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Fundamental Errors In U.S. Middle East Policy The (Still) Multiple Dangers Of ‘Palestine’


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One must wonder: Is current U.S. policy on the “Road Map” merely the result of a foolish consistency, or is something much more sinister going on? After all, President Bush and Secretary of State Rice remain determined to birth a viable Palestinian state, one that would be part of an altogether mythical “two-state solution.” The official maps of the Palestinian National Authority (an “Authority” currently with no proper electoral basis and no clearly fixed territory) still include Israel only as a part of Palestine. This illegal inclusion refers to all of Israel proper – not merely to Judea, Samaria (West Bank) and Gaza.

The Road Map detours from peace do not end with a devious cartography. Absolutely everything about the Palestinian National Authority, including its president, is a transparent legal fiction. What is certainly not fictive is the irreconcilable and bloody division between warring Palestinian factions, and the unquestionable commitment of all these factions to Israel’s complete demolition.

Each and every competing Palestinian branch remains loyal to a codified strategy for “the liberation of all Palestinian territory.” This “Phased Plan” was formally adopted by the Palestinian National Council in Cairo in June 1974. Also incontestable is the idea that any Palestinian state, no matter what Washington promises, would be hospitable to penetration by and interaction with assorted Jihadist terror groups, including al-Qaeda. A new state of “Palestine” controlled by Hamas and/or Islamic Jihad would, of course, be especially vulnerable.

Ironically, by every conceivable measure, a Palestinian state would be contrary to the overriding security interests of the United States and its allies. Most perilous of all would be the inevitable competition for control of such a fragile and anarchic state by the various Sunni Arab regimes now being armed by Washington, and by Shiite Iran, now being armed by Russia. A Palestinian state carved from the still-living body of Israel would most plainly endanger the Jewish State, creating new opportunities for both conventional and unconventional acts of aggression. Regarding the latter, some of my earlier columns in The Jewish Press have systematically explored the ominous and plausible linkages between a Palestinian state and regional nuclear war.

Major wars could be launched against Israel by enemy states directly, or by proxies from both Lebanon and Gaza. In either case, the attackers might assume the posture of suicide bombers, thus immobilizing the normal security bases of rationality and deterrence. Under even the most optimistic assumptions, therefore, a Palestinian state – any Palestinian state – would spawn an increasingly unstable balance of power in the region.

From the standpoint of sensible American geopolitics, a Palestinian state would seriously undermine our national interests. Significantly, such a state would also have no proper authority under international law. This 23rd Arab country could not even satisfy the minimal expectations of statehood. Our leaders should recall that every state must satisfy four explicit requirements of the 1934 Montevideo Convention: 1. a permanent population; 2. a defined territory; 3. a government and 4. the capacity to enter into relations with other states. Although the PA could actually satisfy none of these formal criteria, it will surely argue otherwise, citing smugly to certain allegedly fundamental and immutable rights of “self‑determination” and “national liberation.”

For better or for worse, the right of statehood under international law is not contingent upon goodness. Whether we like it or not, there are no moral or ethical considerations that must ever be taken into account in the granting of sovereignty. This means that the openly declared and indisputable Palestinian goal of Israel’s forcible destruction will have absolutely no legal bearing on creating a Palestinian state. Nor will the unending and general Palestinian acceptance of terrorism against Israel affect US-supported declarations of sovereignty. International law does not insist upon any standard of decency for aspiring states, not even the most rudimentary rejection of intended crimes against humanity.

Jurisprudentially, all that ever matters in establishing statehood are certain identifiable demographic, geographic and political facts. It is these particular facts on the ground, defined at the Montevideo Convention – not the vile and far-reaching Palestinian indifference to civilized rules of engagement – that would now make any Palestinian declaration of statehood illegal. While President Bush and Secretary Rice would like to hide these facts, there is nothing they can do to correctly override the obvious expectations of international law.

As Americans, we should note some special imperatives. International law is an integral part of the law of the United States. According to Article VI of the Constitution, which incorporates treaties into our own law, these expectations are always nothing less than “the supreme law of the land.”

A Palestinian state remains fully contrary to our national strategic interest, and to the binding claims of both national and international law. It should not be supported by President Bush and Secretary Rice on the basis of faulty strategic logic or shortsighted domestic politics. Is anyone listening?

Copyright © The Jewish Press, November 16, 2007. All rights reserved.

LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is a long-time expert in international relations and international law. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, and the author of ten major books and several hundred journal articles in the field.

About the Author: Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is professor of political science and international law at Purdue University and the author of many books and articles dealing with international relations and strategic studies.


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