As the wave of Arab popular protests swept through the Middle East, we heard the disingenuous calls for the Arab Spring to “come to Israel”—as if the Palestinians in Gaza weren’t being ruled by a murderous Palestinian theocracy and those in the West Bank by the corrupt authoritarian Mahmoud Abbas.
But it seems the Palestinians—especially the youth—were unmoved by the anti-Israel incitement and instead have begun to lash out at the stifling and discriminatory state they would be handed over to if Palestinian national independence were fully realized.
Writing at ForeignPolicy.com, Rachel Shabi tries to put as much of the blame on Israel as possible, but she has exposed a central flaw in the drive to create a Palestinian state: There is almost no support among the younger generations of Palestinians for the United States to enable the creation of a Mubarak-like dictatorship in the West Bank and Gaza.
“We see that a dictatorship of over 30 years was gone in two weeks. So why not for Palestinians?” Diana Alzeer, a 23-year-old activist from Ramallah, told Shabi. And Lina, a 27-year-old Jerusalem Arab woman, notices the rights that Israeli women have, and doesn’t think it should be any different for Palestinian women. “It is about complete, dynamic change, rather than the same people running the system,” Lina said. “This is not about territory any more, but about rights—and the same rights for women.”
And what do these young activists think of their leadership’s threat to unilaterally declare statehood via the UN? “If there is a huge fuss and a declaration of statehood, a lot of Palestinians will say it is a big joke and that we are sick of people playing with our destiny,” says Fadi Quran.
This presents President Obama with yet another challenge to his foreign policy. He has inconsistently and cynically supported democracy for some Arabs and not for others. Where do the Palestinians fall? Do they deserve human rights? If so, establishing a state under the current Palestinian Authority, without serious reform, should be off the table.
This also supports Benjamin Netanyahu’s hesitant approach to striking a deal with Abbas. If Mubarak’s fall has taught the Israelis anything, it is that they cannot sign a deal, opposed by the people, with a dictator who is here today but may be gone tomorrow.
So the question remains: Will Obama force an authoritarian state on a freedom-minded Palestinian people?