The two state solution. So, Israel and...?
Not even the UN could plan for a Palestinian state before there was a Palestinian people to govern it. Just who or what will scramble for Palestine if independence ever comes we don’t rightly know
How much the world takes for granted. Here’s Barak Obama’s envoy John Kerry blithely and mindlessly toiling ahead, thinking that if he haggles, blackmails and bribes long enough Israel will end up with independent Palestinian people for neighbours.
Kerry is not alone. Politicos everywhere buckle and scramble under furious demands to set an occupied people free and gift them a state to call their own.
The UN agenda seems to have room for nothing else. World figures slam Israel for building, or merely planning to build, new homes for Jews in the land of their forefathers. In the court of public opinion Israel stands in the dock for spiking the victim ‘Two-state Solution’ to death.
Pundits make out that world peace depends on nothing more than welcoming a new member of the United Nations. American Vice President Joe Biden insists that the Two-state Solution represents “the only chance for Mideast stability.”
As day follows night everyone takes for granted that when the colours finally flap in the breeze the Palestinian people will have a home to call their own.
Go to history oh sluggard. Consider her ways and be wise. For the two-state idea the ways of modern history point where?
Even enlightened Jews would rather not look. More, like President Obama’s favourite "Jewish lobby", J-Street, they’ll stoop to crooked lengths to stop others looking where history is pointing. By claiming that the idea of two states for two people has a long history, the "Jewish lobby" pulls a whopping historical fraud.
In 1937, the Peel Commission first proposed splitting Mandatory Palestine into two separate political entities – one for Jews and the other for Arabs. The United Nations proposed a similar Partition Plan in 1948. Since the Six Day War, every U.S. presidential administration has supported the two state solution as official American policy. In 2002, the Arab League drafted the Arab Peace Initiative, formally backing the two-state solution.
The whopping great fib is planted where? True, there is a long history of partition plans going back to 1937. Problem is that the people to partition off changed along the way. And J-Street would rather we don’t think of that. Glib of tongue and slick of method, it melds two different contenders for a state and makes them appear as one. Arabs before the 6-Day War and Palestinian people after that war are not the same collectives.
The "Jewish lobby" plays fast and loose with old partition plans. Both the Peel Commission and the UN Plan tried to partner Jews with Arabs, and there’s no getting away from that.
They did not partner Jews with the Palestinians, and there’s no avoiding that either. Further in time, American foreign policy and the Arab Peace Initiative tried to partner Israel with the Palestinians, and that’s something else we can’t avoid. Two different pairings of two different players in two different periods. And J-Street lumps all together to make one long continuous record. How sly is that.
A continuous record is not possible, if time matters. After all at the time of the UN Partition Plan the Palestinian people were twenty years away from being born. So how could the plan have had them in mind? There is no getting away from it: Arabs back then and Palestinians now are not the same collective.
Another thing, the land set aside for Jews in the UN Plan was a lot bigger than what the world deems ample land for the Jews today.
But so what? Could the true record instead of the implant of a sly lobby make us look differently at Kerry’s helter skelter for a peace accord – any accord, so that he may fly home to wave a piece of paper like Neville Chamberlain at a waiting crowd? So what if a state once planned for Arabs is not the same as the state for Palestinians that America would love to pull out of the hat?
Go to history, oh sluggard….
To begin, attend the class of 1947 - 48. They’re the years of the Partition Plan and aftermath. Granted, it’s common knowledge that the UN plan was aborted when neighbouring Arab states tried to abort the Jewish state by invading it. But do we know what would have happened had Israel lost and the Arabs won that war? What flag would now flutter at the United Nations?
Those who put up their hands for the flag of Palestine are wrong. That’s not the lesson from the class of 47-48. The correct lesson is that territory captured by the victorious Arab armies would not have been handed over to Palestinian Arabs.
Rather, the Arab scramble for Palestine would have divided it among the invaders: Transjordan, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon. Google all you like, but not a single Arab regime looked upon the Palestinians as a distinctive people worthy of sovereignty. And neither did the Arab-siding British, before turning off the lights on their Mandate.
