The Curtain Falls on a Palestinian State

The Palestinian flag may be flying at the United Nations in New York, but there are clear signs that a Palestinian state will not get off the ground.

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas kissing the Palestinian flag before raising it at the UN General Assembly, September 30, 2015.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas kissing the Palestinian flag before raising it at the UN General Assembly, September 30, 2015.Credit: Reuters

The Palestinian flag is being raised at the United Nations, more countries around the world are recognizing the State of Palestine, Palestinian terrorists are running wild in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, and Palestinians are firing rockets into Israel from Gaza. Yet it sure looks like the curtain is falling on a Palestinian state.

Many years ago, it seemed like such a logical idea: the Jews and Arabs are fighting over western Palestine, so lets split it between them. The British Peel Commission decided to do just that in 1937. Give a sliver to the Jews and the rest to the Arabs. But was it just? As Vladimir (Zeev) Jabotinsky said in his unforgettable testimony before the Peel Commission, arguing for the establishment of a Jewish state in all of Palestine: It is not a hardship on any race, any nation, possessing so many National States now and so many more National States in the future. One fraction, one branch of that race, and not a big one, will have to live in someone elses State: well, that is the case with all the mightiest nations of the world. I could hardly mention one of the big nations, having their States, mighty and powerful, who had not one branch living in someone elses State. That is only normal and there is no hardship attached to that. So when we hear the Arab claim confronted with the Jewish claim; I fully understand that any minority would prefer to be a majority, it is quite understandable that the Arabs of Palestine would also prefer Palestine to be the Arab State No. 4, No. 5, or No. 6 — that I quite understand; but when the Arab claim is confronted with our Jewish demand to be saved, it is like the claims of appetite versus the claims of starvation.

One man who understood this was Yasser Arafat, when he gave birth to the Palestinian nation by founding the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1964. Now it was no longer a case of demanding the creation of Arab state No. 20 or 21, but rather, giving the right of self-determination to a people without a land. Now, dividing western Palestine between Jews and Palestinians seemed not only logical, but also just. The slogan of Two states for two peoples was irresistible, and appealed to the hearts and minds of people around the world.

There was only one fly in this ointment. A Palestinian state already existed in Jordan, where the majority of the population was Palestinian. And there were no Palestinian objections when Jordan annexed Judea and Samaria in 1949 and gave Jordanian citizenship to the population there. Arafat understood this, and he tried to take over Jordan in September 1970 (Black September) Had he succeeded, the nature of the Palestinian claim would have changed radically.

Now the Jordanian insistence that it was not a Palestinian state suited his purpose. That presumably meant the Palestinians were still a nation without a state of their own, that they had a legitimate right to at least part of western Palestine. The Israeli government accepted the legitimacy of this claim in 1993s Oslo Accords, and most of the rest of the world followed suit. Western Palestine was now going to be divided between a Jewish democratic state and a Palestinian state — which might not be democratic, but who cares?

Nothing was going to stand in the way of this solution: Contiguity for the Palestinian state was to be provided by an overpass highway about 40 kilometers (25 miles) long, joining the Gaza Strip with Judea. A Jewish corridor was going to separate the two parts of the Palestinian state. There was only one problem: Arafat wanted all of western Palestine, and decided to use terror in an attempt to achieve this aim.

The terror campaign failed and Arafat died in 2004. Since then, the Palestinian movement has been politically dysfunctional, incapable of reaching or enforcing an agreement with Israel. Turmoil has come to the Arab Middle East and Arab states are disintegrating. That would likely be the fate of a Palestinian state if one were to be established.

At the UN, it may look as if the Palestinian state is on its way. But to realistic observers, it looks like the curtain is coming down on it.

The Palestinian flag flies next to the United Nations one at UN headquarters in New York, September 30, 2015.Credit: Reuters