Bret Stephens of WSJ looks at the central obsession of contemporary global politics and its least examined obsession, Palestinian statehood.
Diplomats from some 70 countries will assemble in Paris on Sunday for another Mideast conference, intended to preserve the two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. The timing is not accidental: With five days to go in the Obama administration, there are whispers that the conference may lead to another U.N. Security Council resolution, this time setting out parameters for an eventual Palestinian state.
The question is: For what?
- Would a Palestinian state serve the cause of Mideast peace? This used to be conventional wisdom, on the theory that a Palestinian state would lead to peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, easing the military burdens on the former and encouraging the latter to address their internal discontents.
- Today the proposition is ridiculous. No deal between Jerusalem and Ramallah is going to lift the sights of those now fighting in Syria, Iraq or Yemen. Nor will a deal reconcile Tehran and its terrorist proxies in Lebanon and Gaza to the existence of a Jewish state.
- Aren’t the Palestinians entitled to a state? Maybe. But are they more entitled to one than the Assamese, Basques, Baloch, Corsicans, Druze, Flemish, Kashmiris, Kurds, Moros, Native Hawaiians, Northern Cypriots, Rohingya, Tibetans, Uyghurs or West Papuans – all of whom have distinct national identities, legitimate historical grievances and plausible claims to statehood? What gives Palestinians the preferential claim?
- Comparisons aside. Would a Palestinian state be good for Palestinian people? That’s a more subjective judgment. But a telling figure came in a June 2015 poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, which found that a majority of Arab residents in East Jerusalem would rather live as citizens with equal rights in Israel than in a Palestinian state.
- But isn’t a Palestinian state a necessity for Israel? Can it maintain its Jewish and democratic character without separating itself from the Palestinians?
- In theory, Israel would be well-served living alongside a sovereign Palestinian state that lived in peace with its neighbors. But Israelis don’t live in theory. They live in a world where Israeli prime ministers made good-faith offers of Palestinian statehood and were met with rejection and violence.