Latest update: January 10th, 2013
Today, conventional wisdom maintains that the George W. Bush administration had been a good friend to Israel and, unlike the Obama administration, had fought mightily against the creation of a Palestinian state. With this “wisdom” in mind, I ask readers to consider the following column of mine that originally appeared in The Jewish Press in August 2007.
The more things change, the more they remain the same. In Washington, the president and his secretary of state [George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice] have recently reinvigorated their incomprehensible “Road Map/Quartet” call for a Palestinian state. Such a polarized political entity would be manifestly unstable and viscerally anti-American, but our leaders persist in fashioning a Middle East foreign policy that indefatigably patronizes itself.
Don’t these leaders realize that this 23rd Arab state would unhesitatingly allow its territory to become a base of operations for al Qaeda and kindred jihadist groups? Aren’t they at all apprehensive that unconventional weapons fabricated in “Palestine” would eventually find their way not only to Tel Aviv, but also to Washington, Los Angeles and New York? Even a cursory glance at the official maps of the Palestinian National Authority would reveal the futility of any proposed “two state solution.”
On these maps, a cartographic rendering of the 1974 “Phased Plan” codified in Cairo, Israel simply does not exist. Is anyone looking?
President Bush and Secretary Rice would be well advised to consider the valuable insights of Zalman Shoval. Already back on February 14, 2006, in an opinion column for The Jerusalem Post (“Put Palestinian Statehood on Hold”), Israel’s former two-term ambassador to the United States argued unassailably that a Palestinian state remains contrary to “Israel’s supreme interest.” Because of the then-recent Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections, he pointed out, Israel had a timely and unique opportunity to make this clear and compelling. After all, said Ambassador Shoval, “Hamas’s very raison d’etre is the destruction of Israel, replacing it with an Islamic state reaching from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, and beyond.”
Then, as now, the Palestinian authorities, busily engaged in internecine slaughter whenever they were not firing rockets at Israeli civilians, could make no authentic claims for peace. We still should not reasonably expect Israel to be complicit in its own Palestinian-planned annihilation.
Both legally and factually, the distinguished Israeli diplomat was (and still is) on the mark. In the best of all possible worlds, Shoval’s wisdom would already have been heeded. In the best of all possible worlds, the so-called Quartet – not just the United States – would already have taken seriously its own unambiguous and codified conditions for Palestinian statehood.
But national leaders, lest we forget, are generally politicians, not logicians, and even the reign of Hamas seems to have had little effect on the global momentum for a two-state solution. Lest anyone think that joint U.S.-Israeli support for Fatah against Hamas now represents a more prudent path to a stable and productive Palestinian state, a path that circumvents Hamas terrorism, incontestable facts would suggest otherwise. In essence, Fatah and Hamas are two sides of the same coin. Before anything more positive could emerge from a Fatah-led “Palestine,” a gravedigger would have to wield the forceps.
There are substantial ironies to the present situation. Assorted governments of Israel are hardly blameless. For the most part, from the Oslo Agreements to the present policy expressions of a Middle East “peace process,” the plausibility and legitimacy of a Palestinian state have often been encouraged, more or less, by Jerusalem. From Rabin to Olmert, self-delusion about Palestinian “moderation” has played a large part in sustaining Washington’s foolish mantra about statehood.
For Bush, Rice and Olmert to change course now, however imperative, will be problematic. First, Israel’s narrowly technical legal objections will have absolutely no effect on Palestinian intentions, or even on worldwide sympathies for a Palestinian state. Second, and somewhat less obviously, Israel’s formal legal objections will be countered easily at the technical jurisprudential level.
The first problem with Israel’s perfectly valid denial of the Palestinian “right” to declare a state needs little discussion. As was the case before Hamas’s electoral victory and before the slide of Fatah and Hamas into open warfare, the entire Palestinian side is firmly and irreversibly committed to sovereignty and independence. In this commitment it will not be influenced by anything Israel might offer in the way of objections.
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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