Another State (Extract)

Last month, Palestinian billionaire Abed al-Muhsin Qattan returned to Ramallah. A personal appeal by Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen) to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert enabled the 80-year-old Qattan to receive permission to spend his last years in his homeland. Born in Jaffa, Qattan made his fortune in Kuwait and Europe, and for many years was involved with the PLO's financial operations. But when he followed Yasser Arafat back to the West Bank, he quickly discovered that it wasn't a comfortable place to do business. Like many other Palestinian businessmen from the Diaspora, Qattan left the terrorities and only now has he returned. A royal welcome was arranged for him at the Allenby crossing. Articles of praise and congratulations were published in the Palestinian press and an unending flow of visitors made a pilgrimage to his residence. To many of these visitors, he repeated the same declaration that he made upon arriving in the country: The idea of the small Palestinian state, next to Israel, has come to an end. That is the essence of Qattan's position. The settlements in the West Bank have created a situation that leaves no way to implement a separation. Moreover, in his opinion, the Palestinians have no particular reason to strive for independence within the borders of 1967, since there is no proper economic infrastructure. Therefore, he recommends striving for a joint state for Arabs and Jews, in which there will be no strong central government but rather a maximal decentralization of authority, which sounds somewhat like two autonomous authorities loosely conected by an overall framework. A short while later - and without connection to Qattan - the Arab-Israeli organization "Adallah," came out with a similar proposal that also negates Israel and the Jewish state, opting for it to be transformed into a section of the supra-national entity, and wiping out, of course, all of the lines, fences and checkpoints that are currently in existence. Veteran readers of this column are likely to remember that I have frequently warned that the Palestinians are quietly abandoning the idea of "two states for two peoples," or, quite simply, that they are running away from statehood. We have also written more than once that they would prefer to collapse collectively, bleeding, miserable and impoverished, into Israel's unwilling arms, rather than separate from us and stand on their own two feet. Many didn't believe that that is, in fact, the trend in our neighboring community. How could a people resist achieving independence or self-determination? Now the answers are starting to come, and the chorus will grow louder with time. The main point: Yes, the Palestinians do want independence, but together with Israel, not without it! They don't want to live in a Jewish state. And so, they need a supra-national framework, within which the Jews and the Palestinians will divide up the sources of authority and the resources. You don't hear these things from Abu Mazen or his negotiators. From their point of view, it's too early for them to show their cards. But in the internal, quiet Palestinian discourse - which doesn't make headlines - there's an increasing trend to search for alternatives to what many of them view as the "sovereign cage" of the small Palestinian state. While in Israel a large majority prefers the state over the land, with the Palestinians it's exactly the opposite: maintaining the integrity of the land and freedom of movement throughout are much more important than the statehood that they are being offered. Extract from an article in Issue 20, January 21, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. For full story please subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here to subscribe.