Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Declaration of a Palestinian state - why is this good for Israel?

The wheels keep spinning towards the end of September, when the UN is expected to vote in favor of a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders. Our government struggles to prevent it, and keeps telling us why such a decision at this time would be bad for us Israelis. Well, I would like to remind us all why this could actually be good for us.

Yes, a Palestinian declaration of independence will cause some problems, but nothing we can't handle. On the other hand, it will have some favorable consequences, which in my opinion far outweigh the unfavorable ones. Here are some of these consequences:

1. Legitimacy for the Palestinians government as the representative of the Palestinian people: one of the biggest problems of the peace process was that we were talking with a body whose legal legitimacy to hold these talks was not at all clear. Say we succeeded in reaching an agreement with Abu Mazen's PA, and withdrawn from the West Bank in exchange for peace. Immediately, this agreement would have been opposed by the fundamentalists, by many of the refugees and by some Israeli-Palestinians, who would have claimed that the PA had no right to sign a deal in their name, and therefore they are continuing the armed struggle. Naturally, this would have immediately been backed by many Western leftist intellectuals, who would have made the legal case for them, claiming that the PA is actually a "puppet regime" formed under Israeli occupation, in an elections that did not involve the refugees or the Israeli-Palestinians, an election it didn't even win. We would have found ourselves in the same war situation, without any territorial assets to bargain with, and with the enemy sitting on the hills overlooking Tel Aviv and almost every other major Israeli city.

On the other hand, global recognition in Abu Mazen's government as the official representative of the Palestinian people will give it the legitimacy it needs. By the time the terms for a final peace deal finally materialize, ten, twenty years from now, there will be no legal grounds to contest it.

2. Strengthening of the two states solution: one of the biggest threats to Israel is the attempt to delegitimize it as the state of the Jewish people. This attempt is driven by a coalition of Arab imperialists, Western leftists and neo-Nazis, and it is gathering strength around the globe. The current Palestinian move, creating a state living side-by-side with Israel, will pull the rug under this coalition's feet. That is why Hamas, for instance, is so displeased with the move.

3. Strengthening the 1967 borders: the legal right of Israel over the lands inside the 1967 borders is not uncontested, a fact we tend to forget because we are so busy arguing about the lands outside them. One of the threats we deal with is the PLO's infamous "stages plan", which is to destroy Israel by gradually peeling it of its territories. According to this plan, once they take over the West Bank, they will immediately start demanding territories inside Israel as well, a demand which will of course be backed by many Western leftists. But the current move sees the Palestinians announcing the borders of their state to be the 1967 borders, and the fact that it happens while Israel is still an occupying force in the West Bank will compel the Palestinians to struggle for years to get it out of there, all the while committing themselves further and further to the 67 borders, to the point where the "stages plan" will become obsolete.

4. Weakening the refugee problem: and of course, the biggest threat to Israel's future is the refugee issue. A Palestinian state will provide a homeland to these refugees, and they will no longer be considered stateless. The Palestinians will of course claim that this is not a just solution, and these refugees deserve to return to the exact plots of land they once lived in, but most of the international community will have no patience for this argument. Do you really think the Arab states will be willing to keep hosting millions of refugees for decades to come, when they have a country to go to? The refugees will start migrating to Palestine and building a life, and the refugee problem will eventually become manageable.

For these reasons, and several lesser ones, I hope the Palestinians go for it, declare sovereignty, and get the world's recognition. The positives I counted are far greater than any negatives. As for the question whether Israel itself should immediately recognize the Palestinian state, that depends on the nature of the new state (for instance: will Palestine recognize Israel?). But that's for another post.