Which Palestine Do Euros Recognize? Jonathan S. Tobin 10.13.2014

Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Unfortunately, this is having deadly consequences for the western world. There is evil in the world and it must be wiped out before it destroys the world. How many millions of Jews, Christians and Muslims were killed during World War Two after the Munich agreement?

Today the British Parliament voted on a non-binding resolution that recognized Palestine as a state. The 274-12 vote in favor of the symbolic gesture doesn’t affect the actual foreign policy of the United Kingdom but, like the announcement by the new Swedish prime minister earlier this month of his intention to also recognize it as a state, it does constitute more momentum for a Palestinian effort to bypass peace negotiations. This says a lot more about the willingness of Europeans to pressure and even demonize Israel than it does about their supposed support for peace. But as long as they’re talking about recognition, it’s fair to ask which Palestine they are ready to welcome into the family of nations: The weak, corrupt, and undemocratic Palestinian Authority in the West Bank or the terrorist Hamas state in Gaza? Or both?

The vote in London was something of a farce as Prime Minister David Cameron has made it clear that it will not influence his nation’s actions. Pushed by rank-and-file members of the opposition Labor Party it appears to be driven by a desire to embarrass its leader Ed Milliband more than anything else. But the inability of Labor’s leaders to quash the vote and in the absence of a strong stand against it by Cameron, who, along with the rest of his government and its supporters, abstained on the measure rather than risk his government by actively opposing it, it’s fair to say that the measure reflects public sympathy for the Palestinians.

Yet like the “Free Gaza” demonstrations that rocked European cities this past summer while Hamas rockets rained down on Israeli cities, one has to wonder what exactly those advocating the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state think they are doing?

At its most basic level, recognizing Palestinian statehood seems to be an expression of sympathy for those who bore the brunt of Hamas’s decision to launch another war against Israel: the people of Gaza. Pictures of Palestinian civilians who were killed, wounded, or made homeless by Israeli counter-attacks against Hamas missile launches and terror tunnels generated a wave of revulsion against the Jewish state as well as a desire to beat one’s chest on behalf of the cause of “Free Palestine.”

But which Palestine are we talking about?

Is it the Palestine of the Palestinian Authority that currently rules most of the West Bank, albeit under the security blanket of the Israel Defense Forces? Undoubtedly, that’s the Palestine the Swedish prime minister thinks he’s backing. That’s a Palestine that is supposedly ready to make peace with Israel but which requires the economic and political support of the West in order to survive.

But, in truth, that Palestine is a corrupt kleptocracy run by Mahmoud Abbas, a man currently serving the 10th year of a four-year presidential term. The Fatah-ruled West Bank is a petty tyranny that oppresses and robs Palestinians while raking in billions in economic aid from Europe and the United States. Its leader frequently tells Western and Israeli audiences that he is ready make peace on the basis of a two-state solution, but he also is adamant about being unwilling to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders might be drawn.

But since so much of the anger at Israel is about Gaza, the fact is all too many Europeans seem willing to overlook their usual abhorrence of terrorism and think of Hamas as a legitimate government of the strip, if not as partners with the PA. That Palestine is a brutally repressive Islamist regime that is allied with those seeking to overthrow moderate Arab governments. Like Fatah in the West Bank, it is not interested in bettering the lives of its people. But unlike the PA, which seems mostly interested in profiteering off of foreign aid, Hamas’s sole obsession is in replenishing its stores of rockets and ammunition and rebuilding its terror tunnels so as to be ready the next time it feels another round of fighting with Israel will be to its advantage. Hamas, which is more popular in the West Bank than Abbas and his party, is dedicated to ending the “occupation” but by that term they are referring to pre-1967 Israel, not forcing it to remove Jews from the West Bank or Jerusalem.

Nor is there much use pretending the Fatah-Hamas unity agreement is the basis of a pro-peace government. The show put on this week for international donors for the reconstruction of Gaza did nothing to bolster confidence in the ability of the so-called government of technocrats of the PA that is allegedly going to supervise the rebuilding of Gaza. In a sign of the contempt that the Palestinians have for the suckers who continue to shovel money into their coffers, the PA would only promise that half of the $5.4 billion pledged would pay for the rebuilding of Gaza. What happens to the other half? We’re told that it will support the PA’s budget until 2017. Which means that it will be divided among the PA’s factions or indirectly shared with Hamas for its own nefarious purposes. But either way, the Swiss bankers who handle the private accounts of PA leaders should get ready for some heavy-duty deposits.

Were Europe’s governments or its pro-Palestinian demonstrators truly interested in peace, they would understand that unilateral recognition of independence is a way for the PA to avoid having to talk with Israel. Whatever they may think of Israel or the Netanyahu government, it has stated its willingness to negotiate a two-state solution. But that outcome can only happen when the Palestinians stop waiting for their foreign friends to hand Israeli concessions—or Israel itself, as Hamas is frank about demanding—to them on a silver platter. If they wanted to support peace, they would tell Abbas to go back to the table with Netanyahu and to be prepared to recognize a Jewish state. They might also encourage him to get rid of Hamas, not become its partner.

