Why there is no Palestinian State today...
by Maurice Lavian March 2007
The Palestinians were first offered statehood in the 30's. The Peel Commission, which was set up by the British following the 1936 Arab revolt, recommended a partition plan for a Jewish and Arab state. The Jewish state was to be only the fraction of the size that would later be offered to the Jews in 1947 and the Arab state much bigger than what would later be offered in 1947, and probably the best deal the Arabs on that land were ever going to get.
The Zionist leadership, although disapointed at the small portion of land, reluctantly accepted the plan, and effectively accepted the Arabs owning the large majority of Palestine. The Arabs, however, unequivocally rejected this plan even though it would have created an enormous Arab state.
Shortly after World War 2, the U.N. passed Resolution 181, which was a legally binding partition that called for the creation of a Jewish and Arab state in Palestine. Under the partition the Jews were given 55% of Palestine, a much bigger portion than what was offered to them by the Peel Commission, and the Arabs were given 45% of Palestine which, although was still a significant portion of the land, was much less than they could have gotten had they accepted the Peel Commission's partition.
The Zionist leadership accepted this partition (effectively recognizing the right of an Arab Palestinian state to exist on the other 45% of the land) and, like 10 years earlier, the Arabs flatly rejected the partition that was intended to create their own state, and launched a full-scale war against Israel with the hope of conquering all of Palestine.
60 years and 3 generations later, this hope of the Palestinians to destroy Israel is still alive and well. Some have argued that Israel's occupation and illegal settlement activity are the #1 sources of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. This is incorrect. The Palestinians' continous refusal to recognize Israel for 3 long generations pre-dates the occupation and settlements. But, to be fair to the Palestinians, the Zionist leadership wanted, and still wants, all of Palestine for themselves as an exclusively Jewish state. However, there is one fundamental difference between Israel and the Palestinians: the majority of Israelis have realized and accepted that the 3.9 million Palestinians living on that land are not going anywhere and will eventually have to be accepted as permanent neighbors. The official policy of the Israeli government under Rabin, Barak, Sharon, and Olmert is to give land and dismantle settlements in return for peace and recognition from the Palestinians.
The Palestinians, on the other hand, continue to commit violence with the hope of destroying Israel and conquering "all of Palestine". As long as the Palestinians have this mentality, there cannot possibly be peace no matter how much land Israel withdraws from or how many settlements they dismantle.
In an attempt to sound a little bit more reasonable and civilized, some Palestinians, and other opponents of Israel, have been using different and indirect language to call for Israel's destruction.
Rather than calling for dismantling of Israel, this same idea has been re-worded into what is called the "right of return". The idea of the right of return is to demand that Israel allow the decendants of the 750,000 Palestinians who were displaced in 1948 and their families (which now stands at almost 4 million) back into Israel and give them full compensation for their troubles. Even if only half of these Palestinians returned, it would alter Israel's identity as a Jewish state and effectively create a second Palestinian state. One assumption made under the right of return is that the all the Arabs which lived in Israel proper were forcibly expelled from their homes in 1947 and 48. This is a myth.
While historians know for a fact that a small number of the 750,000 displaced Arabs were forcibily expelled by Zionist militias (a famous example being Deir Yassin), honest and impartial historians also know that a large number of this 750,000 strong population left on their own, either to avoid an upcoming war between the Zionists and the Arabs, or to join the Arabs in the fighting against the newly established state. Even Mahmoud Abbas acknowledges this reality. In 2003 Abbas penned an article from March 1976 in Falastin al-Thawra, the official journal of the PLO in Beirut: "The Arab armies entered Palestine to protect the Palestinians from the Zionist tyranny, but instead they abandoned them, forced them to emigrate and to leave their homeland, imposed upon them a political and ideological blockade and threw them into prisons similar to the ghettos in which the Jews used to live in Eastern Europe".
