Palestinians Dupe West

If a new declaration helps Palestinians get their own state, Israel will have been complicit in its own demise.

Several dozen Israeli intellectuals and politicians have signed a declaration endorsing the immediate establishment of an independent Palestinian state covering the territories Israel occupied in the 1967 Six Day War. They have proclaimed this as both a diktat of justice—peoples have a right to self-determination—and Israeli self-interest, given the desire of its majority Jewish population to remain a majority and to remain a member in good standing of the international community. Given Palestinian Arab birth rates, the incorporation of the West Bank's and Gaza's Arab population into Israel would mean an Arab majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean—and continued rule over an occupied, antagonistic Palestinian population would result in Israel becoming a pariah state.

These Israelis' declaration dovetails with the Palestinians' current diplomatic campaign to establish a state and achieve international recognition of such statehood by September when, it is expected, the matter will be brought to a vote at the UN General Assembly.

Many observers in the West seem to regard this campaign, masterminded by Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad, respectively the Palestinian Authority's president and prime minister, as an innovative breakthrough, a reversal of the strategy of their unwholesome predecessor, PLO chairman (1969-2004) Yasser Arafat.

This is incorrect. Indeed, Arafat's strategy from the late 1980s, after he realized that he wasn't going to orchestrate the destruction of Israel (Black September 1970 in Jordan and Israel's Lebanon War of 1982 were instrumental in this connection), was precisely to establish a Palestinian Arab state encompassing the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, but without recognizing Israel or making peace with it. Which is why Arafat never accepted a signed and sealed two-state settlement involving a Palestinian state side by side with Israel reduced to its 1949 borders. This, after all, was what former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak (currently Israel's defense minister) and former US president Bill Clinton had offered Arafat in December 2000 (the Clinton "Parameters") and this is what former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Abbas in 2008—and this is what both Palestinian leaders rejected.

Palestinian strategy is rather simple (and not particularly clever, though it does manage to take in a surprising number of Westerners): Because of the demographic threat (an Arab majority in a Jewish state) and because of international pressure for self-determination for the Palestinians and an end to Israel's military occupation, Israelis will eventually accept, however reluctantly, a Palestinian state encompassing the Palestinian-majority territories of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Israel will eventually unilaterally withdraw (as it has already done from the Gaza Strip). So why offer or give the Israelis recognition and peace in exchange?

Rather, once this mini-state is achieved, unfettered by any international obligations like a peace treaty—and having promised nothing in exchange for their statehood—the Palestinians will be free to continue their struggle against Israel, its complete demise being their ultimate target. Inevitably, the armed struggle—call it guerrilla warfare, call it terrorism—will then be resumed. And, alongside it, so will the political warfare—the delegitimization of the Jewish state and, most centrally, the demand for the refugees of 1948/1967 to be allowed to return to their homes and lands (what the Palestinians define as the "Right of Return"). The refugee issue plays well with public opinion in the West, which somehow fails to notice that such a return will mean that Israel proper will become an Arab-majority territory, i.e., no more Jewish state. In democracies, what publics accept or support eventually becomes what leaders advocate.

And, on the military and political levels, no one will be able to fault the Palestinians. They will have broken no treaty and violated no solemn agreement. They won't have signed a "no further claims" clause or a "no more war" commitment, as Barak, Clinton and Olmert had demanded as essential components of a two-state peace settlement. They will have received their mini-state, a launching pad for further assault on Israel, without giving anything in return.

And Israel, let me sadly add, will have done a great deal to have helped us reach this unhappy pass—an Israel, under Netanyahu, that has offered the Palestinians nothing that any Arab or the international community, including the US, could accept as a reasonable minimum the Palestinians should agree to.