Palestinian statehood: An idea whose time has passed
J Street is worried. It sees its cherished dream of a Palestinian state slipping away.
J Street recently sent a letter to its supporters in which it complained that the Republican Party left Palestinian statehood out of its platform this year, and that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee reportedly left the issue out of a talking points sheet that it recently distributed.
Here’s another reason for J Street to worry. Speaking Dec. 4 at the Jewish Media Summit in Jerusalem, Knesset Member Michael Oren said that the election of Donald Trump “spells the end of the two-state solution.” Oren is not some extremist. He is the widely respected former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., a representative of the moderate Kulanu Party, and himself a supporter of Palestinian statehood (with certain limitations).
It’s time to read the writing on the wall: Palestinian statehood is an idea whose time has passed.
It’s not as if creating a Palestinian state is some kind of cherished principle that has been recognized and supported by everybody since time immemorial. In fact, it’s a very recent proposal, and has always been fraught with problems.
There have been 12 American presidents since 1948. Only two (George W. Bush and Barack Obama) advocated creating a Palestinian state. Official U.S. policy has favored Palestinian statehood during only 16 of the 68 years since Israel was founded.
I’m not including those who advocated Palestinian statehood after they left office, namely Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. When presidents are in office, they need to deal with the real world, which is why a cockamamie idea like creating a Palestinian state has never come to fruition. Once presidents no longer have to deal with real-world consequences, they feel free to advocate any irresponsible policy that suits their post-presidential convenience.
There have been 12 different Israeli prime ministers since the Jewish state was established in 1948. Only two of them (Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert) advocated creating a Palestinian state. I’m not including Benjamin Netanyahu, because his concept of a fully demilitarized “Palestine” that accepts Israel as a Jewish state is so far removed from what the Palestinians and their supporters demand that his position is really only hypothetical.
There have always been two arguments in favor of creating a Palestinian state. Neither of them has withstood the test of time.
The first was that Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Arabs had given up their goal of destroying Israel and had forsaken terrorism. According to this argument, they had changed their ways, so they could be trusted with their own state in Israel’s backyard.
This argument faced two major tests, and failed both times. President George H.W. Bush accepted this argument shortly after his election in 1988, and recognized Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Eighteen months later, when a major PLO faction tried to attack Israeli beachgoers in Tel Aviv and the nearby U.S. embassy, Bush realized he had been wrong and ended his relationship with Arafat. Then the U.S. recognized Arafat and the PLO a second time, after the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993. That blew up when Arafat tried to smuggle 50 tons of weapons into Gaza on the motor vessel Karine A in 2002.
The second argument for a Palestinian state was what became known as the “demographic time bomb” — the allegation that because of the high Arab birthrate, Israel will need to agree to a Palestinian state or it will become an apartheid-like ruler over the Palestinians. Yitzhak Rabin resolved that problem. In 1995, he withdrew Israel’s forces from the cities where 98 percent of the Palestinians reside. Now, they are residents of the Palestinian Authority, and they vote in Palestinian elections. They will never be Israeli citizens, will never vote in Israeli elections and will never threaten Israel’s Jewish demographic majority.
So Arafat settled the first debate. And Rabin settled the second debate. The debates are over. It is now plain as day that the Palestinians have not given up terrorism or forsaken their goal of destroying Israel, and would use a Palestinian state to advance that goal.
There may be no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in our generation; not all international conflicts have solutions. One thing has now become clear: A Palestinian state next to Israel is not the solution.
Stephen M. Flatow, a New Jersey attorney, is vice president of the Religious Zionists of America and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered by Palestinian terrorists in 1995.