After nuclear deal with Iran, an intersecting 'Palestine' problem

Any Palestinian state would embolden and strengthen al-Qaida, and certain other terrorist enemies of the United States.

Jalili and Ashton in Istanbul 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Osman Orsal)
Jalili and Ashton in Istanbul 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Osman Orsal)
US President Barack Obama, who proudly negotiated a multilateral nuclear agreement with Iran, also favors the creation of a Palestinian state. Yet, any such favored grant of sovereignty to a 23rd Arab state could pose unmanageable security risks for Israel, a close US ally.  For Jerusalem, largely because the administration's recent compact with Iran has no real chance of succeeding, any plausible intersection of Iranian nuclearization with Palestinian statehood could portend a "perfect storm."
To succeed in such plainly urgent strategic matters, absolute candor is required. The Arab/Islamic world uniformly and unambiguously still demands a one-state solution. The one surviving state, according to this demand, would not be Israel.
An immutable expectation of "Palestine" is evident on virtually all pertinent maps and policy statements, even those from the most "moderate" corners of the Middle East and North Africa. For Israel, which has already been cartographically replaced by "Palestine," this can mean only one discernible enemy objective. It is to impose a relentlessly final solution for the Jewish State, one that was already in preparation on May 15, 1948.
The presumed obligation to impose such a "solution" is not narrowly political or military. Rather, it derives from the core idea of umma (community) in Islam, a solidarity entity, one whose foremost and overriding duty is always to unhesitatingly answer the spiritual call of jihad. In essence, as was summed up precisely by leading members of the Fatwa Committee of Al Azhar University, and also by major representatives of all four Sunni Islamic schools of jurisprudence  (January 9, 1956), "Palestine" is a permanent possession of the global Muslim umma, and must therefore be governed in perpetuity by Islamic law.
Facing such refractory and irremediable doctrinal underpinnings, Judea and Samaria (West Bank) and Lebanon are now experiencing a determined Islamist push to establish vital terror bases. In this connection, until very recently, American military units under US General Keith Dayton had been quietly assisting Fatah with the training of its West Bank “security forces." The naive rationale of such help - effectively equivalent to much earlier American support for Mujahedeen, then fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan - had been to strategically blunt Hamas and al-Qaida.
Once again ignoring key tenets of Islamic doctrine, the US plan for supporting selected regional sub-contractors in counter-terrorism was destined to fail. Even on its face, this mission had been preposterous, both operationally and conceptually.
For some time, assorted Islamist groups have been asserting their commitment to wage Jihad, not only against the Jewish State, but against Jews in general.  Lately, this explicitly genocidal intent has begun to elicit limited but nonetheless serious Western attention. On multiple Jihadist website postings, for example, a meaningfully common warning appears, to wit:  We will not recognize a state for the Jews, not even one inch of the land of Palestine.
As was explained in the authoritative January 9, 1956 Fatwa, "Muslims cannot conclude peace with those Jews who have usurped the territory of Palestine, and attacked its people and their property in any manner which allows the Jews to continue as a state in that sacred Muslim territory." And in a conjoined linkage between jihad and conspiratorial Jew-hatred, the Fatwa continues: "Everyone knows that from the early days of Islam to the present day, the Jews have been plotting against Islam and Muslims and the Islamic homeland. They do not propose to be content with the attack they made on Palestine and Al Aqsa Mosque, but they plan for the possession of all Islamic territories, from the Nile to the Euphrates."
Credo quia absurdum. "I believe because it is absurd." The remorseless physical destruction of Israel has always been an unavoidable Palestinian obligation. Now, al-Qaida, which has proven adept at inserting itself into several local conflicts around the world, and also at incorporating these struggles into a much broader Wahhabi-Salafi war against the West, has fixed its own tactical sights on that same goal.
And what about President Obama's Two-State Solution? The always-fragmented and fratricidal Palestinian territories are not about to morph into a tolerant, unified, and democratic national society. Instead, these areas have already become a determinedly major front within a systematically organized and fully international jihadist movement.
With Gaza now an active forward base for global terrorism, Shi’a Iran, still a reliably close partner of Hamas, as well as an occasional al-Qaida and Muslim Brotherhood ally, is simultaneously intensifying and diversifying its own existential threat to Israel. The result, explained in more specifically scientific terms, is a determined "synergy," a calculated intersection of perils, one wherein the "whole" becomes effectively greater than the simple sum of its parts.
