With Mahmoud Abbas applying to the UN for Palestinian statehood, we have to ask: is he bluffing, or is he bluffing brilliantly?
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to submit an application to the UN Security Council to recognize Palestine as an independent state later this week. The Obama Administration is expected to use its veto in the Security Council to quash that application.
Yet given its implacable hostility towards the State of Israel, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the Obama Administration does an about-face and gives a Palestinian state its blessing. Then watch the UN General Assembly welcome Palestine into the family of nations with open arms.
One could make the argument that George W. Bush opened the door to this mess when he became the first president to call for a Palestinian state back in June 2002. Bush proclaimed: “I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror. I call upon them to build a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty.”
Well, the Palestinians in Gaza elected new leaders all right. But in choosing Hamas they elected leaders not only compromised by terror but defined by it. Needless to say, legalizing crucifixion isn’t exactly a sign that the Palestinians are practicing democracy based on tolerance and liberty. The West Bank, governed by the supposedly secular Fatah, isn’t exactly a beacon of benevolence either, as it frequently arrests dissidents (including last November’s arrest of one blogger who criticized Islam). As Khaled Abu Toameh, an Israeli Arab journalist, wrote earlier this year, “Hamas is bad; but who said that Fatah is any better?” President Bush would go on to say, “A Palestinian state will never be created by terror — it will be built through reform.” But what do the Palestinians know other than terror?
After all, a Palestinian state has never been about building a nation but rather about destroying one — Israel. The Jewish State — despite its peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan — is no more accepted in the Arab and Muslim world now than when it was established by the UN in 1947. Indeed, to this day the creation of the State of Israel is referred to in the Arab and Muslim world as “al-Nabka” or “The Disaster.”
People forget that the original proposed terms of the 1947 UN Partition Plan held that both a Jewish and an Arab state be created (hence the term “partition”). Basically, the Jews accepted these terms and the Arabs didn’t. Five Arab armies invaded Israel upon its independence the following year and told the Arabs residing in Israel to leave and not come back until Israel had been conquered. Well, things didn’t exactly go according to plan. If Israel’s creation was a disaster for Arabs and Muslims then it was a disaster of their own making.
It’s not as if there were calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state when Egypt governed Gaza and Jordan controlled the West Bank. Even when Israel took over Gaza and the West Bank following the Six Day War in 1967 there was no talk of Palestinian statehood. Adam Shatz, the senior editor of the London Review of Books and onetime literary editor at the Nation as well as a noted supporter of the Palestinians, recently wrote: “It’s often forgotten that until the mid-1970s, Palestinians were looking not to establish a state but to achieve ‘national liberation,’ to restore their rights in the land from which they had been driven — beginning with the right of return.”
How else can one explain why the UN has two organizations for refugees — one for Palestinians and one for everyone else? The United Nations Relief Works Agency of Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) “provides assistance, protection and advocacy for some 5 million registered Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory, pending a solution to their plight.”
Of course, a solution to their plight appeared to be in hand just a little over a decade ago. During negotiations at Camp David, President Clinton tried to broker an offer to PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat which would have given the Palestinians all of Gaza and 98 percent of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Ehud Barak, then Israel’s Prime Minister, accepted while Arafat turned down Palestinian statehood, refused to put forward his own proposal and soon started yet another intifada against Israel. It was 1947 all over again. Shlomo Ben-Ami, Israel’s chief negotiator at Camp David, put it this way:
At the end of the process, it is impossible not to form the impression that the Palestinians don’t want a solution as much as they want to place Israel in the dock of the accused. They want to denounce our state more than they want their own state. At the deepest level they have a negative ethos. This is why unlike Zionism, they are unable to compromise.
This is why going through the UN is so appealing to the Palestinians. There is no need for them to compromise. It legitimizes their aspirations while placing Israel “in the dock of the accused.” It also puts the Obama Administration in the uncomfortable position of taking sides with Israel.
Yet what would happen if a Palestinian state were to be established? First and foremost, that state would immediately renew demand for the right of return of all Palestinians, whether they were in UNRWA camps or not. An influx of Palestinians would overwhelm Israel and force out the Jews with the support of the international community. At which point, Palestine would become yet another undemocratic, predominantly Muslim Middle Eastern state in need of international aid which would be used to support terrorism.
No wonder the Palestinians fit in so well at the UN.