Miriam Dagan

A Palestinian State Alongside Israel Isn’t a Prize for Hamas – It’s a Punishment

Bethlehem, photo by Jorge Fernández Salas,

Palestinians are pushing for the unilateral recognition of a state at the UN. Prime minister Pedro Sánchez announced that Spain intends to recognize Palestinian statehood soon, in an aggressive move that disregards Israeli interests. It is time for Israel to take ownership of the issue and not let other countries or the Palestinians themselves move forward unilaterally. The best way to do that is for Israel to officially recognize the need for a future Palestinian state, unpopular as it understandably may be in Israel right now.

Contrary to much of the Israeli political establishment’s claim, putting a Palestinian state on the agenda is far from being a reward for terrorism. In fact, it would be a punishment for Hamas and other terrorist organizations. The last thing they want is a Palestinian state alongside a Jewish, Israeli one. The realistic promise of a Palestinian state would actually be a blow to their ideological foundation and their long-term goal of eradicating Israel completely and establishing a Palestinian state in Israel proper.

Putting a Palestinian state on the agenda would make justifying or whitewashing attacks against Israel – as Turkey and other states, left-wing movements and parties in the West, UN leaders, and many others have done following October 7th – as a fight against oppression or as not happening “in a vacuum” obsolete. By granting the prospect of a Palestinian state, the pro-Palestinian left in the West would see their demands fulfilled. There would be no more excuses to explain away terror against Jews and Israel. Those who would continue to incite against Israel would have a harder time covering up their antisemitism, as the focus would shift towards building a legitimate Palestinian state.

The momentum may now be there to make a true change: All eyes are on Gaza, Arab states are deeply involved, and the United States and Europe are pressing for a long-term solution. Were Israel to agree to a future Palestinian state, it would have more leverage than before to press its own terms: From complete demilitarization to de-radicalization of all sectors of the Palestinian society before an actual state comes to fruition. Globally, the will to end the war and bring about a long-term solution is so strong that it could be an opportunity to Israel rather than a hindrance to its goals. What’s more, the recognition of a Palestinian state as an end goal will put Israel back on the road to normalization with Saudi Arabia.

It would also take the wind out of the sails of all those Palestinians who continue to insist on a right of return, which would effectively turn Jews into a demographic minority, or all those who demand “one state for all,” a phrase that similarly translates into erasing the state’s identity as a homeland for Jews. The promise that a Palestinian state alongside Israel is what lies at the end of this long road would force those Palestinians who haven’t yet to truly accept and acknowledge Israel as a sovereign Jewish state, rather than to keep hoping for its long-term erasure or dissolution within a larger, Arab majority state.

Giving hope to all those Palestinians who are reluctant to recognize Israel, but are not radicals and aspire to a better life, will not deter Hamas and other terrorists from planning attacks. However, by declaring the goal of a Palestinian state, Israel could more easily get international support, including that of some Arab states, for the kind of security guarantees it needs – which can include the right of the IDF to enter Palestinian territory to prevent the smuggle of weapons or terrorist activity for as long as necessary. This might be a historic chance to implement a sweeping de-radicalization program, so that the Palestinians can direct their energy towards constructing a state, rather than investing resources in the fight against Israel.

Most Israelis are, understandably, afraid of such a commitment. Israeli politicians say that a Palestinian state can only be the result of direct negotiations – but the stated intention of accepting and creating one does not conflict with that assertion! Of course, Israel must be one of the two main negotiating parties; of course, its security is its number one concern; and of course, all the contentious issues that have not gone away, from Hebron to Jerusalem, must be solved. But if we start with the reasoning that what needs to happen first and foremost is for the majority of the Palestinian people to truly accept the existence of an Israel that is Jewish (and democratic) by character, that the wheel of history cannot be turned backwards and the return of Palestinian refugees to lands before 1948 clashes with this recognition and cannot be carried out – then prioritizing the establishment of a Palestinian state is crucial for actualizing this shift in mindset.

Importantly, the prolonged state of indeterminacy in the West Bank has also fueled the ideological settlement movement in Israel. Many supporters of the Israeli settlement of the West Bank, including those areas deemed part of a future Palestinian state, regard the Six Day War of 1967 and its aftermath as a divine gift. In the Middle East, facts are often created on the ground, and the prospect of a Palestinian state would force those facts to change and put a halt to settler ambitions.

About the Author
Miriam Dagan is a TV journalist and writer based in Israel.
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