Last month, the United Nations finally decided that a Palestinian State is a good idea. Now where might we have heard this before? Back in 1947, a State of Palestine also sounded good to the members of that august assembly. So good, in fact, that they decided to partition the British Mandate of Palestine, or what was left of it after Trans-Jordan had been detached, into two countries, with roughly equal portions going to Jews and Arabs. Within that resolution was the framework for self-determination of the two peoples who occupied the land. Acceptance by the Arabs of Palestine would have ensured them a homeland, security and access to all their holy sites. Yet the Palestinian Arabs refused it then and, despite the solicitations of the United Nations and other international bodies, have refused it ever since.
So anyone expecting to see Palestinians dancing the hora on Palestine Independence Day any time soon, should think again. This State, an unwanted orphan, who has been wandering the earth unloved for more than half a century, will remain an illusion for years, if not decades. The reason? Nobody wants it - not the Americans, not the Israelis, not the Arab nations and certainly not the Palestinians.
Americans don't want a Palestinian state, at least not one run by Yasser Arafat or his cronies, because it will add yet another terrorist menace to the grand coalition that already dominates the Middle East. Convinced that the creation of such a state will bring only further instability to the region, the Administration has mouthed platitudes in support of Palestinian statehood while doing nothing to advance that cause. Arafat remains persona non grata, in Washington, a pariah with whom no major Administration official dares express sympathy. The Palestinian Authority, the nominal government of Palestinians, is rarely distinguished in any meaningful way from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who are listed as terrorist entities by the State Department. Arafat, it is recognized, does nothing to prevent terror because he is the terror.
Among Israelis the absolute conviction that a Palestinian state will not bring peace, but war, grows with each terrorist attack. The ringing denunciation of Arafat and his terror network is heard in corners where 18 months ago he was lauded as a peace partner. Despite Ariel Sharon's acceptance of an eventual Palestinian state, Israelis across the political spectrum now understand that Arafat has done nothing to prepare his people for statehood except to identify Israel as the enemy. It is not a stretch for a majority of Israelis to now believe that laying the groundwork for the State of Palestine necessarily involves the elimination of the State of Israel.
The other Arab nations of the Middle East also have little interest in seeing yet another Arab state emerge in the Middle East, especially one headed by Yasser Arafat. All of them - Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and even Egypt - have been burned by their relationship with the treacherous Palestinian leader. Moreover, since 1948 the Arab countries have obtained enormous mileage out of the Israeli - Palestinian conflict, leveraging it into propaganda against the Jewish state, which has always been helpful in deflecting attention from the failures of their own regimes. Palestinian statehood may also mean normalizing relations with Israel, which involves the risk of exposing their own populations to Israeli democracy and economic power - a great fear for such insular dictatorships.
The Palestinians' interest in statehood is nothing if not muted. In eastern Jerusalem, which contains the most prosperous concentration of Palestinians, fear of further repression has caused applications for Israeli citizenship to soar. Among the villagers, there is anger and fear as they realize that once borders are established their livelihoods will be severed, with no preparations made for replacement. The upper echelon of Palestinian leadership, bloated with hubris at the supposed success of their revolt, see statehood as an impediment to their ultimate objective of defeating and eliminating Israel altogether.
Meanwhile Yasser Arafat, at 72, clearly has no interest in statehood. None of the infrastructure necessary for the creation of a new political entity has been set in place by him, despite years of opportunity to do so. Like most dictators, Arafat has always made the interests of his people subservient to his own narcissistic needs. A reputation as a peacemaker and nation-builder does not jibe with his self-image as warrior and rebel and is not the way he wants to be viewed by Arab history.
Why then the drive from all these players toward Palestinian statehood? The answer is that all sides feel the pressing need to identify an ultimate solution to the conflict. Each one has its own propagandistic purposes for advancing Palestinian statehood as that solution: Americans - smoothing the path for a prospective war against Iraq; Israelis - encouraging hope that the conflict will end; the Arab nations – lip service to a non-existent Arab unity; and the Palestinians - an objective that justifies months, if not years of death and privation for its population.
However, statehood takes more than fine words and good intentions. It takes political will. Without it, the State of Palestine will remain a phantom - good theory perhaps and even better propaganda, but plainly useless for determining any ultimate resolution of the crisis in the Middle East.Avi Davis is the senior fellow of the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies and the senior editorial columnist for the on-line magazine Jewsweek.com.
©2002 - Arutz Sheva