Last week, Serbia and Kosovo agreed to establish normal economic relations—a major step toward bringing an end to the conflicts following the fall of Yugoslavia that caused so much bloodshed in the 1990s. Kosovo, historically a region of Serbia with a predominantly Albanian-speaking and Muslim population, declared independence from Orthodox Christian-dominated Serbia in 2008, but has yet to be recognized by many countries. As a corollary to the U.S.-brokered agreement, Israel will establish diplomatic relations with Kosovo, and both Kosovo and Serbia will establish embassies in Jerusalem. Lahav Harkov comments:
Kosovo offered to open an embassy in Jerusalem in exchange for recognition in 2018, but Israel’s official position was that it did not want to risk its strong relationship with Serbia, although plenty of countries that recognize Kosovo still have good ties with Belgrade. The bigger reason why Israel was wary of ties with Kosovo was its concern over setting a precedent for the Palestinians.
Kosovo unilaterally declared independence, and for Israel to support them doing so could be seen as [setting a precedent for recognition of] a Palestinian state. Officially, the Palestinian Authority does not recognize Kosovo.
What changed on Friday that made Israel give up on this principled position? Call it diplomatic realism. . . . Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu . . . is giving up on a theoretical benefit—not sending the wrong message—for something Israel wants now: two more embassies in Jerusalem, including the first from a Muslim-majority country.
As for the Palestinians, they have, as Harkov notes, already taken steps to be recognized as an independent state by international organizations. What they have not done, however, is what the Kosavars have been doing for well over a decade: building the institutions that make for an actual state.