There are a number of objections to the creation of a Palestinian state. If we examine the facts dispassionately, however, it is evident that not only is it reasonable to support the concept of a Palestinian state, but it is also a natural consequence of supporting Israel.
Perhaps the most common objection is the claim that a Palestinian state would be a security threat to Israel, but this objection is not supported by facts.
Arabs have maintained peace under every peace agreement that they signed with Israel. Both Egypt and Jordan, that continue to be highly antisemitic societies, have maintained peace with Israel despite their antisemitism, even under Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood government. There is no reason to believe that it would be any different with the Palestinians if they signed a peace agreement with Israel.
In fact, the Oslo agreement is further confirmation. While the Palestinian Authority, which was created as a result of the Oslo agreement, engages in incitement and in paying terrorists, it has never attacked Israel. On the contrary, the PA police cooperates with Israel and has even prevented terrorist attacks against Israel. As was written in the Jerusalem Post, the PA “maintains a level of security cooperation with Israel that is almost unprecedented to quell the very terrorism it encourages”.
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood President, Mohammed Morsi, was an anti-Semite. A couple of months ago, a Jordanian lawmaker praised a Palestinian terrorist who killed two Israelis, saluting him for “killing the Jews”. Egypt, Jordan, and the PA maintain peace with Israel, not because they love Jews or are faithful Zionists, but because they know that waging war after signing a peace agreement carries a huge price that they are not willing to pay.
If Israel withdrew from all or part of Judea and Samaria in the same way that it withdrew from Gaza, there is little doubt that it would result in a new terrorist entity similar to Gaza, but if the PA signed a peace agreement, and Israel withdrew as part of that agreement, past behavior indicates that the peace would hold.
When confronted with this logic, those who oppose the creation of a Palestinian state argue that it does not matter because the Palestinians have been offered very generous peace deals before, including the 1947 UN Partition Plan and the year 2000 Clinton/Barak peace proposal, and that they rejected them all, so, they argue, there is no way that they will ever accept any peace agreement, no matter how equitable.
This argument sounds reasonable, but it ignores the fact that circumstances are constantly changing. Opinions evolve, geopolitical considerations change, and leaders are replaced (PA chairman Mahmood Abbas has not yet been replaced, but he will be).
In 2004, four years after the failed Clinton/Barak peace proposal, most Palestinians and most Israelis still supported a negotiated two-state solution. In 2018, the support had decreased, but it was still substantial at about 43% on both sides. If Israel and the PA engaged again in peace talks, support for a two-state solution would increase again on both sides.
Most Israelis and most Palestinians have much to gain from a peace agreement, but both sides are currently dominated by extremist opinions that ignore the interests of the majority. I have written extensively about extremist opinions on the Palestinian side, but here I discuss extremist opinions on the Israeli side.
On the surface, Israeli objections to a Palestinian state are based on the two points that I discussed already: that peace will not hold, and that in any case, Palestinians will never agree to a peace deal. But when these superficial and deceptive arguments are exposed, the true argument of Israeli extremists is revealed: Judea and Samaria is Jewish land, and Israel must never give it up. Often, this argument is not even hidden.
In January 2018, an overwhelming majority of the Likud’s top officials voted to endorse applying Israeli law in Judea and Samaria, which means annexation. Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin stated, “The land of Israel is all ours, and we will implement our sovereignty on all parts of the country”. Yet, annexation by Israel of all of Judea and Samaria is not promoted by any leading Israeli politician, including the Likud Prime Minister himself, Benjamin Netanyahu, because it is simply not workable.
As I wrote previously, the Likud government prefers to maintain a policy of ambiguity, allowing Israel to have its cake and eat it too. The Israeli government wants the advantage of controlling this Jewish ancestral land while at the same time not dealing with the consequences of annexing it.
By the optimistic predictions of right-wing author and journalist Caroline Glick (in her book The Israeli Solution), if Israel annexed Judea and Samaria and granted the Palestinians residing on that land citizenship, the Arabs would be one third of Israel’s population. By the estimates of World Population Review on Judea and Samaria and on Israel, the Arabs would be 38% of Israel’s population, with Jews at 59% and others at 3%.
Israel’s current difficulties in forming a government with only 10% Arab MKs provide a small preview of the problems that would ensue if Israel annexed Judea and Samaria. If Arab MKs were in the range of 33% to 38% of the Knesset (matching the Arab population), forming a strongly pro-Israel government would be practically impossible. This is without even considering the fact that many Haredi Jews are non-Zionist or even anti-Zonist and that the size of their population is significant and growing rapidly. To form governments, Israeli politicians would be forced to implement policies that Arabs would be demanding, such as the “return” of Palestinian refugees into Israel, which would increase the percentage of Arabs even more, again exacerbating the problem further.
When pressed on this point, opponents of a Palestinian state sometimes retreat to the argument that once Palestinians are educated in Israeli schools, they will stop being anti-Israel, and therefore the percentage of Arab citizens is not relevant. This argument is clearly disingenuous. If one believes that Palestinians cannot be educated to run a state in peace, how can one possibly believe that those same Palestinians can be taught to selflessly support the nationalism of their former enemies and occupiers?
The argument is bizarre, but even assuming that it magically comes true, becoming pro-Israel would not stop the Arab citizens of Israel from promoting their own interests, just like all citizens anywhere in the world, and that would include bringing their Palestinian cousins out of refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, and into the strong democracy and economic powerhouse that is Israel.
The opposition to further peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians is simply an untenable position. It does not make sense if one accepts in principle the concept of a Palestinian state, and not accepting that principle dooms Israel to becoming an Arab-majority state, or at the very least, an ungovernable bi-national state.
After 71 years of conflict, false expectations, and disappointments, it is natural to be discouraged and distrustful of the other side, but discouragement and distrust are not unique to Israelis. Many Palestinians do not believe that Israel would ever allow a Palestinian state to be created, especially that the current Prime Minister of Israel has openly declared that, “a Palestinian state would not be established on his watch”. Palestinians also do not trust their current leaders who have failed to deliver a state to them. According to a poll conducted this year, “only 11 percent of Palestinians trust Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of Fatah, and 6% trust rival Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh”.
The status quo, which requires the occupation by Israel of the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, is not a long-term solution, and full annexation would be a disaster. The only sensible solution is a peaceful Palestinian state next to Israel. Israel and the Palestinians must try again to reach a peace agreement, and they must try again and again, until they succeed. Each side in this conflict needs to communicate with the other side, and they need to communicate often, at every level, in order to dispel decades of animosity, distrust, and often hatred. Neither side’s excuses for not trying are valid. Both sides have a duty to their people to keep trying.
Being pro-Israel, and of course being pro-Palestinian, translates directly into the necessity to do everything possible to enable the creation of a peaceful Palestinian state next to Israel, and never giving up until it happens.