“It does not appear that Arab Palestine will be an entity,” wrote one official, “but rather that the Arab countries will each claim a portion in return for their assistance [in the war against Israel]...”
In Professor Karsh’s book, ‘Palestine Betrayed’ we also come upon the British High Commissioner, Sir Alan Cunningham, telling his Colonial Secretary: “The most likely arrangement seems to be Eastern Galilee to Syria, Samaria and Hebron to Abdallah (of Transjordan), and the south to Egypt.”
The Arabs would have agreed. Philip Hitti described their view to an Anglo-American commission in 1946. "There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not.”
So the 47- 48 class is mandatory for punters of the great Two-state Solution. Only look at what happened when Gaza and the West Bank fell into the hands of Egypt and Jordan. Were those spoils of war given over to local Arabs for a state? They most decidedly were not. The British, whatever their failings, were adept at reading history’s wayward pulse.
What lessons might the class of ‘64 hold for two-state supporters? Remember, at this time Israel is not the occupier of the West Bank and Gaza; Jordan and Egypt still are. And Palestinian Arabs feel more than comfortable with the arrangement. It’s there in the National Covenant of the Palestine Liberation Organization, May 28, 1964:
“This organization does not exercise any regional sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, in the Gaza Strip or the Himmah area.”
So Palestinian leaders wanted Judea, Samaria, the eastern part of Jerusalem and Gaza to remain in the hands of Arab states. They liked the arrangement so much that they recorded their feelings in a covenant.
Then there’s the class of ’67. What may be taken from that vintage year? The Six-Day war had ended in a stunning victory for Israel, and the UN Security Council passed Resolution 242. Land for peace would be the cornerstone of Arab-Israeli dialogue from there on. What land was that? Our ears prick. Was the UN preparing the ground for a Palestinian state?
Absolutely not – or it would have been a perfect case of putting the cart before the horse. Not even the UN could plan for a Palestinian state before there were a Palestinian people to govern it. They, if you attend the class of 68, were a year away from being born.
So it was that the UN took it for granted that territories evacuated by Israel would be returned to their pre-1967 Arab occupiers: Egypt and Jordan.
UN resolution 242 spoke of the need "for achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem" – not the Palestinian problem, mind. Who were the problem refugees? The Palestinian Arabs certainly, but also the larger group of 850 000 Jews expelled from Arab states during and after the 1948 war.
The entire international community saw it the UN’s way. Western democracies rejected the idea of Palestinian nationhood; so did the great Arab-supporting Soviets, and even the Arab world recoiled at the idea of giving Palestinians a state.
Professor Karsh relates how the Hashemite rulers of Jordan viewed this as a mortal threat to their own kingdom, while the Saudis saw it as a potential source of extremism and instability. Pan-Arab nationalists were as adamantly opposed, having their own designs on the region. In 1974, Syrian President Hafez al Assad openly referred to Palestine as "not only a part of the Arab homeland but a basic part of southern Syria."
But what of the Palestinians themselves? If no one wanted them to have a state perhaps the Palestinians yearned for sovereignty? Not a bit of it. For a really fine lesson attend the history class of Zahir Muhsein, one-time head of the PLO Military Department and member of the PLO Executive.
“In reality, today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct Palestinian people to oppose Zionism. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.”
We’ve no reason to gape – unless we’d bunked the class of 48-50, attended by ever diligent Professor Karsh.
“The collapse and dispersion of Palestinian society following the 1948 defeat shattered an always fragile communal fabric, and …prevented the crystallization of a national identity. Host Arab regimes actively colluded in discouraging it. Upon occupying the West Bank …King Abdallah moved quickly to erase all traces of Palestinian identity...”
As for the Arab inhabitants of Gaza, no one gave them a second thought. We don’t rightly know if Gazans wanted to be citizens of Egypt, but for the occupying power that option would have been the furthest thing on its mind.
But the Oslo Accords changed everything – did they not? By paving the way for a Palestinian Authority (PA) did the Accords not anticipate a state in the making? It would seem not.