In addition, Palestinian journalist, Mahmud Al-Habbash, who writes for the official Palestinian Authority newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, explicitly states in his column, "The Pulse of Life", that local Arab leaders instructed Arab residents to leave their homes in 1948. "...The leaders and the elites promised us at the beginning of the 'Catastrophe' in 1948, that the duration of the exile will not be long, and that it will not last more than a few days or months, and afterwards the refugees will return to their homes, which most of them did not leave only until they put their trust in those 'Arkuvian' [false] promises made by the leaders and the political elites. Afterwards, days passed, months, years and decades, and the promises were lost with the strain of the succession of events..." Mahmud then went on to say that Arab leaders used intimidation tactics to ensure that the Arab residents left their homes.
A British police memo from 1948 acknowledges that local Jews made every attempt to encourage the Arab residents to stay (although there is no doubt that a good number of Jews were thrilled to see the Arabs leave). At the end of the 1948 war, Israel refused to allow the displaced Arabs back into the country and accused them of treason for leaving their homes and in some cases fighting with the Arab armies.The Palestinians use U.N. Resolution 194 as their basis for demanding "the right of return". Article 11 of resolution 194 states: the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date... First of all, resolution 194 was a non-binding resolution and therefore is not international law. Second, can anyone honestly claim that the same Palestinians which continuously launch mortars into civilian areas, or send suicide bombers into to blow up civilians, really want to live peace with those people?
Until the Palestinians fully and unconditionally recognize Israel's right to exist, they should not even mention U.N. resolution 194. Aside from the fact that resolution 194 is completely impractical after 60 years, a major problem for Israel is that it does not address the issue of the 800,000 Jews who were displaced from Arab countries and Arab-controlled Palestine in 1948. Unlike the Arabs of Palestine, the Jews were really forcibily expelled. If Israel had not accepted these Jews with open arms, they would have been refugees as well. Yet these Jews who lost everything from their home countries never received any type of compensation. The Israelis can't be blamed for deeming the right of return to be unreasonable.
During the period of the Oslo Peace Accords, Arafat and other political leaders have publicly recognized Israel's right to exist (at least to the western media). However, the actions of the Palestinian leadership have proved otherwise. As soon as Arafat would be done preaching peace to the Western media, he would turn around to the Arabic media and begin saying completely different things. In 1996 Arafat was famously quoted "We know only one word - jihad. jihad, jihad, jihad. Whoever does not like it can drink from the Dead Sea or from the Sea of Gaza" (Yediot Ahronot, October 23, 1996). Arafat did very little to stop terrorism against Israel during this time period.
So to use Arafat's speeches or writings (such as "Vision for Peace") as a basis for claiming that the PA or PLO did recognize Israel during Oslo (or any other time), is inaccurate.The history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is very complicated, and both sides can be faulted for the continuing violence and lack of peace in the region. However, it is possible for one side to be more guilty than the other. In this case, the Palestinians are clearly more guilty than the Israelis. Israel can be blamed for continuing its illegal settlement activity on what is supposed to be Palestinian land, and for their, at times, excessive use of force during military operations. But this unacceptable behavior does not excuse the Palestinians' refusal to recognize Israel. By not recognizing Israel, the Palestinians are effectively rejecting U.N. resolution 181 which is the same resolution which is supposed to create their own state.
If the Palestinians had only recognized Israel to begin with, Israel would have ended their occupation of Gaza and the West Bank as soon as Egypt and Jordan made peace with them. Israel is still willing to end its occupation and settlement activity in most of the West Bank in return for peace and recognition from the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors. While suicide bombings and terrorism are deplorable, these are also secondary problems. If the Palestinian people and leadership would recognize Israel, Israel would be willing to make a number of concessions which would bolster the Palestinian leadership and allow them to crack down on the terrorists.
Therefore, it can easily be seen that the number 1 source of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is the consistant refusal of the Palestinians to genuinely recognize Israel's right to exist. Until they do so, dismantling settlements and ending the occupation will do nothing to promote peace, and the Israelis and Palestinians will remain in a stalemate forever which will not allow the Israelis to have peace and security or the Palestinians to have their own sovereign state. There is no way to end the Israeli/Palestinian conflict without the full and unconditional recognition of Israel.