The long conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis has not been devoid of amusing moments. One of these happened last week, when the top Palestinian negotiator, Ahmed Qurei, threatened that if Israel does not accede to all the Palestinian demands regarding borders and refugees, then “we might demand Israeli citizenship.” He meant that the Palestinians would drop the entire concept of an independent Palestinian state and instead push for a complete merger with Israel, creating a binational state.
This is truly weird. Right now the only people who actually favor dissolving the Jewish state in favor of a binational one are a small number of Western intellectuals who are so comfortably disconnected from the realities of both Israel and the Palestinians as to make the idea sound vaguely plausible — as if West Viriginia and Virginia just needed to patch up old conflicts and reunite. But for the sake of the argument, let’s just take a moment to think about the actual implications of Qurei’s threat.
1. If the Palestinians were to drop their demands of statehood, it would suggest that their entire movement was never really dedicated to independence (as they claimed) but to destroying Israel (as the Israelis claimed). True independence movements do not flip-flop on the question of independence, and suddenly desire to be fully integrated into the occupying, oppressor state. Only if they believe that the best way to defeat Israel is to take it over from the inside — with long-term demographics leading to a long-term electoral advantage, presumably — could they consid er accepting israeli citizenship.
2. Such a change of heart on the part of the Palestinians would devastate their international standing. It is one thing to model yoursleves as freedom fighters struggling for independence, and quite another to try and convince the world that somebody must give them citizenship. The precedent alone would be enough to convince most states that the Palestinian demands are best being ignored.
3. There is probably nothing that could more successfully unite the Israeli public against the Palestinians than the demand for a binational state. Most Israelis now support a two-state solution not so much out of guilt as out of disgust — a culture that teaches its children to blow themselves up in cafes rather than to earn an honest living is something Israelis want nothing to do with. Israelis are torn about the land-for-peace issues. But they will never consider giving citizenship to the Palestinians. This is not an ethnic issue, but a cultural and moral one.
4. There is nothing more legitimizing to the state of Israel than the request for citizenship — even if you believe Israel should be a secular, non-Jewish democracy. The very mention of asking for citizenship undermines sixty years of carping about the “Zionist entity” and refusing to race swimmers in the Olympics. If I were an Iranian leader right now, I’d be pretty peeved.
The Palestinians have done a great deal to convince the Western powers that giving them a state would be a bad idea. A successful struggle for independence begins with convincing the world that you not only “deserve” it, but can handle it. To present the world, as the Palestinians have done, with a unique combination of extreme corruption and religious fanaticism, both encouraging not merely violence against enemy but against oneself, is to make the worst possible case for statehood. And to entertain the thought that the principal victim of your atrocities will then wel come you to be fellow-citizens — well, this just makes a mockery of all the suffering the Palestinans have both endured and inflicted.