The Palestinians Could Have A State
Today, the Palestinians could be enjoying their 54th year of independence, or their 52nd, or their 19th, or their 3rd or the eve of their 2nd. That’s right, by my count they have had at least five opportunities to have a state beside Israel if that was their real objective, but they have chosen to hold out for a Palestinian state instead of Israel. Even today, under that “hardline, right-wing” Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the opportunity for emancipation exists, but the Palestinians stubbornly cling to their dreams of a Palestinians state replacing Israel rather than accepting the offer to establish a state beside Israel.
The first chance for statehood was in 1947 when the UN actually created an Arab state in Palestine. It was not perfect, it was not what they wanted, but it was a state. The Zionists accepted partition even though it was a truly rotten deal for them too. Think about it. Like the Arabs, the Jews believed they were entitled to all of Palestine, and not just what was then called Palestine, but the 80% of what had been Palestine that the British lopped off and turned into Transjordan. True, the UN gave the Jews more land, but most of it was the Negev desert. The borders were indefensible, and Jerusalem was not only excluded from the Jewish state, it was to be internationalized and surrounded by the Arab state.
So why did the Jews accept such a lousy deal?
David Ben-Gurion and the other Zionist leaders recognized it was the best deal they would get. They also understood that the international community was offering legal recognition for the establishment of a Jewish state. And most important, they would now have an independent state that could be a haven to Jews from around the world, and they could build it into something greater.
Most Palestinian Arabs, on the other hand, believed Palestine really was just southern Syria. They were convinced by their Arab brethren that they had no need to compromise because the Jews would be driven into the sea and they would have the entire country. The whole refugee issue is proof that most Palestinian Arabs were not even prepared to fight for their independence; they chose to flee instead. And so their chance for statehood was squandered.
The Palestinians actually had 19 years to demand statehood during the Jordanian occupation from 1948-1967. Jordan annexed the West Bank in 1950 rather than grant the Palestinians independence. What is remarkable is that there were no Hanan Ashrawis demanding the end to Jordanian occupation and the creation of a Palestinian state for all those years. Ask a Palestinian today about that and you’ll hear a lot of hemming and hawing. They only discovered a passion for independence after Israel captured the territories in 1967.
The third opportunity for statehood was presented by yet another “fanatical, right-wing” Prime Minister, Menachem Begin. In fact, when the Palestinian state comes into being, as it inevitably will some day, Begin should be regarded as its true founder. Begin was the first one to offer the Palestinians control over their own affairs. Yes, the autonomy plan that came out of the Israeli-Egyptian peace negotiations was limited, and did not offer immediate statehood, but there is no question that once the Palestinians began to control their own affairs, it would be impossible for Israel to stop them from ultimately becoming totally free of Israeli control. From about 1983 on, it was no longer a question of if there would be a Palestinian state, but when. Had the Palestinians accepted Begin’s offer, however, they would have had their state long ago.
The Oslo agreements were specifically geared toward an Israeli withdrawal from the territories and the creation of a Palestinian state. According to the timetable, the last remaining issues should have been resolved by 1999, but the Palestinians never lived up to the commitments they made, starting with the recognition of Israel and renouncement of terrorism that Arafat declared in September 1993 that was the basis for the entire Oslo process. Had Arafat ended the violence and complied with his treaty commitments, the Palestinians would be completely under Arafat’s control today (as it is 98% of the Palestinian people are under his autocratic control).
Finally, the Palestinians were offered a state by Ehud Barak in the negotiations at Camp David and the White House in 2000. Today, they could be living in a Palestine comprised of 95% of the West Bank, 100% of the Gaza Strip, and most of Arab east Jerusalem. They would have greater control of the Temple Mount and an unimpeded highway between Gaza and the West Bank. Instead, most of their cities are under curfew and surrounded by Israeli forces because Arafat rejected Barak’s offer and waged a war of terror in hopes of achieving his dream of liberating all of “Palestine.”
The best chance for the Palestinians to achieve statehood in the short-run would be to tell Ariel Sharon they are now prepared to end the violence, replace Arafat, and negotiate. They should offer to accept whatever deal Sharon offers even if it means a Palestinian state the size of a postage stamp. Why? For the same reason the Zionists accepted a state that was little more than a postage stamp.
Think about it. After agreeing to make peace with Israel, within a nanosecond of declaring statehood, the United States will recognize the new state. The rest of the world will follow suit. Within a few minutes, the Americans and Europeans will begin throwing so many dollar bills at the Palestinians that they’ll think that it’s a plague of locusts. If the Palestinians truly wish to live in peace, they can spend the next 50 years building their state, developing an economy, infrastructure, governmental institutions, and all the rest, and the world will cheer and do everything to help them. Israel will be first in line with assistance.
The great thing from the Palestinian perspective is that they don’t even have to give up their goal of destroying Israel. They just need to exercise some patience. As soon as they’re independent, they can have Karine-A’s docking nonstop at Gaza port bringing in tons of weapons. In 50 years, then, they may be strong enough to drive the Jews into the sea.
But Israel won’t allow this, you say. Even the far left in Israel has only been willing to allow the Palestinians a demilitarized state. This shows how naive they truly are. Once Palestine is independent, Israel cannot enforce this. Sure, Israel will do everything possible to prevent the large scale importation of weapons, and will interdict shipments of arms, and maybe have to conduct an Osirak type raid if necessary, but there will be a limit to what Israel can do. I still believe Israel can defend itself, because it will do whatever is necessary to insure its security, as will the Jordanians, by the way, who have just as much incentive as Israel to insure the Palestinian state is as small and weak as possible to insure the Palestinians don’t repeat their 1970 effort to take over their country.
President Bush has now offered the Palestinians a sixth opportunity for statehood. Will they finally abandon their dreams of liberating all of Palestine and choose the path of compromise rather than extremism? Will they devote their energy to building a state of their own rather than try to destroy the state of the Jews?
What do you think?