Seen in that light talk about recognition of Palestine without first requiring it to make peace with Israel must seen as not merely moral preening at Israel’s expense but a political manifestation of the same anti-Semitic invective that was so common during the “Free Gaza” demonstrations.

Jonathan S. Tobin is senior online editor of COMMENTARY magazine and chief political blogger at www.commentarymagazine.com. He can be reached via e-mail at: jtobin@commentarymagazine.com. Follow him on Twitter at TobinCommentary.

The Vanishing Two-State Solution

AUGUST 1, 2014 11:57 AM 

Ben Cohen / JNS.org

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is greeted by Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestinian Authority in the eventually collapsed American-brokered Israel-Palestinian peace talks, before a meeting in Amman, Jordan, on June 28, 2013. 

JNS.org – Speaking to a British television network this week, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron bemoaned that “facts on the ground” were on the verge of wrecking the prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Cameron, it should be said, has consistently supported Israel’s right to defend itself from the stream of rocket attacks launched from Hamas-ruled Gaza. At the same time, he believes that there is no substitute for a robust, lasting political solution.

That is why his anxiety about the two-state solution is likely shared by other world leaders. What’s so frustrating, the international community reasons, is that everyone knows what a final settlement will look like, yet no one is willing to take the steps necessary to get us there.

Insofar as a negotiated two-state solution is essentially a pipe dream at the present time, I think Cameron is correct to be worried. One of the reasons it’s a pipe dream is because, especially on the Palestinian side, the consensus behind it isn’t nearly as strong as Cameron and others would like us to think. Hamas rejects it outright, of course, as its goal—as CBS’s Charlie Rose confirmed when he recently interviewed Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal—is the elimination of the Jewish state.

The Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas is formally committed to a two-state solution, but its continued backing of the “right of return” for the descendants of Palestinian refugees, as well as its pursuit of unilateral recognition in international bodies, has left Israelis skeptical.

As for the Israeli government, it’s no secret that any willingness there may have been to make territorial concessions to the PA has been badly eroded by both the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank and the renewed missile attacks from Gaza—after, remember, Fatah and Hamas formed a unity government of sorts.

In this grim context, appeals for an immediate, unconditional cease-fire in Gaza—a stance shared by the Obama administration, the U.N., and the Europeans—seem rather fanciful. Examined from the Israeli perspective, this demand is actually counter-productive. For if world leaders seriously think that the Israelis will return, when it comes to Gaza, to the status quo ante, then they either don’t understand or don’t care about Israel’s strategic calculus.

There are two big decisions facing Israel right now. The first one concerns the end goals of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. The second one concerns its future relations with the U.S. Both are closely related, but all indications suggest that Jerusalem regards the first as more pressing than the second.

A growing chorus of influential voices in Israel, from right-wing Jewish Home party leader Minister Naftali Bennett to the respected historian Benny Morris, is arguing that Israel needs to finish the job in Gaza. What that means, ultimately, is the defeat of Hamas militarily and politically. The Israel Defense Forces is reported to have made good progress in destroying the network of attack tunnels constructed by Hamas beneath the ground in Gaza (at the same time, as much of the Hebrew press has recently noted, as the general realization dawned that successive Israeli governments had misread the strategic threat posed by these below-the-surface corridors).

Egypt, too, has joined the Israeli efforts to choke Hamas, destroying tunnels connecting the Sinai and Gaza. In these circumstances, it is hardly sensible to allow Hamas the breathing space that a cease-fire would afford. Instead of permitting Hamas to regroup and rebuild, the logic goes, strike the killer blow in the coming days.

This is not a conclusion that the Obama administration wants Israel to reach—and that, ironically, provides another reason for the Israelis to bring Hamas rule in Gaza to an end. Given that this administration has over two years left in office, Israel wants to avoid another Gazan firestorm, say six months from now, that would lead to yet more demands from Washington for an immediate cease-fire and more opprobrium against the IDF’s field operations.

With Hamas out of the picture, Israel is in a much better position to talk about peace and Palestinian statehood. Moreover, there will be an understandable desire among the battered Gazan population for a new authority to fill the vacuum left by Hamas, and that outcome can’t be secured without Israel’s consent.

I don’t believe that much diplomatic progress will be made while President Barack Obama remains in the White House. Trust between the Israeli and American governments has declined sharply, to the point where questions are being raised about Secretary of State John Kerry’s personal commitment to the alliance with Israel. All I’ll say for now is that there is reason to doubt Kerry’s commitment—he hasn’t taken Israeli concerns over Iran sanctions at all seriously, he has warned apocalyptically that Israel faces boycotts and isolation, and he was amiably cooking up a cease-fire proposal with the Turkish foreign minister just days after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that Israel was worse than Hitler.

Three to five years from now, the twin absences of the Hamas military threat and Obama’s bungling diplomacy may propel genuinely meaningful negotiations. In large part that will depend on who is in the White House. For now, though, Israel’s first priority is its national security. That is how it should be.

Ben Cohen is the Shillman Analyst for JNS.org and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Commentary, Haaretz, and other publications. His book, “Some Of My Best Friends: A Journey Through Twenty-First Century Antisemitism” (Edition Critic, 2014), is now available through Amazon.