For three decades we were bidden to believe that all the Middle East needs to come right is a new Arab country. The nitwit fantasy has just ended in disgust and indignation. Martin Indyk, Secretary of State John Kerry’s negotiator for a two-state solution, is one of many diplomats who are stupefied after their trusted partner removed the moderate mask.
“I have been despairing about how to respond to Abu Mazen’s profoundly anti-Semitic diatribe. How could someone who has treated me as a personal friend for three decades at the same time harbor such hateful views of my people?”
Professor of International Law, Eugene Kontorovich, can’t understand, “How someone who helped establish the “two-state solution” policy and defend it for three decades ( can) be such a fool! Abbas wrote his dissertation denying the Holocaust, but he smiles at Martin Indyk , and everything is good?”
In any case, can the two-state solution really go on being the cornerstone of Middle East policy after the pillar of this hope told his camp that Adolf Hitler had Jews slaughtered because of their “social role” as moneylenders, not because they were Jews?
This is no idle question. Even now Biden is scrambling to come up with a mutual security pact that would mean Saudi Arabia normalizing ties with Israel – if only its coalition government swears not to play hard ball with – you guessed right – the two state solution. He mentioned it in his UN speech as one of his goals. Thomas L Friedman licks his chops at the stupid prospect of it doing so.
“I’d love to see Israel’s far-right finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich go on Israeli television and explain to the Israeli people why it is in Israel’s interest to annex the 'West Bank' and its 2.9 million Palestinian inhabitants — forever — rather than normalize ties with Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Muslim world.”
If only lefty dreamers of the stamp of Indyk and Friedman knew the basics of history, they’d learn that Netanyahu’s government is not looking a gift horse in the mouth, it suspects a Trojan horse. Lefty dreamers turn out to be the simpletons. They go with the automatic assumption that when the new flag flaps at the United Nations it will bear the eye-catching colors of Palestine.
Go to history oh sluggard. Consider her ways and be wise. For the two state idea, the ways of Palestinian history point where? The pro-camp would rather not look.
Consider the Jewish arm of the Democrat Party which remains the go-to lobby for Obama’s sidekick Joe Biden. J-Street turned history’s finger the wrong way by claiming that two states for two people had a long history.
“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.”
J-Street planted the lie cleverly. True, there is a long history of partition plans going back to 1937. But – a big one – the people to be partitioned off changed along the way. Arab nationalists and Jews became Palestinian Arabs and Israelis – quite different collectives. Two different pairings of two different players in two different periods are not one continuous record. How sly is that.
If time matters then continuity is absurd. At the time of the 1947 UN Partition Plan the Palestinian Arab collective was 21 years away from conception. But so what? Could the true record instead of the lie of a tricky lobby make a difference? So what if a state planned for Arabs long ago is not the same thing as the state Biden would like to pull out of a hat today.
Go to history, oh sluggard…
Attend the class of ’47’/’48. Those are the years of the UN Partition Plan and its aftermath. The plan was abandoned when Arab states tried to abort the Jewish state by invading it. But, think, what would have happened had Israel lost and the Arabs won that war? What flag would now flutter beside the UN building?
Those who put up their hands for the flag of Palestine are wrong. That is not the lesson from the class of ’47/’48. The lesson is that territory captured by the victorious Arab armies would not have been handed over to Palestinian Arabs. Not at all. The Arab scramble for Palestine would have divided it among the invaders: Transjordan, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon. Google all you like, but not a single Arab leader looked upon the Palestinian Arabs as a distinctive people who deserved sovereignty. The Arab-siding British had the same attitude before they turned off the lights on their Mandate.
In the book, Palestine Betrayed, Professor Efraim Karsh quotes a British official.
“It does not appear that Arab Palestine will be an entity, but rather that the Arab countries will each claim a portion in return for their assistance [in the war against Israel]. . . ” In the same book we hear 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.”
Arab nationalists 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 class of ’47/’48 is mandatory for punters of the Two-State Solution.
And so it proved. Look what happened in the war of ’47 when Gaza and the 'West Bank' fell into the hands of Egypt and Jordan. Were the spoils of war given over to local Arabs for a state? They decidedly were not. The British, whatever you think of them, had their fingers on the pulse.
Now go to the class of ’64. 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. We know because they said they were satisfied. Look at the National Covenant of the Palestine Liberation Organization of 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.”