The accords between Israel and the PLO signed in 1993 made no mention that the end goal was a Palestinian state. The signatories allowed for a self-governing entity, the PA, and no more. Yes, the international community may fully have expected the interim arrangement to evolve into a full blown sovereign state.
But how that expectation became a right and a demand is not clear. Real politik stepped in where a binding agreement feared to tread. And not far behind treachery stalked.
“Since we cannot defeat Israel in war, we do this in stages. We take any and every territory that we can of Palestine, and establish a sovereignty there, and we use it as a springboard to take more. When the time comes we can get the Arab nations to join us for the final blow against Israel.”
Thus spoke Yasser Arafat on Jordanian TV on September 13, 1993 - the very day he signed the Oslo Accords on the White House Lawn and shook hands.
At least the PLO adopted the Two-state Solution formally? Not so. If the PLO stooped to grace their charter with the agreement we would have heard about it, loud and clear. But how could they have done if it would involve explicit recognition of Israel as the land of the Jew? Bribe all he liked, peacenik Kerry proved unable to pull such a magical thing out the hat as Muslims coming to terms with Jews living – and living well – on sacrosanct Muslim turf.
“For the 1,000th time, I want to reaffirm that we are not asking Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Rather we are asking Hamas not to do so, because Fatah never recognized Israel’s right to exist.”
Thus spoke Mohammad Dahlan of the PLO in March of 2009. Today Kerry’s flailing peace hope makes clear that the PLO is a leopard that keeps its spots. The extant PLO charter, fourteen times mind you, calls not for Israel to be a neighbour but for Israel to be eradicated.
Mahmoud Abbas also keeps the leopard spots, as did Arafat before him. The whole Palestinian inner circle keeps them. They reject, as they always have done, the very idea of coexistence and sovereignty. Under Abbas the PLO remains more intent on throwing the Jews into the sea than intent on accepting the offer of a country for their people.
And that is because they don’t want a country – not for themselves… “The moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.”
Peacenik Kerry may have begun to understand this. He gave signs that he grasped the game when he met with King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia. Without the Arab league American peace efforts would never get off the block. Kerry learnt the hard way that Palestinian leaders were never really at the negotiating table.
Mahmoud Abbas had no authority to make a deal, nor even to make decisions about a deal. In fact he had no mandate to negotiate at all. Abbas himself admitted this openly. “No (Palestinian) leaders have the right to take away a person’s right of return,” he stated on 10 January 2014. PLO leaders have no authority to compromise with Israel on behalf of the Palestinian hoi polloi.
It was the Arab League all along. Kerry’s haggling and bribing and cajoling should have aimed at the Arab League. He should have started with the Arab League.
We ignore history at our peril. We ignore Arafat’s behaviour to the detriment of seeing the road ahead. Before arriving at that iconic Oslo moment when he shook hands on the White House lawn, Arafat could have stuck to Palestinian statehood and nothing less.
If it was that important to him, and to the larger Arab world, Arafat would surely not have signed inconclusive accords. Yet that is what he did.
So Arafat, a native of Egypt, could not have been dreaming of Palestine for Palestinians. His dream was more grandiose; and for Israel, more nightmarish.
“When the time comes we can get the Arab nations to join us for the final blow against Israel.” Arafat was winking at the leaders of Egypt and Jordan and Lebanon and Syria, and who knows what else he was winking at when he shook hands on a deal.
Well, pan-Arabism is no longer the force it was back then. Arab Spring fever has weakened grandiose Arab dreams to the point of death. Just who or what will scramble for Palestine if independence ever comes we don’t rightly know.
All we do know is that punters of the Two-state Solution may have skipped, or forgotten, a history class or three, but it is highly doubtful the Arabs did.
Steve Apfel is director of the School of Management Accounting, Johannesburg. He is the author of the book,'Hadrian's Echo: The whys and wherefores of Israel's critics' (2012) and a contributor to, "War by other means." (Israel Affairs, 2012). His articles and blogs are published in several foreign journals and his new work, 'How the West was won' is due out in the next year
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