perhaps the best way to determine for yourself whether or not a Palestinian state is likely in the near future, is to consider the following map:

The Palestinian West Bank (surrounded by an Israeli wall) with illegal Israeli settlement areas in purple.
This is an image of the West Bank, the largest of the two blocks of what is left of Palestinian land. Note the Israeli settlement and military areas in purple and light purple. Note also that the the black line outlining the area; this is the 'Israeli security barrier', an imposing 20 foot tall (in parts) steel reinforced concrete wall that surrounds the West Bank on its three sides that border Israel. Note that there are some small areas of the West Bank that are entirely encircled by this apartheid wall.

The unfortunate reality is that, even if the entire world were to officially recognize a Palestinian right to statehood, there will be no Palestinian State until Israel stops building Jewish settlements on Palestinian land and removes those settlements already built. But that would require a massive Israeli operation to essentially evict the settlers and demolish the settlements, which would be met with severe resistance from the heavily armed and often extreme 'right-wing' settlers. Does the international community have the will or power to force the Israeli government to go this route? To date, there has been no evidence that this is the case. In the final analysis, continued recognition of Palestinian statehood by the rest of the world will simply serve to further isolate the already paranoid Israeli government and people who, through decades of religious and political brainwashing, are ready to believe that the world will ultimately turn against them.

Such support of the justified Palestinian right to nationhood may have another and equally dangerous effect: it may rally Israel's Arab neighbors to the Palestinian cause and further fan the flames of the recent wave of Arab/Muslim revolutionary fervor. Historically, such revolutions have proven to serve the interests of the global elite rather than the ordinary people.