On Palestinian Statehood

The heretical views of Trump’s ambassador to Israel recommend him for the job.

By Bret Stephens, WSJ

Diplomats from some 70 countries will assemble in Paris on Sunday for another Mideast conference, intended to preserve the two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. The timing is not accidental: With five days to go in the Obama administration, there are whispers that the conference may lead to another U.N. Security Council resolution, this time setting out parameters for an eventual Palestinian state.

The question is: For what?

Climate change aside, the cause of Palestinian statehood is the central obsession of contemporary global politics. It’s also its least examined assumption.

Would a Palestinian state serve the cause of Mideast peace? This used to be conventional wisdom, on the theory that a Palestinian state would lead to peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, easing the military burdens on the former and encouraging the latter to address their internal discontents.

Today the proposition is ridiculous. No deal between Jerusalem and Ramallah is going to lift the sights of those now fighting in Syria, Iraq or Yemen. Nor will a deal reconcile Tehran and its terrorist proxies in Lebanon and Gaza to the existence of a Jewish state. As for the rest of the neighborhood, Israel has diplomatic relations with Turkey, Jordan and Egypt, and has reached pragmatic accommodations with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

What about the interests of Palestinians? Aren’t they entitled to a state?

Maybe. But are they more entitled to one than the Assamese, Basques, Baloch, Corsicans, Druze, Flemish, Kashmiris, Kurds, Moros, Native Hawaiians, Northern Cypriots, Rohingya, Tibetans, Uyghurs or West Papuans—all of whom have distinct national identities, legitimate historical grievances and plausible claims to statehood?

If so, what gives Palestinians the preferential claim? Have they waited longer than the Kurds? No: Kurdish national claims stretch for centuries, not decades. Have they experienced greater violations to their culture than Tibetans? No: Beijing has conducted a systematic policy of repression for 67 years, whereas Palestinians are nothing if not vocal in mosques, universities and the media. Have they been persecuted more harshly than the Rohingya? Not even close.

Set the comparisons aside. Would a Palestinian state be good for Palestinian people?

That’s a more subjective judgment. But a telling figure came in a June 2015 poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, which found that a majority of Arab residents in East Jerusalem would rather live as citizens with equal rights in Israel than in a Palestinian state. No doubt part of this owes to a desire to be connected to Israel’s thriving economy.

But it’s also a function of politics. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas just entered the 13th year of his four-year term. Fatah rules the West Bank through corruption; Hamas rules Gaza through fear. Humanitarian aid is routinely diverted for terrorist purposes: One terror tunnel stretching from Gaza to Israel consumed an estimated 800 tons of concrete and cost $10 million to build. Every three years or so, Hamas starts firing missiles at Israel, and hundreds of Palestinian civilians get killed in the crossfire. How does any of this augur well for what a future Palestinian state might bring?

But isn’t a Palestinian state a necessity for Israel? Can it maintain its Jewish and democratic character without separating itself from the millions of Palestinians living west of the Jordan River?

In theory, yes. In theory, Israel would be well-served living alongside a sovereign Palestinian state that lived in peace with its neighbors, improved the welfare and respected the rights of its people, rejected extremism and maintained a monopoly on the use of force. In theory, Palestine could be the next Costa Rica: small but beautiful.

But Israelis don’t live in theory. They live in a world where mistakes are mortal. In 2000 and 2007 Israeli prime ministers made good-faith offers of Palestinian statehood. They were met on both occasions with rejection, then violence. In 2005 Israel vacated the Gaza Strip. It became an enclave of terror. On Sunday, four young Israelis were run over in yet another terror attack. The ideal of a Jewish and faultlessly democratic state is a noble one. Not at the risk of the existence of the state itself.

The Paris conference takes place on the eve of a new administration that’s indifferent to prevailing orthodoxies regarding the Palestinians. David Friedman,Donald Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to Israel, is unequivocal in his support for the Jewish state, determined to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, unscandalized by settlements and unmoved by suggestions that Israel’s safety requires the empowerment of her enemies. These heresies alone recommend him for the job.

Meanwhile, anyone genuinely concerned with the future of the Palestinians might urge them to elect better leaders, improve their institutions, and stop giving out sweets to celebrate the murder of their neighbors.

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5 Comments / 5 Comments

  1. Birdalone

    add to Stephens’ view, the problem is not ‘settlements’, but UNRWA, apologies for copying so much of this excellent report from Sol Stern 01 10 2017 “End the UNRWA Farce”:

    http://www.city-journal.org/html/end-unrwa-farce-14932.html
    “…Flash forward 66 years. The original 700,000 Palestinians leaving Israel have now been magically transformed into a mini-state of 5.6 million “refugees” registered with UNRWA, about half of all the Palestinians living in the world today. The “temporary” U.N. agency has been transformed into a bloated international bureaucracy with a staff of 30,000, almost all of whom are Palestinian refugees themselves (many are activists of Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group).

    Less than 5 percent of UNRWA’s clients ever lived in Israel, but the agency’s regulations state that all patrilineal descendants of the original displaced persons shall retain their refugee rights in perpetuity. Nor does UNRWA seem to be troubled by the fact that 40 percent of its camp residents are citizens of Jordan and Lebanon, and shouldn’t even be considered refugees under accepted international law and practice.

    The unchecked growth of UNRWA is a classic case in international politics of the economic principle of “moral hazard.” By providing a social welfare safety net, the U.N. enables the Palestinian leadership to undermine efforts to solve the underlying conditions that created the refugee problem in the first place. Palestinian rejectionism is thus rendered risk-free. In turn, UNRWA nurtures Palestinian extremism, yet never is held accountable by the agency’s donor nations, including the United States.

    The original sin was the world body’s unprecedented decision to create a single agency dedicated to dealing exclusively with one national group of refugees. Only the Palestinians who left Israel, a mere trickle of the post-World War II refugee flood, were designated as specially approved victims deserving of aid and support by the international community. To paraphrase Marx, this misguided policy created an historic tragedy, with elements of farce. It’s not only the billions of dollars and millions of lives that have been wasted over the past half century in the squalid refugee camps. It’s also that the easily solvable problem of the 1948 refugees was allowed to fester and then become the single greatest obstacle (no, President Obama, it’s not Jewish settlements on the West Bank) to a peaceful solution of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
    …”

  2. stevenl

    The Palestinians, a creation of the West for perpetuating antisemitism, the war against the Jews and instability in the ME!

  3. WoolyMammoth

    Where was Stephens when we needed him to rally support for Trump, during the whole of last year’s campaign?

  4. Zahavah

    There are Muslims going from South Africa to this ‘Pallie state’ on vacation. Their main intention is to bolster the numbers by child birth. Some never leave. Where else are they coming from….

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