US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is by all accounts studiously professorial and smarter than the average State Department hack. Hence, perhaps, her schoolmarmy tone and authoritative demeanor here last week, during yet another stopover to reform benighted natives by reprimand and further the cause of her boss's "vision" for a Palestinian state.
In addition to everything that has so far gone vexingly awry en route to G.W.'s two-state-solution, the Palestinians violently split themselves into two mutually antagonistic components, a complication sure to diminish their self-government's anyway improbable viability.
But is Condi disheartened? Heck no! Her latest mantra is "a Palestinian state first." Presumably once that state is hocus-pocused into nominal existence (and once Bush expiates Arab wrath at Israel's expense), Palestinian independence would provide impetus to unify rival Palestinian militias.
That's about as realistic an assumption as underpinned the last attempt to create two states between the Jordan and the Mediterranean - on November 29, 1947, when the UN General Assembly approved this tiny territory's partition into a Palestinian Arab state and a pitifully puny, terrifyingly vulnerable Jewish counterpart (wedged mainly along the coastal highway between Tel Aviv and Haifa). Jerusalem was consigned to international administration, and the entire unlikely shebang was to form one economic unit in the abiding spirit of brotherly love.
The pipe dream's single outstanding shortcoming was the palpable paucity of brotherly love. The Arabs contemptuously rebuffed the high-minded scheme and invaded newborn Israel. Two weeks pre-invasion, on May 1, 1948, Arab League secretary-general Abdul-Rahman Azzam Pasha declared: "If the Zionists dare establish a state, the massacres we would unleash would dwarf anything which Genghis Khan and Hitler perpetrated."
Lest any doubt linger, Azzam reiterated his message the day seven Arab armies attacked: "This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades."
But things, alas, didn't turn out as per Azzam's bravado. Ever since, consequently, frustrated Arabs rage with bitterest indignation about being unfairly denied their state under the partition plan they deliberately foiled.
THE SOLICITOUS international community, ostensibly out to help the underdog, responds sympathetically to their grievances and avidly offers redress. By subscribing to Oslo and its derivatives, some ever-gullible and eager-to-please Israelis enlist enthusiastically in efforts to undo what hostile Arabs brought upon themselves. Nonetheless, despite abundant goodwill and global largess, no Palestinian state yet exists - thwarted repeatedly by Azzam's spiritual heirs and torchbearers.
Understandably Condi prefers to pooh-pooh continuous Arab aggression for the past 60 years. Presumably Bush's vision would inspire more fraternal coexistence than the UN did in 1947, rendering ongoing Islamofascist blood lust irrelevant.
All the same, it might serve Condi well to examine what transpired in this land between November 1947 and May 1948. More than anything else - even genocidal Arab impulses, which she expediently downplays - the manner each of the two would-be states conducted their internal affairs then may clue Condi into why Palestinian democracy remains unlikely now, American pressure and Israeli appeasement notwithstanding.
UN Resolution 181 detailed prerequisites leading to independence for the projected Jewish and Arab states alike. These included the formation of "a Provisional Council of Government in each state" that would "proceed to the establishment of administrative organs of government" and "hold elections to the Constituent Assembly which shall be conducted on democratic lines."
Despite demonstrative British obstructionism, the Jews embarked on fulfilling these obligations with remarkably pedantic earnestness. The Provisional Council was set up with both legislative and executive wings and the 13-member executive was entrusted with drafting the Declaration of Independence. The meticulous care invested into each phrase of that declaration and the hair-splitting attention to every possible legalistic nuance can only engender ungrudging admiration.
The minutiae from which Israel's founding fathers didn't shrink while guns already furiously blazed (the Tel Aviv venue of the May 14 independence proclamation ceremony had to be kept secret to evade an air raid) attest more than anything to the inherently democratic mind-set and phenomenal conscientiousness-under-fire of the Jewish collective.
Nothing was left to chance - not even under whose auspices courts would operate in the brief potential hiatus between the termination of British rule and the commencement of Jewish authority. Little can enlighten more than that concentration on any conceivable contingency, no matter how far-fetched.
In the starkest of contrasts, not only did nothing of the sort occur within the blueprinted Arab Palestinian state, but in fact no move whatever was made to prepare for sovereignty. The Arabs shrilly and boastfully prepared for battle. It was patently clear they weren't interested in running their own state. All their aspirations focused on destroying the nascent Jewish entity, responsible in their eyes for the separate Palestinian designation in the first place - one which they then passionately rejected but which today they assiduously embrace and promote as their casus belli.
Throughout the Mandate, local Arabs failed consistently to avail themselves of British-made opportunities for setting up autonomous institutions. Jews energetically constructed a broad network of services and developed an enviable civic infrastructure in health, education, welfare, economy, agriculture and culture. An ultravibrant democracy was under way and a free press flourished. Nothing even remotely similar was cultivated by the Arab constituency. Instead, internecine carnage was already in those early days the way intra-Arab controversies were resolved.
If Condi quits fooling herself and us, she'd have to admit that nothing at all has changed among those she calls Palestinians. Indeed nothing has changed in the entire Arab world. It remains as incorrigibly undemocratic as all those decades ago. Didactically instructing Palestinians to meet her expectations because she says so is hardly going do the trick.