The PLO felt as happy as the day it was born. We like Judea, Samaria, East Jerusalem and Gaza ruled by Arab states, it said. Leave things be.
Most people attended or know the great class of ’67. What can we take from that vintage year? The 6-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 Arab state? Of course not. It would be the perfect case of putting the cart before the horse. Plan for a nation state and keep it until the nation is born? Funny. If you attended the class of ’68 you’ll know the Palestinian Arabs were a year away from seeing the light of day.
What it means: the UN understood that territories evacuated by Israel would be returned to the pre-1967 Arab occupiers, Egypt and Jordan. UN resolution 242 spoke of the need “for achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem”. Again our ears prick. Who were these problem refugees? There were Palestinian Arabs certainly. But more, there was a larger group of 850,000 Jews expelled from Arab states during and after the 1948 war of independence.
The international community thought the same way. Western democracies pooh-poohed the idea of Palestinian Arab nationhood. So did the Arab supporting Soviets.
Even the Arab world recoiled at the idea of a Palestinian state. Professor Karsh relates how the Hashemite rulers of Jordan viewed it as a mortal threat to their own kingdom. The Saudis saw it as a possible source of extremism and instability. Pan-Arab nationalists were as adamantly opposed. They had their own designs on the land. In ’74, 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.”
Poor Palestinian Arabs. What did they want? If no one fancied giving them a state, perhaps they fancied one. Not a bit of it.
For a really fine class attend to that given by Zahir Muhsein. He was the head of the PLO Military Department and a 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.”
Why gape, unless you bunked the class of ’48/’50 given by Professor Karsh.
“The collapse and dispersion of Palestinian society following the 1948 defeat prevented the crystallization of a national identity. Host Arab regimes actively colluded in discouraging it. Upon occupying the 'West Bank', King Abdallah of Jordan moved quickly to erase all traces of Palestinian identity.”
What about the people of Gaza – if no one gave them a second thought what did they want? We don’t rightly know. If they wanted to be citizens of Egypt, the occupying power, they were probably the furthest thing on Egypt’s mind.
We arrive at the critical class of ’93. What did the Oslo Accords mean by paving the way for a Palestinian Authority? Did they presage a state of Arab Palestine? The eminent Israeli scholar and opponent of Jewish settlements, Benny Morris, thought so at the time. Yasser Arafat, he felt, had set aside the defeatist dream of destroying Israel and was ready to knuckle down to nation building.
What gave Morris this flight of fancy. The accords contained nothing about aPalestinian Arab state being the end goal. The signatories allowed for a self-governing entity and no more. Yes, the international community seemed to expect that the accords would evolve into a full-blown state of Palestine. How this expectation became a right and a demand is obvious. Realpolitic stepped in where a binding agreement feared to tread. And not far behind came treachery.
“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.”
Yasser Arafat spoke the words on Jordanian TV on September 13, 1993, the very day he signed the Oslo Accords with Israel and shook hands on the White House Lawn.
So the PLO never countenanced two-states for two people. If it did then surely Arafat would have not have signed inconclusive accords. Yet that is what he did. He never insisted on a state of Palestine next door to Israel.
Bribe and browbeat all he can, President Biden will never pull such a rabbit out of the hat. President Trump half did, with the Abraham Accords. He got some Arab states to come to terms with the idea of a Jewish homeland. Who knows what would have been with the Palestinian Arabs had Trump stayed another term in the White House.
As it is, the PLO charter calls not for Israel to be a neighbor but for Israel to be eradicated. The PLO remains more intent on throwing the Jews into the sea than accepting the offer of a country. That is because they don’t want a country for themselves. “The moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.”
Deal making and peace broking are games that politicians play. Leader Mahmoud Abbas told them openly. “No Palestinian leaders have the right to take away a person’s right of return,” he told the newspaper, Al-Quds on 10 January 2014.
We ignore history at our peril. 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 who else he was winking at during a handshake on the deal.
Pan-Arabism is no longer the force it once was. The long shadow of Iran together with the Abraham Accords now shape the facts on the ground.
Precisely who or what will scramble for 'Palestine' we don’t rightly know. What we do know is that punters of the two-state idea seem to have bunked a history class or three. It is highly unlikely the Arabs did.
Steve Apfel, a veteran authority on anti-Zionism, is a prolific author of non-fiction and fiction. He blogs at Balaam’s curse