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The Two Essential Questions Regarding Palestinian Statehood

Will it be a force for peace and stability? What do Palestinian leaders really want?

by
Moshe Dann

Bio

December 28, 2010 - 12:00 am

When the PLO was founded in 1964, “liberation” included all of Israel. In 1974, the UN granted the PLO non-state diplomatic status; its mission was, and is, to “liberate Palestine.” All of it. That goal has not changed.

In 1988, when the Palestine National Council on behalf of the PLO — “the sole representative of the Palestinian people” — declared a state of Palestine, they referred to UN Resolution 181 (passed in 1947) which suggested a division of British Mandate Palestine. Arabs had refused to recognize Israel then, and still do.

Palestinian leaders say that they recognize the fact of Israel’s existence, but not its right to exist as a sovereign Jewish state; they reject not only the idea of Jewish nationalism but its historical, ideological, and legal basis. This is explicit in the PLO and Hamas charters and the “temporary Basic Law” of the Palestinian Authority, which affirms “the national and historical rights of the Palestinian people” according to the PLO.

In 1993, Yassir Arafat agreed to recognize Israel as part of the Oslo Accords, supposedly meaning the armistice lines of 1949 — at least temporarily. When the PA was established in 1994 to represent Palestinians in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and the Gaza Strip and to administer areas under their control, the premise was that Palestinian leaders accepted Israel as a legitimate partner. Time has revealed this to be a ploy. The PLO, which represents Palestinians at the UN and foreign missions, never ratified the Oslo Accords, the Declaration of Principles (DOP), or any other agreements which included recognition of Israel.

The DOP was not a peace treaty, but an agreement to work towards a final end-of-conflict solution and establish the Palestinian Authority. Who, then, is in control now, and who will be in control in the future?

Advocates of statehood — entranced by new building projects, improved quality of life, and the rhetoric of “ending the occupation” — don’t talk about the obligations and risks that sovereign independence entails. Despite rosy depictions, basic Palestinian institutions — security, judicial, educational, and environmental – don’t function adequately, or properly. Weak and fragile, this infrastructure could easily collapse, inviting regional implosion and chaos. PA courts are a farce. PA schools have failed. The PA has refused to cooperate with Israel to build sewage and water-treatment facilities. The PA economy is dependent on massive amount of foreign aid.

Without incursions into PA-controlled areas to arrest terrorists and to build roadblocks and checkpoints to stop would-be attackers, Israelis would face another bloodbath.

Ignoring reality led to the rise of Hamas and its capture of the Gaza Strip, the rise of Hezbollah and its dominance in Lebanon, and threats from Iran. Continuing along that path seems suicidal.

The Palestinian leadership is not ready for statehood, unwilling to make peace with Israel, and fragmented among warring groups. This is not a healthy basis for the future of Arabs or Israelis. Palestinian demands for statehood, therefore, are not only premature, they are immature. It’s like putting an accident-prone driver behind the wheel and hoping for the best.

Palestinian leaders have an extensive record of irresponsibility, incitement, and terrorism. Divided between the West Bank and Gaza, rife with corruption and mismanagement, the Palestinian Authority is unable to function wisely or effectively. Missiles continue to rain on Israel, anti-Jewish incitement is common, and terrorist attacks are a constant menace. Putting a country into their hands invites disaster.

Why then advocate what is likely to become catastrophic? Would a Palestinian state provide greater security for Israel or the region? Just as the U.S. would not (or should not) tolerate Russian, Iranian, or North Korean missiles in Cuba or Venezuela, how can it expect Israel to tolerate a far greater danger at closer range?

Is a Palestinian state of higher priority than Israel’s existence?

These are the core issues and critical questions. Not settlements. Not borders. Not “refugees.” And not Jerusalem. Palestinian statehood is not an answer; rather, it raises difficult questions: is it worth the risk, and what will be its unintended consequences?

The author, a former assistant professor of history, is a writer and journalist living in Jerusalem.
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