The upcoming UN General Assembly session in September, where many countries are poised to recognize a Palestinian state, does not bode well for Israel.
Even Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who, as Prime Minister in 1998, once offered Yasser Arafat close to 98% of Judea, Samaria and Gaza for such a state, is concerned. In a speech last week, Barak said he considers this scenario a “political tsunami” against Israel. He even said that this political development will carry a strong element of de-legitimizing the State of Israel.
As opposed to an increasing number of politicians, however, his solution, was not to try to head off its formation – but only to remove its “unilateral” nature. He accused his boss, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, of not being more forthcoming in negotiations with the PA, and said Israel must express immediate willingness to discuss issues such as final borders, Jerusalem, and the settlement of Arab refugees.
Politicians Against PLO State
Many other politicians, however, are not willing to entertain the possibility of a Palestinian state at all, unilaterally or otherwise. MK Anastasia Michaeli, for instance, of the Israel Our Home party, said this week that she and her party “are doing all we can to prevent… the formation of a hostile and belligerent state in Judea and Samaria."
Also last week, coalition whip and Likud faction chairman MK Zev Elkin, visiting post-massacre Itamar, stated strongly that "there is no place for a Palestinian state, not in temporary borders and not in any other configuration."
The grassroots “Mattot Arim” organization, based in Raanana, recently urged its members to "work strongly against Israel's upcoming big military mistake, namely turning Area A into a Palestinian state."
Can Israel Override PLO Army?
The organization explained, "Even today, there is a Palestinian army in Area A. However, when this Palestinian army gets completely out of hand - for example, in 2002 when its members participated in horrendous terror attacks - the IDF simply retracts the PA army's freedom of operation, partially or completely, for a few hours or for many months. [On the other hand,] once there is a Palestinian state, the IDF will no longer be able to cast it or its army aside, temporarily or permanently, even after that state or army becomes heavily involved in terrorism."
Similarly, Arab-world expert Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Bar Ilan University wrote this week that Israel has only a little time left before the General Assembly session to convince the world how dangerous a Palestinian state would be, "not only to Israel but also to its neighbors."
Conditions Not Fulfilled
Kedar wrote that though Netanyahu laid down two conditions for his acceptance of an Arab state in Judea and Samaria, neither of these two conditions appears to be materializing. They were that the PA must recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish nation, and that any future PA state must be demilitarized. “Palestinian spokesmen repeat day and night that they would not dream of recognizing the State of Israel as the Jewish national home,” Kedar wrote, and added that the recent capture of large shipments of weapons bound for Gaza show that the Arabs strongly intend to arm the PA entity “to the teeth with the longest-range, most modern weaponry.”
Ten days ago, Likud MK Yariv Levin reported to his constituents his recent efforts against the formation of a Palestinian state. Having gone on record as being “diametrically opposed to recognizing a Palestinian state," he said he had "raised this issue in the last two Likud faction meetings, and in a personal conversation earlier this year with Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon.”
A week earlier, Yaalon himself, who also serves as Strategic Affairs Minister, told an interviewer that he hopes it is “incorrect” that Netanyahu said he intends to offer the PA a state with temporary borders.
Last month, Deputy Prime Minister and former Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom went so far as to hint that he might leave the government were it to agree to the formation of a PA state. Shalom told the weekly B’Sheva newspaper that although Netanyahu is talking about such a state, "in our system of government, determinations are made by governmental decision, and there is no such government decision. I have never spoken about a Palestinian state and for as long as it is possible to influence the decision making process in the government, and for as long as no decision has been made that contradicts my position, I am in the government."
Netanyahu Against PA State
Netanyahu himself made perhaps the clearest case against a Palestinian state, when he addressed the Likud Central Committee in May 2002. Such an entity, he said, “will demand all the powers of a state, such as controlling borders, bringing in weapons, control of airspace and the ability to knock down any Israeli plane that enters its area, the ability to sign peace treaties and military alliances with other countries. Once you give them a state, you give them all these things, even if there is an agreement to the contrary - for within a short time they will demand all these things, and they will assume these powers, and the world will stand by and do nothing - but it *will* stop us from trying to stop them.”
"We will thus have created with our own hands a threat to our very existence,” Netanyahu continued. “What will happen if the Palestinians do what the Germans did after World War I, when they nullified the demilitarized zone? The world did nothing then, and the world will do nothing now as well. Even now, the Palestinians are removing all the restrictions to which they agreed in Oslo – they are smuggling in arms, polluting the water sources, building an army, making military deals with Iran and others, and more… But when we try to take action against this, the world opposes us – and not them...”
Netanyahu quoted Yasser Arafat: "Arafat said it best when talking to reporters the day he signed the Oslo Accords: 'Since we can't defeat Israel in war, we must do it in stages, we must take whatever area of Palestine we can get, establish sovereignty there, and then at the right time, we will have to convince the Arab nations to join us in dealing the final blow to Israel.' Self-rule, yes. But a state with which to destroy the State of Israel - no...”
Netanyahu continued, “When Arafat threatened to declare a Palestinian state in 1999, I announced at the United Nations that if he did so, we would annex broad areas of Judea,Samaria and Gaza – and Arafat capitulated.” Might Netanyahu today follow his own advice from 2002?
“On matters vital to our existence,” he concluded in 2002, “we always took clear action, even if others didn’t agree with us. Because the bottom line is that saying 'Yes' to a Palestinian state means 'No' to a Jewish State, and vice-versa.”