While Eyes Are On Syria, Abbas Wants to Cancel Oslo
Looks like Abbas is scrambling, looking for a way to hang onto the little he has. Apparently, the threatened cancellation of the Oslo Accords is a step toward unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. If, in summer 2014, Egypt considered giving up part of the Sinai to build a large and sustainable Palestine contiguous with Gaza, and if there really are new regional developments, as Netanyahu claims, then the Palestinians may be losing the traction they once had. Quickly, quickly, as the seconds tick down to the gong ending the game, Abbas is trying to sneak in under the line. Perhaps, under cover of the Syrian refugee crisis, he may think he can pull it off.
Declaration of Independence for the State of Palestine would see many Israelis – Arabs and Jews – dancing in the streets for joy (I would NOT be one of them), perhaps setting off fireworks to match the effervescence of their spirits as this newest of nations joins the global community as an equal. Phone lines will be unable to handle the outpouring of jubilation as Arab families on both sides of the border call each other to celebrate. Facebook will virtually light up with ecstasy, I am sure.
Other Israelis, mainly Jews, I suppose, will be in mourning and in fear. A small minority will lament the missed chance for a “Greater Israel” and a large majority will be afraid to fall asleep at night, wondering how our safety will be assured. It is also possible that many Israeli Arabs will be afraid for the same reason as the Jews.
But I’m not sure statehood will turn out as the Palestinian Arabs expect.
First of all, I think the refugee issue will be resolved the instant the “yes” votes exceed the “no” votes in the UN. If there is a nation called Palestine, then the Palestinian refugees are no longer refugees – they will have a place to call home within borders the UN will declare for the new State of Palestine.
What will happen to all those UNWRA has been counting as refugees for decades? Those countries in which the Palestinian “refugees” now reside will be fully within their legal rights to kick them out and into their new sovereign state. If Abbas declines to admit them, it will show up the refugee bluff for what it was all these years, and those poor people used as pawns will be stateless and frozen in the helplessness of decades of mal-intended refugee status. What will they do if they are disowned by the very PLO that was supposed to protect their rights? Will we see a bloody “Palestinian” civil war to match that in Syria?
What about the Jewish settlers in the West Bank? Will Abbas welcome them as citizens of the new nation? Not much chance of that. Alternatively, will the border be drawn around the settlements leaving them in Israel, or will these Jews be forced out and sent packing back to within pre-1967 lines, the settlements destroyed? I suppose the latter alternative is more likely. And Israel’s voice will not be heard as the UN will set the borders with Abbas.
Israel will, of course, resettle the Jews (more successfully, I hope than we resettled those we pulled out of Gaza). Nobody in the world will shed a tear over ethnic cleansing when it is Jews who are being got rid of. After all, they will all say it is our own fault. And the likes of Amira Hass will agree that Judenrein is reasonable in order for the Palestinians to feel safe in their own country.
We can handle it. And we will be ready to rush in to rescue those die-hard Jews who will most surely refuse to leave the land of our forefathers even though their lives will be in danger.
Secondly, a unilateral declaration means that Israel will not have to make any accommodations for the passage of people or goods between the West Bank and Gaza, the shortest distance between the two being about 30-40 kilometers. You cannot force an independent country, in this case Israel, to allow other nationals to use its roads. This will leave the two parts of the same country on either side of Israel, with no contiguous territory. A very strange country indeed!
Thirdly, the Palestinian State will have to take responsibility for health, welfare and employment (no more Jewish factories providing good paying jobs) for all its citizens. Power plants and water will be the responsibility of the Palestinian government. Israel will be fully within its rights to cease delivery of electricity if bills are not paid. To date, Israel provides 90% and 75% of the electricity in the West Bank and Gaza, respectively; the current debt stands at half a billion dollars. There will be less forgiveness of debt for a sovereign state than for an entity in disputed territories.
Fourthly, as the UN will surely not insist on demilitarizing the new nation, we would see the emergence of a Palestinian Armed Forces, something that may not work in Palestine’s favour. While this will cause Israelis to lose many a night’s sleep, the rules of engagement will be different from that with which we are currently familiar: when the world considers you an occupying force, you are more restricted in your ability to frankly defend yourself against attack than when you are threatened by a foreign sovereign state. And it is most likely that actual attack on Israel will not be far behind a declaration of independence. Palestinians beware!
If the UN declares an independent Palestinian state,
All eyes will be on this new developing nation. If a Palestinian state serves as a launching pad for continued terror attacks upon Israel or open war, then, as a sovereign nation, it will have to pay the price of Israeli defensive action. In response to missiles from Gaza, Israel has not done the damage that it could and has not sought to recapture land it vacated in the hopes of peace. If a Palestinian State attacks Israel, there is no guarantee that there will not be a redrawing of international boundaries in a way that other countries will have no recourse other than to see as legitimate according to the laws of warfare.
If Palestine does not attack us but descends into the chaos we find in other parts of our neighbourhood, then of course the world (and our own loving leftists) will blame us for having destroyed the potential of Palestine by having “occupied” it for so long. Always nice to have someone to blame if things don’t work out for you. That way you don’t need to grow up and take responsibility for your actions. And we will go about continuing to develop OUR nation.
If, on the other hand, the Arabs suddenly have a change of heart and devote their energies to building a successful enterprising nation (as I hope they would), well, maybe then we will see “The Fertile Triangle” bloom in all its glory. And if that were to happen, even though I am not a proponent of the two-state solution as it currently stands, I would be willing to say I was wrong.
Image Credit: By U.S. Department of State [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
An earlier version of this post appeared in The Times of Israel.