What of a Palestinian State?

The European Union alongside the United Nations are calling for a two-state Solution as do the Americans, the French and even some of the moderate Arab countries.  The European Union in particular is adamant that anything beyond the green line is not Israel.  Even New Zealand has recently proposed a UN resolution for renewed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.  Is New Zealand sure what kind of State a Palestinian state will be?

Were there to be two states for two people implemented, what kind of state will a Palestinian nation be?  This is a question which is never asked.  It is not asked by the European Union, the USA, or France, and it is not asked by the rest of the countries who regard a two-state solution as imperative.  Can the European Union and the Swedish Government which is so keen to see a two-state solution implemented, assure the world and Israel in particular that a Palestinian state will be democratic and a peaceful nation living side by side with Israel and for that matter with its other neighbours? 

Will a Palestinian state embrace a political system where governments will be replaced through a process of free and fair elections and where the election of the new government is based on a majority?  Will the citizens be able to be participants in civil and political life?  Will it protect human rights for all its citizens?  Will the rules of law apply to all citizens equally?  Will they act in the national instead of factional interests?

Examining current nations in the Middle East and in the Arab world generally, liberal democracies are not over represented and peaceful coexistence is also elusive.  Currently neither Fatah nor Hamas are democratic political organisations.  There has not been a presidential election on the West Bank since 2005.  In the Gaza strip there has not been an election since 2006.  A general Palestinian election both in the West Bank and Gaza was scheduled for 2014 but was delayed indefinitely because of conflict between Fatah and Hamas.  Warring factions do not auger well for democracy and peaceful coexistence as we can see in Libya, Iraq and Syria to name some. 

Further, democratic states embrace liberal principles where freedom of speech and freedom of religion are respected.  Activists suggest that there is a crackdown on freedom of speech in on the West bank.  Criticising the Palestinian Authority even on Facebook can result in a prison sentence.  Will Jews be allowed to visit ancient religious sites significant for Jewish life such as the cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron?  Current history is not complimentary to Muslims when it comes to freedom of religion and particularly when it comes to Jewish religious sites.  Even the United nation’s record of protecting Jewish sites is abysmal. 

Will tolerance and equality be guiding principles and values?  Will it be peaceful and live in peace within itself or will the West Bank turn into another Gaza?  Will Hamas, Fatah and other smaller and larger terrorist groups lay down their arms and live in peaceful coexistence with each other alongside Israel?  Hamas and Fatah have a very problematic relationship and there are indications that the Islamic State is gaining a foothold in both the Gaza strip and the West Bank.  

According to the Pew Research Center, today only about 40 percent of Palestinians on the West Bank believe in peaceful coexistence while in Gaza fewer than 30 per cent hold such beliefs.  In other words 60 per cent of Palestinian in the West Bank and over 70 per cent of those in the Gaza strip do not believe in peaceful coexistence.  What implication has this for a two-state solution? 

There will never be peace with Israel according to the Hamas’ Charter.  To Hamas there is only one solution, “from the river to the sea”. This is also the chant heard in 2014 in such capital cities as Stockholm and Paris in protests against Israel during the last Gaza war.  Simply stated it means the obliteration of the state of Israel.  According to the Economist, in 2015 militants within the Gaza strip fight each other frequently.  The most recent one was the threat to Hamas of the group calling itself Supporter of the Islamic State in Jerusalem.  Unfortunately, Gaza sets a possible and frightening example for a future Palestinian state. Those who are promoting such a state do no seem take into consideration the possibility of another failed state and the consequences that would follow. 

One would think that the last thing the Europe Union and the United Nations would want is another failed state which could lead to mass migration to Europe.  Yet there seems to be so little effort to encourage democratic processes and attitudinal change in the West Bank and Gaza in particular to educate for peace and tolerance instead of hate and violence and not only demanding concessions from Israel.  What are the preconditions and accountability for the large sums which are donated to support the Palestinian people and their leaders?  It seems very few, if any. 

In spite of these risks the former President Shimon Peres argues that the majority of Israelis are still in favour of two states for two people.  In meeting with President Obama this week, Prime Minister Netanyahu confirmed Israel’s desire for a similar solution. Even with these risks, having a negotiated solution of two states for two people is best for Israel both politically and morally.