The problem with a two-state solution

If statehood presupposes some measure of financial self-sufficiency, the new “State of Palestine” barely qualifies as an intramural club.

Abbas at UN Headquarters in New York 390 (photo credit: reuters)
Abbas at UN Headquarters in New York 390
(photo credit: reuters)
Last September, the Palestinian Authority successfully lobbied the UN General Assembly to be formally ordained an independent state. They were enthusiastically sponsored by the World Bank, the IMF and a host of other nations happy to welcome them to the ranks of full sovereignty. Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store smugly proclaimed that they were well “above the threshold of a functioning state.”
Well, the devil infamously pitches a tent in the details – all depends on what one means by “functioning” and “state.” If statehood presupposes some measure of financial self-sufficiency, the new “State of Palestine” barely qualifies as an intramural club.
Foreign aid accounts for well over a quarter of their overall budget making their daily governmental operations, and their general solvency, dependent upon the charitable impulses of others. When those pledges don’t arrive, mayhem ensues: Abbas just announced that government employees will only be collecting one half of their salaries until their donors pony up.
KEEP IN mind that one of the basic conditions of statehood, according to the 1933 Montevideo Convention, is the existence of a “stable government.”
Now that Abbas is no longer soliciting the UN for recognition as a state he can sheepishly admit: “We are subject to very sensitive and fateful conditions.”
This combination of fragility and dependence is a startling departure from his previously ringing rhetoric about national independence and self-determination.
And its lack of fiscal integrity is only one indication of how far short the PA falls from any meaningful sense of political autonomy. It should be noted that it has no formal constitution or plans to fashion one. It has something that looks vaguely like a legal system, replete with courts, but no independent judiciary. Absent is a free press, though there is an embarrassing abundance of government sponsored propaganda.
In the place of a univocal military force, they have the infinite conjugations of tribal militias, regional warlords and subnational terrorist organizations.
Instead of a recognizable educational system, they have hate-fomenting madrassas, only regulated to ensure they are sufficiently contemptuous of Israel and its allies.
MOREOVER, ITS limp pantomime of democratic process fails to inspire confidence. President Abbas is now in the seventh year of a four-year presidential term and there are neither plans for a new election nor protests in the streets demanding one. Much of this apathy can be attributed to the widely held perception that his office, and the Palestinian government in general, is an emphysemic lung only sustained by the life support of donor nations. The real power is concentrated in terrorist organizations and their sponsor, Iran.
But much of that civic languor is symptomatic of a population that has no tradition of real political participation, the kind that engenders the habits and mores that underwrite not only democratic forms in particular, but a healthy nationalism in general.
Another criterion of statehood as postulated by the Montevideo Convention is the existence of a “permanent population.” This is not merely about warm bodies tethered to a geographical location but a people bound to each other by a sense of belonging, politically congealed by a shared identity.
This is not conjured by legal proclamations or bureaucratic institutions but rather precedes them, even births them.
THE CENTRAL failing of any conceivable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that there is only one state and then a swarm of angry factions, unbridled by univocal law. Abbas has no real authorization to broker agreements of behalf of this patchwork quilt of competing interests, and no power to compel them to submit to terms. He could never guarantee Israel peace and security, even if those were goals for which he honestly pined.
Augustine famously remarked that a true commonwealth is held together by a common object of love and an overlapping constellation of interests.
The newly minted State of Palestine is only born out of mutual hate, animated by the desire to destroy a whole people, rather than the passion to sustain their own. Its deepest purpose is not to have a state but to deny the Jews one.
It is not clear that such malignancy can be a sufficient basis for national identity nor it is clear that our legalistic categories of statehood can adequately capture the ancient, theological conflict that rives the Middle East. However, it is now crystal clear that a state cannot simply be created by fiat, UN directed or otherwise.
The writer is the editor-in-chief of and a frequent contributor to Fox News.