The Palestinian Bid for Statehood: Self-Determination or Alienation of Jewish State? by Harry Hudesman
Since the 1896 publication of Theodor Herzl’s Der Judenstaat, the Zionist dream has swept across the Diaspora. The flame of hope that had burned for centuries in the hearts of the exiled Jewish people was only intensified by the words of the Hungarian sage. Fifty-Two years later, Herzl’s dream of a Jewish homeland became a reality when Israel became a state.
In the run-up to Jewish statehood, the Holocaust decimated the Jewish people. In the wake of unspeakable tragedy, the world recognized that the time had come for colonialism to end in the land of Israel. Independent governments were to be created for both Palestinians and Jews. After the Palestinians rejected the UN resolution, the Jewish state of Israel was formed in 1948. In the past 63 years, Israel has grown into one of the most advanced societies in the world, not just technologically but also socially and democratically.
Last week, Palestine put forth a bid for membership to the United Nations as an independent state. Why is a unilateral quest for statehood by the Palestinian Authority (“PA”) now necessary when Israel is standing by, to negotiate a two state solution? The PA thinks that their unilateral action will lead to more alienation of Israel that will further delegitimize the state and potentially garner greater support for Palestinian causes.
The Palestinian people have remained stateless because of their own leadership. In 2000 and 2001, PLO leader Yasser Arafat rejected deals that would have given the Palestinians all of Gaza, 97% of the West Bank and East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state. Instead of accepting these offers, Arafat preferred to leave innocent Palestinians living like refugees. Today, the world sees the resulting squalor in Gaza City and Rafah.
Despite Israel’s willingness to compromise, the PA continues to make irrational demands. Israel cannot agree to have indefensible borders and will not cease to exist as a Jewish State. Aside from those two non-negotiable issues, Israel is willing to compromise on nearly every other point. Recently, Israeli leaders have even risked alienating their own constituents by offering the PA almost everything they claim they want. This willingness to sacrifice in the fact of party opposition was demonstrated by Yitzhak Rabin. After negotiating the Oslo Accords, a radical Israeli gunned down Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin because of his concessions.
While the PA claims that it wants peace, its actions tell a different story. The PA’s attempt at unity with Hamas instead of an agreement with Israel shows where the PA’s priorities remain. Hamas is a terrorist organization that has the destruction of Israel in its charter. Claiming that unity with Hamas is in preparation for peace with Israel is inconsistent. Hamas openly admits it does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and will not cease its holy war until the land of Israel belongs to the Palestinians. How can Israel negotiate when the other party has allied itself with a group that is committed to Israel’s destruction?
The Palestinian people deserve a state just like their Jewish neighbors. In order to reach that goal, both parties must make concessions. While the PA wants to be viewed as moderate, it refuses to make concessions regarding the indefensible pre-1967 borders. The PA talks about a lasting peace while at the same time it endorses radical acts and terrorist actions, honoring those who have strapped bombs to their chests, killing innocent Israelis.
The Oslo Accords lay out a roadmap that dictates a need for negotiation, not unilateral action. PA President, Mahmoud Abbas has been acting in direct violation of this agreement. If self-determination and a home state truly are the goal, then where are the concessions? Israel cannot afford to be the only side making painful sacrifices.
Under the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israelis have regularly looked past irresponsible acts by the PA and Hamas such as rocket attacks from the west and cross-border attacks from the east. In the face of this forbearance, the PA has attempted to unify with a terrorist organization and cut Israel out of the peace process regarding land that must be shared.
This stunt at the United Nations will not improve the situation, rather it will bring harsher struggle that will further highlight the impasse in the Middle East. This struggle will be evidenced by increased border violence and unparalleled strain between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The bid is a stunt because the PA knows the only effect it will have is alienating Israel. The bid will also alienate Israel’s steadfast ally, the United States. This alienation will be seen most by the spotlight put on Israel for rejecting the bid and the greater danger that Israel will be in amongst its neighbors due to the Palestinian rejection. The action is a step backwards in the Palestinian quest for statehood. Regardless of what the PA says, it relies on Israel and the US for aid and the limited economic stability it enjoys. The PA cannot afford to make them enemies.
While Israel is not perfect, the geographically miniscule state has tried to act as best as possible in accordance with international pressure despite the double standard and hypocritical treatment the UN has shown. The world has begun to recognize the constant condemnation of Israel for defending itself from belligerents as sub-standard treatment.
Additionally, the settlements in the West Bank are framed as the greatest sin, which hold back peace negotiations from continuing. In reality, whether the Israeli settlers continue building or put down their hammers today, Palestinian leadership will never recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state with Jerusalem as its capital. This is evidenced by the unilateral withdrawal of all Israelis from Gaza in 2005. The Palestinians were given what they wanted but the rockets kept raining down. The rejection of Israel’s right to exist is why negotiation is avoided. Even today, the idea of Jews in their own state is too repugnant for some.
Ultimately, the PA sees this quest for statehood as necessary because the PA feels it must alienate Israel further in an attempt to delegitimize the state. The PA is taking the route Turkey did in supporting a public image disaster for Israel. Turkey knew the Flotilla, which sailed in May 2010 to break the naval blockade on Gaza would not succeed; yet the ships were sent anyway. They were sent because the radicals aboard knew, although the IDF would do its job ethically, the media would frame Israel as evil. Abbas has learned from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that taking advantage of an international situation and letting the media blame Israel can chip away at the State’s legitimacy in the eyes of the moderate west.
Unfortunately for Abbas and the Palestinian people, the US will veto any actions brought to the UN Security Council and the Israeli people will not allow their country to be invaded. Only responsible colloquy will break the impasse between Israel and the Palestinian people. Peace between the two groups is not impossible as evidenced by the miraculous creation of the modern state of Israel that was an aspiration for far longer. When there was doubt, Herzl reminded Jews of the Diaspora that, “If you will it, it is no dream.”