THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME, OR BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR: Will a Palestinian state actually serve U.S. interests? It seems to me that the assumptions to that effect fall away if you think things through about how things will occur in the real world, as opposed to the fantasy world of a campus protest rally or a U.N. conference. Here’s why:
1) How will a Palestinian state come about?
Massive U.S. intervention and sponsorship. The intifada of the last two years has destroyed any trust between the two sides, and the reversion of the Europeans and the U.N. to their conventional role as abettors of genocide has ruined their chances of playing any constructive role (other than staying in Israeli hotels, as the tourism industry has collapsed). The new Palestinian state will be labeled “Made in the U.S.A.”
2) Will the Palestinians get everything they want in their state?
Given that polls suggest that they want the elimination of Israel, not likely. Even under their stated goals of 100% of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, any Palestinian state likely to come into being in the next few years would involve some or all of the following:
A) Israeli annexation of some of the larger settlements close to the Green Line (if you think Ma’ale Adumim or Efrat are going to be dismantled, think again) – thus, less than 100% of the West Bank being given to the Palestinians;
B) An extremely minimal “right of return,” if any, that leaves Arafat in the position of having to tell the refugees “no, you can’t go back to the house in Jaffa which you fled over 50 years ago.”;
C) Official demilitarization (which will be flouted, but that’s another issue), lack of power over airspace, and other such limitations on what most nations rightfully consider perks of statehood.
Also, the new state is likely to be an economic basket case for a while after its formation (especially if Arafat and his Merry Kleptomaniacs are in a position to access any of the international aid money). Its proximity to and economic dependence on Israel, and the fact that Palestinians have a reputation as being among the most entrepreneurial of the Arab peoples, would bode well for its economic well-being in the future, there is no question that it will take a while for the state to be economically viable.
3) How will the Palestinians rationalize the fact that their state does not match their expectations (fantasies)?
Presumably – and likely stoked by Arafat, if he is still in charge, as a defense against charges of “sellout” – by focusing on what they did not get and resolving not to forget about it, that such things will be gotten in the future. The Palestinians have shown that they can remember with the best of them.
In a typical negotiation, having one side say “we’ll get’em next time” might be encouraged as a way to get that side to agree to an imperfect deal this time. That is because in a typical situation, that party will usually either (a) try to win the points “next time” in a semi-respectable fashion, or (b) the immediacy of the unmet concerns will dissipate as the party focuses on dealing with what was achieved. Will either be true in this case?
4) What will be the result of that rationalization?
Two complementary results:
A) The Palestinians will be mightily disappointed, and will blame those they deem responsible.
B) Since they got what they did get after a two-year orgy of murder – the Hizbullah-in-Lebanon strategy having worked again – they will be sorely tempted to think that pushing further will yield the rest of what they want.
The Palestinians could focus on trying to make their situation better. Or they can focus on blaming the parties they deem responsible for taking away their dreams. Undoubtedly there will be some of the former, but there is 50 years’ worth of precedent that says an awful lot of energy will be focused on the latter.
According to Michael Isikoff in Newsweek (to which I can no longer find a link), supposedly Bill Clinton’s Camp David proposals included a requirement for all parties to declare that the settlement was a final resolution of all their disputes, and that neither party had any remaining claims. (The idea was also pushed by Charles Krauthammer at the time.) Clinton understood that if the Palestinians were to be allowed to pocket their gains and simultaneously retain claims to whatever they had supposedly “compromised” away, then the settlement would only set the stage for future conflict. Can you see the State Department allowing this future point to get in the way of a deal in the present? I didn’t think so, either.
Aside #1: The tendency to focus on the negative will be amplified by a permutation of what Mickey Kaus has called the “Feiler Faster Thesis” – that the ramifications of news and information get processed much faster today than in less technologically advanced times. In this case, the new Palestine’s failure to immediately thrive economically will be treated as a disaster – even if its growth & development were to be impressive in historical terms, as it may be with its proximity to Israel and all the international aid that will slosh around. Combine that with an inertial media that will be slow to give up reporting stories about the Palestinians’ misery, and you have a recipe for a nascent nation that will continue its habit of accentuating the negative.)
Aside #2: I’m not going to get into the likelihood that the Arab nations will work to undermine the possibility of a thriving Palestinian polity, which is strong – read the chapter of Fouad Ajami’s The Dream Palace of the Arabs titled “The Orphaned Peace” if you don’t believe me; you’ll never look at the “Saudi peace proposal” the same way again.
To recap: The formation of a Palestinian state, in anything resembling the manner which seems most likely at present will mean that U.S. will be seen as responsible for a situation which simultaneously makes the Palestinians feel betrayed and encourages them to hope for getting everything they want if they just push harder.
5) What will be the near-term result of creating a Palestinian state under anything resembling current conditions?
Undoubtedly, the Palestinians will be encouraged to launch more terrorism against Israel. Regardless of how unsympathetic to Israel the State Department seems sometimes, I can’t imagine how even they would deem that situation to serve America’s interests in the region.
More importantly, since (as far as the Palestinians are concerned) the U.S. will have become a “betrayer” of Palestinian interests, and with the efficacy of terrorism having been proven, the Palestinians will also have great incentive to use terrorism directly against America.
In sum: The creation of a Palestinian state under current conditions will lead to increased terrorism – certainly against Israel and quite probably against America.