US Considering Recognizing Palestine

But probably won't.

Axios (“Scoop: State Department reviewing options for possible recognition of Palestinian state“):

Secretary of State Tony Blinken asked the State Department to conduct a review and present policy options on possible U.S. and international recognition of a Palestinian state after the war in Gaza, two U.S. officials briefed on the issue told Axios.

Why it matters: While U.S. officials say there has been no policy change, the fact the State Department is even considering such options signals a shift in thinking within the Biden administration on possible Palestinian statehood recognition, which is highly sensitive both internationally and domestically.

  • For decades, U.S. policy has been to oppose the recognition of Palestine as a state both bilaterally and in UN institutions and to stress Palestinian statehood should only be achieved through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Yes but: Efforts to find a diplomatic way out of the war in Gaza has opened the door for rethinking a lot of old U.S. paradigms and policies, a senior U.S. official said.

  • The Biden administration is linking possible normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia to the creation of a pathway for the establishment of a Palestinian state as part of its post-war strategy. This initiative is based on the administration’s efforts prior to Oct. 7 to negotiate a mega-deal with Saudi Arabia that included a peace agreement between the kingdom and Israel.
  • Saudi officials have publicly and privately made clear since Oct. 7 that any potential normalization agreement with Israel would be conditioned on the creation of an “irrevocable” pathway toward a Palestinian state.
  • Some inside the Biden administration are now thinking recognition of a Palestinian state should possibly be the first step in negotiations to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict instead of the last, the senior U.S. official said.

There are several options for U.S. action on this issue, including:

  • Bilaterally recognizing the state of Palestine.
  • Not using its veto to block the UN Security Council from admitting Palestine as a full UN member state.
  • Encouraging other countries to recognize Palestine.

State of play: U.S. officials said the review of options regarding the recognition of a Palestinian state is one of several issues Blinken asked the State Department to look at.

  • Blinken also asked for a review of what a demilitarized Palestinian state would look like based on other models from around the world, the two U.S. officials said.
  • The idea of a demilitarized Palestinian state is something Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed several times between 2009 and 2015, but hasn’t referred to it in recent years.
  • The purpose of such a review is to look at options for how a two-state solution can be implemented in a way that assures security for Israel, a U.S. official said.

Despite the breathlessness of the “scoop,” this appears for all the world like simple staff work.

The Secretary of State is dealing with a generations-old, intractable problem and is having his team explore the feasibility of all manner of options. While it’s possible that he’ll choose this option to recommend to the President—who may well reject it even then—it’s much more likely that he’ll discover that there’s a good reason why none of his predecessors preemptively recognized an entity that has no capacity to build, much less govern, a state under current circumstances.

Regardless, exploring options and examining their costs, benefits, and consequences is the job of senior leaders. It’s weird to treat it as some radical departure.

UPDATE: The first comment, from @Marked Man, reminds me that I forgot to mention a salient point that had occurred to me as well: Who leaked this to Axios and why? We’ve seen a considerable number of press reports than Biden staffers are not at all happy with the President’s pro-Israel stance in the Gaza war, so that’s the most obvious motivation. But it’s also possible that the leaker favors the President’s policy and is trying to nip any recognition of Palestine in the bud.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. MarkedMan says:

    this appears for all the world like simple staff work.

    What’s interesting here is who leaked it. Was it at the behest of Israeli dead-enders wanting to make the Biden administration quickly back away from this? Or was it a deliberate tactic of the administration itself to signal to those self-same dead enders that Netanyahu must go? After all, his sole remaining hook is that he and he alone can prevent a Palestinian state.

    I guess we will have the answer when we see how the administration reacts.

  2. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Or it could also be a signal to Netanyahu that America’s patience is not infinite and that he should stop taking our support for granted.

  3. JKB says:

    Six times Israel offered a two-state solution and six times the Palestinians rejected the deal. See, none of them required the genocide of the Jews and that’s a deal breaker for the Palestinian leadership, and Hamas loyalists.

    And there is a two-state solution in place now. Jordan occupies 80% of the land in the original post-WWI Palestinian mandate. But the Jordanian rulers expelled the Palestinians who now live in the West Bank and Gaza.

