Map of Middle East.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Middle East is in flames and the world community is still clinging to the theory that when a Palestinian state arises, peace will descend upon the region.
Worse, Israel and Israel alone, is blamed for preventing such a happy turn of events. After all, it is easier to apply pressure on the one Jewish state – even if it is a democracy – than on the 22 Arab states sharing the same religion – a religion perceived as a direct threat to the West.
One wonders all the same whether the European Union and the United States, for instance, are aware of the root of the problem and the dire consequences of the creation of a Palestinian state. It may come as a surprise, but never in history has there been a Palestinian state. Through Ottoman rule, Arab tribes, Christians of many denominations and Jews and Kurds, the vast empire of the Middle East, even divided into administrative subdivisions, never bore a state with the name Palestine.
With the Ottoman defeat in World War I, France and Britain imposed a new order and fairly arbitrarily divided the lands under their control.
Syria, Iraq and Palestine became mandates.
One of the reasons Palestine was not included in either Syria or Iraq was the Balfour Declaration, through which Britain had pledged to establish a Jewish national home.
The League of Nations gave its blessings to the new entities and entrusted them to the European powers, which were to prepare them for independence. Arabs living in Mandatory Palestine were separated from their kinsmen in Syria and Iraq. Less than four years later, Britain took the momentous decision to establish yet another state: Transjordan, which was awarded all the land east of the Jordan River, altogether four-fifths of Mandatory Palestine. Arabs living in what was left of the original Mandatory Palestine wanted to be reunited with their brethren in Syria, Transjordan and Iraq, and dreamed of a new caliphate where minorities such as Christians and Jews would once again be second-class citizens.
They refused to accept the creation of a Jewish state. What they did not want at the time was a state of their own. A state they could have established in the 1930s; a state they could have established in 1948; a state they could have established in the West Bank and in Jerusalem anytime between 1949 and 1967 when the area was under Jordanian rule. It did not happen. Instead they set up the Palestine Liberation Organization – the PLO – in 1964, with a charter that stated that “Palestine with its boundaries that existed at the time of the British Mandate is an integral regional unit.” A clear call for the destruction of Israel.
The new and artificial countries established on the defunct Ottoman Empire tried in vain to achieve economic and political stability. Ethnic and tribal tensions led to civil unrest and revolutions and prevented the formation of a national narrative, which would have cemented national union.
Following the Six Day War and the peace with Egypt, protracted negotiations between Israel and successive Palestinian leaders led nowhere. Is it now time for renewed efforts?
The Middle East is teetering on the brink. Iraq and Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen are fast disintegrating. Egypt is facing unprecedented unrest. What would be the fate of a small and weak new country? A country moreover that would be looking to expand eastwards to Jordan while nourishing the hope to somehow defeat Israel? Hamas and Islamic State, for their part, would do their utmost to take over the new country, throwing more fuel into the fire. Paradoxically, it would then force Israel to intervene... And what about Gaza? Will it still be preparing for another deadly onslaught on Israel?
This does not mean a solution can not be found if the Palestinian leadership would acknowledge once and for all the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. But they steadfastly refuse to do so while busily promoting, with no little success, their own brand of distorted history denying the Jewish people any right to the Land of Israel. Israelis were so convinced that no one would believe such falsehoods that they were slow to react. And we now are facing a world where Palestinian leaders can talk of Jesus the Palestinian and a reputable newspaper such as France’s Le Monde
can devote a full page to the “celebration of the first Christmas in liberated Bethlehem” when Israel granted autonomy to the Palestinian territories.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows how dangerous the creation of a Palestinian state today is but he has to take into account the relentless pressure of the UN, EU and US. He knows that only with an unrealistic agreement between Jordan and the Palestinians can a solution be found, with the tacit support of Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Yet the West, which is so quick to condemn Netanyahu, needs to do some soul searching.
Instead of relentlessly pressuring Israel and Israel alone, it should exert is considerable influence on the other side as well. Historical and well-documented facts must be brought to the negotiating table. Israel has said many times that it would be ready to make painful compromises in order to achieve a just and lasting peace. Meanwhile, the Palestinians are busy demonizing the Jewish state, believing the West will do for them what their fellow Arabs failed to do in five successive wars.