Moreover, the existential threat to Israel posed by Iran is not “merely" nuclear.
The January 2008 breach in the Gaza border with Egypt, along the Philadelphi Corridor, represented a pivotal development. This well-coordinated attack had permitted not only large quantities of Iranian-made weapons to enter Gaza.  It had also admitted scores of al-Qaida operatives. This consequential breach then enabled Hamas to bring back some of those fighters who had left for earlier training in Syria and Iran, including snipers, explosives experts, rocket technicians, and engineers.
After the Sharm El Sheikh attacks of July 2005, some al-Qaida terrorists moved to the West Bank and Gaza from what had been their forward bases in Sinai. Now, al-Qaida is moving in on Israel primarily from the north, but only by first establishing a secure tactical presence in Lebanon. Despite their religious differences, Sunni al-Qaida and Shia Hezbollah have sometimes been able to forge a selectively operational partnership, one that is at least partially directed from Tehran. 
The partnership's common goal remains the complete destruction of Israel, the toppling of insufficiently radical or "apostate" Arab-Muslim regimes  -- including that of the Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas --, and the establishment of  critical territories around which a new and presumptively indispensable Islamist Caliphate might ultimately be formed.
Legally, Abbas's PA has already acquired the quasi-sovereign status of a UN "nonmember observer state." While not meeting the more formal requirements of the governing Convention on the Rights and Duties of States (1934), generally called the Montevideo Convention, this elevated status is doubtlessly a planned stepping stone to authentic Palestinian statehood.
Long-gone, to be sure, is the time when Palestinian "resistance" movements could include even openly-Marxist factions, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC). Today, always underlying radical Islamist behavior is de rigeur, especially in Gaza. The main Palestinian war against Israel is now much more openly about God, jihad, and immortality, than about land, nationality, or territory.
In this utterly primal war, the most persuasive forms of influence are centered far less on any traditional military "order of battle," than upon the plainly incomparable promise of power over death. In this unavoidable battle waged between the Dar al-Islam (the world of Islam) and the Dar al-harb (the world of war), several al-Qaeda-linked groups have emerged and prospered. They include the Army of Islam, and the Swords of Islamic Righteousness. Here, some groups are clan-based, and also more-or-less affiliated with Fatah and/or Hamas. 
President Obama should finally understand that any Palestinian state would be contrary to the basic security interests of the United States. Sobering, in this essential understanding, would be the inevitable competition for control of such a fragile and anarchic state by various Sunni Arab regimes, some still being armed from Washington, and by Shiite Iran, now being aided by Russia, and supported by a Shiite client regime in Baghdad unwittingly created by the incoherent American war in Iraq. Naturally, a Palestinian state would most seriously endanger Israel, creating potentially irresistible opportunities for both conventional and unconventional acts of aggression in the volatile region.
Once extant, the combined area of 23 Arab states would be 672 times the size of Israel. The Jewish State, after all, is less than half the size of America's Lake Michigan.
After Palestine, new wars could be launched by enemy states directly, or by their terrorist proxies in Gaza.  In principle, at least, the attackers might assume the posture of suicide bombers, thus immobilizing the normal security requirements of rationality and deterrence. Under even the most optimistic assumptions, therefore, a Palestinian state, any Palestinian state, could spawn a grievously unstable balance of power in the area.
Could anything be more obvious? Any Palestinian state would embolden and strengthen al-Qaida, and certain other terrorist enemies of the United States. What had once been disguised as a secular territorial dispute between Israel and assorted Arab foes has now become a conspicuous battlefront in jihad.
Further failure to understand this transformation, and its more-or-less simultaneous appearance with Iranian nuclear weapons and strategy, could render moot all other US and Israeli efforts at effective counter-terrorism. This includes even our major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which were both undertaken without any prior appreciation of enemy orientations to transform the Dar al-harb into the Dar al-Islam. Before we can ever "win" the war on terror, we will first have to recognize the utter primacy of this enemy's faith-based commitment to community, conflict and obligation.
LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), and is an expert on international relations and international law. The author of many major books and articles in the field, Professor Beres was born in Zürich, Switzerland, on August 31, 1945. He is Professor of Political Science and International Law at Purdue.