Monday, October 3, 2011

Palestinian Statehood: It's Not That Simple

Much has been written about the Palestinian petition for statehood at the UN.  Some criticize it, others support it vehemently, as expected it has caused some stirring debate across the globe.  The situation on the ground in the region and here in the U.S is completely different than just 20 years ago. The Israeli government has moved dramatically to the right due to the influx of reactionary rabble rousers from the defunct Soviet Union.  The Palestinian Authority is a fractured entity with the terrorist anti-Israel anti-government Hamas controlling Gaza and the more moderate Fatah and its leader Abbas in the West Bank.  Meanwhile in the U.S., the Republican Party and its Social Conservative Evangelical wing now woo the pro-Israel Jewish vote and political action groups through their biblical calls for a single Jewish state dominating the region.  In 20 years the silent majority in the center has been drowned out by the conservative right where the political survival of today’s protagonists has become the most important issue.
Last week John B. Judis in The New Republic made the case that the U.S. should support Palestinian statehood at the U.N., something the Obama administration refuses to do.  Judis’ argument centers around a core of reasons including:
·         It will improve U.S. standing around the globe
·         The U.S. did the same thing for the Jewish State in 1947
·         The U.S. is emboldening the Netanyahu government to continue to put off Palestinian statehood
·         Israel’s argument that some Palestinians refuse to acknowledge Israel is hypocritical when compared to the Likud party’s 1947 forbearers.
·         It will diminish the legitimacy of the Hamas faction in Gaza.
Judis’ argument has several holes in it and several arguments that he glosses over nonchalantly.  The biggest difference between the situations in 1948 and 2011, and every year in between: where is the Palestinian, or Arab for that matter, Ben Gurion?  The 1948 two state solution passed because of Ben Gurion and his Jewish Agency’s leadership and organizational commitment and skills.  The Palestinians have never neither realized nor recognized the importance of that leadership. Judis also fails to lay any blame or responsibility at the feet of the Arab countries who for too long clung to the fantasy of a world without a Jewish state while they should have been working towards the 1948 U.N. two state solution. Shockingly, Judis does not condemn the actions of Hamas, but instead vilifies the Jewish State for a ‘construction binge’.  Finally, to compare the minority militant Zionists of 1947 to the still present Anti-Israel hatred and vitriol of Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, etc. is a ludicrous argument.
The Economist also argued for Palestinian statehood on the grounds that it would marginalize Hamas, improve U.S. standing, improve Israel’s security, and because the Palestinians deserve it.  I do not argue with that position, unfortunately the political landscape in each of the principals makes this untenable.  Further, if Abbas would come forward and give up on the right of return, Hamas were to be disarmed and demilitarized, Jerusalem recognized as the capital of Israel, and land swaps favoring Israel, then I too would urge our president to recognize statehood.
Alas, it is the Middle East, where an Arab Spring will lead to a long winter.

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