  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    See this?

    The Biden administration announced Tuesday it will implement visa bans on Israelis viewed as “extremist settlers” in the West Bank.

    The policy move follows President Biden’s warning last month that sanctions could be imposed on individuals the U.S. views as involved in violence against Palestinians, particularly in the larger territory.

    As @MarkedMan points out, the question on this leak is cui bono? Or at least cui thinks they’re going to bono.

    This, from Thomas Friedman (feel free to eyeroll) looks like he’s being fed as well:

    There are two things I believe about the widening crisis in the Middle East.

    We are about to see a new Biden administration strategy unfold to address this multifront war involving Gaza, Iran, Israel and the region — what I hope will be a “Biden Doctrine” that meets the seriousness and complexity of this dangerous moment.

    And if we don’t see such a big, bold doctrine, the crisis in the region is going to metastasize in ways that will strengthen Iran, isolate Israel and leave America’s ability to influence events there for the better in tatters.

    Taken all together, the administration seems to be signaling patience is running out in Washington.

  5. Michael Reynolds says:


    See, none of them required the genocide of the Jews and that’s a deal breaker for the Palestinian leadership, and Hamas loyalists.

    The PA and Hamas are not the only players to consider on the Arab side. If the KSA decides – and they appear to have decided – that half a West Bank loaf is good enough, the PA will probably have to go along. Hamas however, is a terrorist organization, and vile even by terrorist standards, and they will not. One way or another, Hamas has to be crippled before anything like peace can be achieved.

    So, once again, as is common in the ME, the lines are not always where people think they are. The Arab street DGAF about Gaza. Arab state leaders also DGAF about Gaza and are not-so-secretly hoping Israel takes Hamas off the board.

  6. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    As @MarkedMan points out, the question on this leak is cui bono? Or at least cui thinks they’re going to bono.

    Since Biden is sanctioning four settlers, I assume that this is just meant to get a headline for the domestic audience, rather than to have any effect in Israel. This is not a real policy shift.

  7. dazedandconfused says:

    Given that at the same time the UK does the same thing, it appears to be a coordinated effort to influence Netanyahu’s decisions.

    I’ll predict Bibi will call this bluff in the form of continuing the war, but he may abandon the efforts to stop food, water and such from getting to the Gazan population.

    Worth a try…

  8. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds: quoting the mustache of mediocrity:

    And if we don’t see such a big, bold doctrine, the crisis in the region is going to metastasize in ways that will strengthen Iran, isolate Israel and leave America’s ability to influence events there for the better in tatters.

    I don’t think a big, bold doctrine is the way to go. There are definitely actors in that part of the world who are trying to provoke the US into an escalating conflict, but it’s not really in our interests to get dragged into a new Middle East war. It’s not in the interests of our country, or even Joe Biden. The minimal politically acceptable response is the way to go.

    There will be chicken hawks in congress, and the 501st Keyboard Commandos, who want to use it to attack Biden. The big, bold doctrine should be that the administration doesn’t want a war, and that it isn’t going to pursue a war without a declaration of war from Congress, as nothing going on there is an immediate threat to our nation.

    Low-level counter attacks against specific military targets, or a full-scale war authorized by congress, with none of the middle ground is-it-a-war-or-isn’t-it that inevitably leads to the US letting our enemies make decisions for us.

    Sometimes, being strong is as simple as not letting yourself be goaded into something dumb and self-destructive, even if someone dares you, or double-dog dares you to do it. Even if the mustache of mediocrity wants you to.

    Especially if the mustache of mediocrity wants you to.

  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    I suspect what we have here is multi-level message-sending. ‘Hey, Bibi, we could recognize Palestine and re-work our whole ME policy.’ We sanctioned a handful of the settler loons. Tiny shot across the bow?

    Waiting to see how Biden deals with the Jordan thing. That will be a tell. K-135s and B-52 evidently en route. I’d guess something big and noisy but not fatal to Iran or the Houthis. I’m hoping it’s not a joint op with Israel, that’s not the look we want.


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