Jan. 16, 2018
Do the Palestinians Really Want Their Own State? – Josef Joffe (American Interest)
Last December, Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as capital of Israel. Yet nobody seemed to notice that he did not hand over all of Jerusalem to Israel, insisting: “We are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.” That was “up to the parties involved.” So, go for it and start talking, he signaled to the Palestinian Authority.
Predictably, the Palestinians revived their classic game, which has failed them regularly in the past. Their message read: “We will not deal directly with Israel; we want the world to force the Zionists to hand us our state on a silver platter.” Palestinian leaders are going for the international option once more.
This seasoned negotiator knows a state can only be had from Israel, and it must embody a painful, dream-destroying compromise thrashed out by the two antagonists. A harsh conclusion follows: If one party says no for 80 years, it isn’t interested. It is all or nothing, and “all” implies not only Hebron, but also Haifa.
During the UN partition vote in 1947, the Arab world acted as one. Yet today, Israel is a key player in a realigned regional system. Israel has peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt that have held during its wars against the PLO and Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Jerusalem enjoys a tacit alliance with Riyadh and the “Gulfies.” Putin’s Russia coordinates with the IDF in Syria. China and India will not trade high-tech Herzliya for the backwater of Ramallah.
Angling for hegemony, Iran is now the deadly enemy of the Sunni Arabs and Israel-Palestine has receded toward the wings. The conflict is a nuisance, and the key Arab players will not soon sacrifice their Israeli ties on the altar of Palestinian self-deception.
The Palestinians will have to do better than in Gaza. This author went to Gaza with Yassir Arafat in 1994 and assumed that the coastal strip would gestate into a Palestinian proto-state, blessed with democracy and the rule of law. Today, Gaza is a corrupt Hamas fiefdom, a threat to itself and the neighborhood – a failed state.
Would that the post-Abbas leadership might exchange self-deception for sobriety. Alas, the mismeasure of reality has been the hallmark of Palestinian policy for 80 years.
The writer is publisher-editor of the German weekly Die Zeit and a fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford.