The other result: the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Its leaders, President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, are more presentable than Hamas and seem more moderate. With the help of huge international aid, the PA’s economy has been growing. Though not long ago it exploded along with Gaza in the savage terrorism of the Second Intifada, the PA has been quieter in recent years.
And yet, an enlightened regime, too, it is not. It continues to cultivate an ethos of hatred and delegitimization of Israel no less extreme than that of Hamas. Torture is already rampant in its jails. Researcher Justus Reid Weiner reports that under the PA (as well as Hamas), “Christian Arabs [...] have been victims of frequent human rights abuses including intimidation, beatings, land theft, firebombing of churches and other Christian institutions, denial of employment, economic boycott, torture, kidnapping, forced marriage, sexual harassment, and extortion.”
And if the PA were to attain sovereignty, even its modest economic progress — along with much else — would likely collapse. Israeli intelligence warns that bereft of Israel’s role, the PA security forces would quickly fall to Hamas. Sovereign Palestine would probably absorb hundreds of thousands of indigent Palestinians from “refugee camps” in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, a formula for yet more poverty, unemployment, misery, and violent agitation.
Argentina, Brazil, Russia, folks at Foggy Bottom, et al. would not, of course, have to be neighbors of sovereign Gaza and Palestine. What’s another dysfunctional Arab statelet or two when there are already so many, most of them much larger? But Israel would be a neighbor of both of them, sandwiched between them. A rational standpoint — beyond the reflexive backing for the Palestinians that marks almost the entire international arena — would ask if this is a formula for “stabilization” of the Middle East or exactly the opposite.
In December the outgoing Congress — pro-Israel, but less so than the incoming one — voted unanimously against a unilateral declaration of statehood by the Palestinians. The crucial question is whether the Obama administration will support or oppose the Palestinians’ push to gain a state by fiat, and if it opposes it, whether it will do so effectively enough. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came out against such a declaration in October. So far the PA is not deterred.
Put aside the fact that Palestinian unilateralism is a gross violation of the principle, enshrined in a series of international documents, that territorial issues with Israel are to be resolved through negotiations. We must not shy away from posing an unfashionable question: what moral or pragmatic purpose can be served by adding the current Gaza and West Bank regimes to the calamitous realm of Arab sovereignty?