The argument is as old as, well some would say as old as Israel is, others would say as old as 1967. It is a pretty simple argument, and would seem logical. Palestinians want a state of their own, the argument goes. Once they have that state, they’ll lay down their guns (or suicide bombs), and peace will cover the area from the Mediterranean to the Jordan. Anyone who has heard anything Yassir Arafat or Mahmoud Abbas said in English could come to that conclusion. They say that the “indignity of living under occupation forces the population to resort to terrorism” a sentiment echoed by Ban Ki Moon not to long ago. Forgetting that that train of thought is absurd when compared to other stateless people, the real question to ask before any meaningful peace process can be started is: do Palestinians even want a state?
When Pan-Arabism was the law of the land in the Middle East a half-century ago, the argument was made that the majority, if not all, Arabs from Morocco to Iraq viewed themselves as Arabs first, with a nationality second. Makes sense. These countries had borders drawn by colonial powers, namely France and Britain. There was no hundred-plus year feeling of people in Beirut feeling Lebanese or in Nablus feeling Palestinian. They felt Arab, Muslim, Shia, or Sunni. In present times, sure, Syrians may feel Syrian, and Iraqi’s may feel Iraqi, but if the implosion of the Middle East over the past seven years has shown anything, it is that the region is still predominantly broken down on sectarian, tribal, and religious lines.
Inexplicably overlooked in the UN Resolution of 1947 that granted Israel statehood is that it also paved the way for a Palestinian state. Resolution 181 called for the Mandate of Palestine to be broken down into a Arab and a Jewish states. But, beginning a 69 year period of rejectionist attitudes, Arabs rejected it, waged a war of extermination against Israel, and lost. They lost land and an immeasurable brain drain as the wealthy fled to Amman, Damascus, Cairo, and Beirut.
Palestinians could have had their state right there in 1947. However, what was important to Arabs then, as now, is not whether the Palestinians have a state, but that the Jews do. This was unfathomable to Muslims.
From 1948-1967, Jordan and Egypt controlled the West Bank and Gaza respectively, with their homogenous Arab populations (West Bank Jews were expelled or murdered). All parties being Arab, one would think Jordan and/or Egypt could have granted Palestinian statehood. Except there was no Palestinian national movement. Even after Israel took over both parcels of land in 1967, the Palestinian national movement was one of replacement instead of establishment. They wanted to replace Israel with Palestine, to hell with the Jews who lived there.
Arafat emerged as a leader responsible to no one, diametrically opposed to democratic leaders. He ruled through terror and his private knowledge of the Swiss bank accounts that held hundreds of millions in PLO/Fatah dollars. There was no peace process, because Israel was strong and knew not to negotiate with people who had one goal, immortalized in the PLO charter, calling for the complete destruction of Israel and expulsion (murder) of her citizens.
On a bright September day in 1993, the world thought, for a brief second the 45 year war would be over. Oslo was signed and Palestinians would have self-determination. They would be responsible for governing themselves in most of Gaza and the West Bank. This was supposed to be the original Road Map for Peace. Israeli leaders deluded themselves into thinking that what Palestinians craved was what normal, rational people wanted: the right to their own state. Not a decade later, these hopes were dashed, also on a September day in 2000, when the Second Intifada started. Suicide bombers were striking Jerusalem, Netanya, all over Israel.
A decade of peace conferences ensued. From Camp David to Taba, Israeli leaders desperately wanted peace, and Palestinian leaders wanted none of it. Culminating with Olmert’s 2008 offer of all of Gaza, 94-96% of the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, Israel was literally handing the Palestinians all the things they said they wanted, except one…the destruction of Israel. Perhaps this phenomenon is best summed up by the Saudi Ambassador to the US at the time. He said, of Arafat’s stunning walk-away at Camp David in 2001, “It broke my heart that Arafat did not take the offer (two-state solution). Since 1948, every time we’ve had something on the table, we say no. Then we say yes. When we say yes, it’s not on the table anymore. Then we have to deal with something less. Isn’t it about time we said yes?”
Absolutely, it is high past time, except the Palestinians don’t want a state!
Leaders of nations are responsible to someone. Their own constituents, the international community, someone. They have a moral duty to do what is best for their people. This is EXACTLY what Arafat and Abbas avoided and are avoiding. They could have declared a state in 2005 when Israel withdrew everyone from Gaza. They could have declared a state a dozen times between 1993 and 2017, but that means accepting this responsibility. Leaders of states don’t send suicide bombers into other countries, or pay terrorists in “foreign” prisons, terrorist leaders do.
Jonathan Tobin, a writer for Commentary, National Review, and JNS, and perhaps the writer I most admire has said it best. He argues relentlessly that for a century, Palestinian identity is tied to a desire to destroy Israel. It goes back to their “George Washington”, Grand Mufti Al-Husseini who was a close friend of Hitler. Accepting any offer (of the scores) for Palestinian statehood would betray this national identity. How can you accept peace with a nation you’ve inoculated five generations of people into wanting to destroy?
Terrorizing Israel and trying to embarrass her in international forums has, was, and will be the main goal for Palestinians, not the statehood they claim to desire more than anything.