Commentary Magazine


Topic: Saleem Fayad

Disarming Unilateralism

Palestinian hopes for a unilaterally declared state suffered another setback today as the EU announced it would not recognize such a move. This comes on the heels of a similar declaration by the U.S. Both cited their commitment to a “negotiated” solution between Israel and the Palestinians. This followed an unequivocal statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that “there is no substitute for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and any unilateral path will only unravel the framework of agreements between us and will only bring unilateral steps from Israel’s side.”

The whole bit about waiting for a negotiated settlement rings a little hollow, of course. Many of the world’s most successful countries achieved internationally recognized independence without the benefit of a negotiated agreement between conflicted parties, the United States and Israel being two obvious cases. If Palestinian national aspirations were so legitimate and a two-state solution the only answer, why wouldn’t the great powers recognize this much? And in such a scenario, what unilateral retaliation could Israel reasonably get away with?

Rather, the real problem with Palestinian independence — the elephant in the room, if you will — is that there is no viable Palestinian regime that can claim to run a sovereign country. Right now, the Palestinian territories are divided, ruled by two different Palestinian regimes. The one in Gaza is led by an internationally recognized terror organization supported by Iran and dedicated to war against Israel and violent conflict with the West. The other, in the West Bank, is led by a revolutionary-style regime that is deeply corrupt and still fosters and harbors terrorist groups like the Fatah-Tanzim, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad. Efforts to negotiate a unification between the two sides have consistently failed, and one gets the sense that the only thing preventing an all-out civil war between Hamas and Fatah is the sliver of land that divides them (Israel, that is).

So the problem, it seems, is not between Israel and the Palestinians so much as among the Palestinians themselves. That this is the real trouble seems to be hinted at by none other than the Palestinian prime minister, Saleem Fayad. According to Fayad, a declaration of independence is really just a “formality” — or at least, it will be, once the institutions of statehood are established. It is not too hard to glean from Fayad’s statement, however, the hidden assumption that such institutions are not yet in place and may not be for the foreseeable future.

One wonders what would happen if the Palestinians really were to replicate the Zionist movement’s means of establishing a homeland: to build systems of government aimed at improving the Palestinians’ lives rather than channeling them toward endless conflict; to build an economy that emphasizes good business rather than corruption; to craft an educational system and public culture that fosters a positive, life-affirming vision of Palestinian identity and coexistence with Israelis rather than one built entirely on “resistance” to the “occupation.” If that were to happen, wouldn’t Israeli and world leaders have a much harder time denying Palestinian statehood? On the other hand, would they even want to? Should they?

Palestinian hopes for a unilaterally declared state suffered another setback today as the EU announced it would not recognize such a move. This comes on the heels of a similar declaration by the U.S. Both cited their commitment to a “negotiated” solution between Israel and the Palestinians. This followed an unequivocal statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that “there is no substitute for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and any unilateral path will only unravel the framework of agreements between us and will only bring unilateral steps from Israel’s side.”

The whole bit about waiting for a negotiated settlement rings a little hollow, of course. Many of the world’s most successful countries achieved internationally recognized independence without the benefit of a negotiated agreement between conflicted parties, the United States and Israel being two obvious cases. If Palestinian national aspirations were so legitimate and a two-state solution the only answer, why wouldn’t the great powers recognize this much? And in such a scenario, what unilateral retaliation could Israel reasonably get away with?

Rather, the real problem with Palestinian independence — the elephant in the room, if you will — is that there is no viable Palestinian regime that can claim to run a sovereign country. Right now, the Palestinian territories are divided, ruled by two different Palestinian regimes. The one in Gaza is led by an internationally recognized terror organization supported by Iran and dedicated to war against Israel and violent conflict with the West. The other, in the West Bank, is led by a revolutionary-style regime that is deeply corrupt and still fosters and harbors terrorist groups like the Fatah-Tanzim, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad. Efforts to negotiate a unification between the two sides have consistently failed, and one gets the sense that the only thing preventing an all-out civil war between Hamas and Fatah is the sliver of land that divides them (Israel, that is).

So the problem, it seems, is not between Israel and the Palestinians so much as among the Palestinians themselves. That this is the real trouble seems to be hinted at by none other than the Palestinian prime minister, Saleem Fayad. According to Fayad, a declaration of independence is really just a “formality” — or at least, it will be, once the institutions of statehood are established. It is not too hard to glean from Fayad’s statement, however, the hidden assumption that such institutions are not yet in place and may not be for the foreseeable future.

One wonders what would happen if the Palestinians really were to replicate the Zionist movement’s means of establishing a homeland: to build systems of government aimed at improving the Palestinians’ lives rather than channeling them toward endless conflict; to build an economy that emphasizes good business rather than corruption; to craft an educational system and public culture that fosters a positive, life-affirming vision of Palestinian identity and coexistence with Israelis rather than one built entirely on “resistance” to the “occupation.” If that were to happen, wouldn’t Israeli and world leaders have a much harder time denying Palestinian statehood? On the other hand, would they even want to? Should they?

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