Monday 10 January 2011

A Unilateral Palestinian State is a Reward for Bad Behaviour

With the current attempts to resurrect the peace discussions between Israelis and Palestinians not making any progress, the Palestinians have renewed their intentions to "go it alone". For them this means going to the United Nations Security Council to ask this body to approve the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the basis of the pre-1967 borders. The Palestinians have already started a PR campaign and have approached a number of countries, mostly those who are not members of the UN Security Council, to recognise this state. Many countries have come out in recognition of a Palestinian state on this basis. But why is this tactic one which the Palestinians prefer to genuine negotiation, compromise and agreement?

The first time that there was a call for a Palestinian state was after the Six Day War in 1967, in which Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. Israel succeeded in attacking the Arab armies immediately just before they initiated an attack on the Jewish state to try to destroy it. Until 1967, the focus of the Arab countries (and the Palestinians as part of this) was to remove any signs of a Jewish country in the Middle East. The Arab armies were lined up to attack Israel to try to achieve this, but were surprised by the pre-emptive strike by Israel to the point that , not only did they not make any progress towards their goal, they actually regressed in their objective by losing additional land in the process. In recognition of the change in their situation, the Arabs decided to change their tactics. For the first time, a "Palestinian" people was born and a state for the Palestinian people was demanded in the West Bank and Gaza, which were lost in the war. Many Jews regard this is as a tactic to regain lost ground in order to allow the Palestinians to return to their original objective of completely destroying Israel. This view has been substantially supported by actions, statements and writings of Palestinians without shame or embarrassment.

The Israeli government formally agreed for the first time to negotiate with the Palestinians with a view to a "two-state solution" as part of the Madrid Conference in 1991. This was also the central tenet of the Oslo process which followed the Madrid conference, and has been at the heart of all subsequent talks, discussions and negotiations held with the Palestinians since then. The concept of a two-state solution is almost regarded as a foregone conclusion despite the still-prevalent view that it is intended to be used as a springboard to destroy Israel. The details of the talks between Israel and the Palestinians since then have centred on terms and conditions for the establishment of the two-state solution, in a way that will satisfy Israel's requirements for the peace and security that she seeks while giving the Palestinians self-government over their own country. There are those who are unsurprised that such a formula has not yet been found, when considering that the main objective of a Palestinian state remains the destruction of Israel.

The latest attempts by the Americans to bring the parties to the negotiating table have failed due to two main issues: 1) the unwillingness of the Palestinians to recognise Israel as a Jewish state and 2) the ongoing construction in the West Bank. While the Palestinians have never agreed to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, the Israelis did agree to a unilateral freeze in construction in the West Bank despite the ongoing housing shortage in Israel. More than this, Israel entered into negotiations with the Americans to renew the construction freeze as a gesture to facilitate the next round of talks. Unfortunately, the Palestinians did not take advantage of the original freeze to progress the talks, and were not prepared to make the required compromises to match those proposed by the Israelis in the negotiations with the Americans. The resulting deadlock is plain for all to see. The Israeli government is under significant internal political and economic pressure to continue to build new homes in the West Bank. In particular, the government is under pressure not to undertake any further unilateral steps where the Palestinians are not also making gestures to show their willingness to compromise.

The unwillingness on the part of the Palestinians to recognise Israel as Jewish state is central to the ongoing lack of progress. It seems inconceivable that they should be so insistent on withholding their consent to what is the current reality and status quo. Does this represent a new tactic that, if they cannot destroy the Jewish state by force, they will destroy it politically by insisting that Israel not be recognised as a Jewish state? How does this tie in to the reality that, despite promises to do so over many years, the PLO has still not removed from its charter the clause calling from the destruction of the State of Israel?

The Palestinians have succeeded in garnering the sympathy of the world for the wretched state of their people. Many are unemployed and living in miserable conditions which is, of course, blamed neatly on the "Israeli occupation". While the ongoing military situation does not make for easier living conditions for anybody, particularly those in economically poor situations, the truth is that the leaders in the Palestinian Authority are guilty of acting only to improve the economic situation of themselves and their own families. It is in their interests to keep the rest of their people downtrodden to continue to enjoy sympathy and financial donations from countries with a conscience. This tactic has reached the point where they feel that it may even help to ease the path of the establishment of a Palestinian state via UN resolution. It is difficult not to see the parallels with the UN resolution in 1947 that agreed to partition Palestine and established the State of Israel. Many of the members of the UN will be feeling that a poor, downtrodden nation has the right to a country of its own.

By taking the route of going to the UN, the Palestinians think that they will be able to have their cake and eat it. They believe that they can get their state without recognising Israel as a Jewish state. Many of those sitting around the UN Security Council table may be inclined to agree in the interests of removing the Palestinian issue from the world's to-do list. If this was agreed upon by the UN, it would be the equivalent of rewarding the Palestinians for bad behaviour. Instead of being prepared to compromise in the interests of achieving a viable peace with Israel, they are essentially blackmailing the world into agreeing to their demands without requiring them to take on the responsibilities. This is surely bad diplomacy, and does not lay the groundwork for any sort of peace arrangement.

Any Palestinian state created in this way would essentially be an enemy state of Israel. Security will not have been agreed upon, the status of Jerusalem would be an ongoing disagreement, large towns inhabited by Israeli Jews would wind up in the middle of the Palestinian state and the return of the refugees would continue to be a point of contention. The truth is that the Palestinian state would have little more than it has now under the self-government arrangement, except for an enemy called Israel. Besides proving to Israel that it has the support of influential countries in the world to vote upon the creation of such a state, it is quite difficult to see what the Palestinians would really achieve by going down this route. They have proven over the years that, even with huge international assistance, they have made little progress towards creating the internal mechanisms required to run a country that is truly independent of Israel.

Fortunately for sanity in the Middle East, it appears as though the Americans would exercise their veto to any vote at the UN Security Council, thereby killing off the establishment of an independent Palestinian state via this route. The time has come for the Palestinians to accept their responsibilities along with the rights to a state that they believe they have. I think that the creation of a this state is a lot closer via the path of negotiations than they wish to acknowledge. The first step in this direction, however, has to be taken by them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The circus that,s called Palestine has to many chief clowns and assistants but no ringmaster to keep order in the big top as lose Tigers or Palestinian rogue Elephants not under tight control can cause major chaos and even deaths in this chaotic farce of a circus that is Palestine what with one chief clown Erekat saying one thing but his co-chief clown Shaath contradicting him by saying something completely different ,it was,nt to long ago that we all had a good laugh at the Monty Python circus and it,s satirical show of then British socialism of the 1980,s etc. we now have the Palestine circus that has no clue of satire or public ridicule concerning it,s inept corrupt PA/PLO/Fatah leadership ,so what,s new in deranged hypocrisy filled Arab politics and the Arab/Palesti
ne debacle ?