This is not about punishing Israel; it’s about advancing U.S. national security. Recognizing Palestine would, by helping the two-state cause, address a key source of resentment toward the United States, making it easier for American policymakers to pursue other priorities in the Middle East, such as preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon, defeating the Islamic State and strengthening regional security partnerships. It would ease dealings with governments in Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which often agree with Israel’s regional strategy but revile its treatment of Palestinians. It would signal to the Israelis — and their neighbors — that the United States will act in its own interests, even when those interests conflict with a close ally’s views. And it would strengthen the Jewish homeland’s security (a long-standing U.S. national interest), as many in Israel’s security establishment understand.
Recognizing Palestine would also address a persistent foreign policy problem: the divide between America’s official policy of support for Palestinian statehood and its continued support for an Israeli government that deliberately impedes that goal.
Netanyahu, while paying lip service to the two-state solution, has relentlessly worked to undermine it during his three terms as prime minister — and not just by expanding settlements, violently suppressing unarmed protests, and exacerbating the divisions between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. He has offered no hope to the Palestinians. (No wonder Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas began asking other countries, and the United Nations, to recognize Palestine after a previous round of talks collapsed in 2010.) Now that Netanyahu has admitted publicly what many already believed — that he’ll never play midwife to Palestine — it’s clear that if Washington wants to achieve this goal, it must seek another route.