Yesterday, Jonathan discussed Israeli concerns the Palestinian Authority’s bid for UN recognition as a state in September might spark a third intifada. But while the PA’s indifference to Israel’s fears might be understandable, its blatant disregard of its own people’s concerns ought to trouble the West.
Last week, The Israel Project released further results of its in-depth survey of Palestinian opinion, conducted by American pollster Stanley Greenberg and the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion via face-to-face interviews with 1,010 Palestinians. The poll’s first section, which focused on Palestinians’ long-term goals, found that 66 percent view a two-state solution as a mere stepping-stone to their ultimate goal of Israel’s eradication. The current section, which focused on near-term goals, found that fully 80 percent of Palestinians listed job creation as one of their two top priorities, far outstripping the second-place choice (healthcare, at 36 percent). By contrast, only 4 percent deemed UN recognition of a Palestinian state a top priority, while only 1percent viewed mass protests against Israel as a priority.
But the problem isn’t just that Palestinians don’t view UN recognition as a priority. It’s that the bid for UN recognition directly undermines the goal they do consider top priority: job creation.
First, the statehood bid easily could lead to renewed violence – which would devastate the Palestinian economy just as the second intifada did – because it creates expectations that can’t be met. UN recognition of a Palestinian state won’t bring statehood any closer in practice; Israeli troops and settlements won’t suddenly disappear. The ensuing frustration might well spark renewed Palestinian terror, or else mass protests that could quickly degenerate into violence especially if terrorists utilize their favorite trick of stationing snipers in the crowds to force Israeli soldiers to return fire).
This is especially likely because some Palestinian leaders are irresponsibly calling for precisely that. Just last week, Marwan Barghouti, the Fatah leader who is
widely considered the second intifada’s architect, called for mass protests in September from the Israeli jail where he is serving five life sentences for murder. And Barghouti remains wildly popular among Palestinians: Indeed, polls show he would beat Hamas’s candidate by a larger margin than current PA President Mahmoud Abbas would.
But even if violence doesn’t materialize, Israel will presumably penalize the PA somehow for blatantly violating yet another signed agreement – in this case, the 1995 Interim Agreement, which states that “Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.” And any Israeli response is likely to hurt the PA’s economy: Israel is the PA’s largest trading partner; Israelis employed 11 percent of all working Palestinians last year; and under the very same Oslo Accords that the UN bid violates, Israel collects and transfers up to $1.4 billion a year in taxes for the PA, which comprise two-thirds of the PA budget.
Hence, the PA’s UN bid undermines its own people’s top priority. And that ought to make Western countries think twice about supporting it.