On appeasement: It is quite simple. Feeding wild animals does not make them friendly, it makes them stronger. Howard Newman

למדינה פלסטינית מפורזת, לעולם לא יסכימו הפלסטינים, למדינה פלסטינית מזויינת, לעולם לא תסכים ישראל!  אהוד בן עזר

There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true - Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard 1813-1855



Palestinian state two states solution Gaza West Bank Arab Emirates


Will Palestine exist in another generation? With the Trump administration gearing up for its meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week, it’s a question worth asking. The last thing the Trump administration should want is a repeat of the mistakes the Great Powers made a century ago when they created artificial countries.

Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Yemen and Palestine among others were all carved up out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire by the Great Powers — chiefly Britain and France — after the First World War. It was a recipe for continual strife, as peoples of different nationalities, ethnicities, cultures, religions and political traditions were forced to live together. The Great Powers created, in effect, mini multicultural, multinational states. The result was civil and sectarian discontent, and war, throughout much of the last 100 years.

We see the latest chapter of those horrors in Syria where yet another civil war has led to yet another split up. Iraq has de facto split, as has Yemen, and Lebanon, which originally was part of a multi-state Syrian federation. Jordan, whose Hashemites fought a civil war against its Palestinian Arab majority, is also tenuously held together.

The creation of a Palestinian state astride Israel — the two-state solution today’s Great Powers insist on — would have even less chance of survival than its failed neighbour states. The Arab clans of Palestine throughout the 20th century refused to accept a state of their own. Only in the 1960s did the idea of a Palestinian nation take shape when Yasser Arafat created the concept of an Arabic “Palestinian people.” Previously, “Palestinian” was a term that referred to all the residents of Palestine, Jews and Arabs. The original name of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra was the Palestine Orchestra. The Jerusalem Post was first the Palestine Post.

But Arafat never forged a united people — most Palestinians only grudgingly accepted the rule of his Palestinian Authority and some never did. Few Palestinians identify chiefly with a national identity; their loyalty instead is clan-based — to the tight-knit group of extended families that share the same ancestry, based on the father’s male line and a preference for marrying within the clan. Palestinians pledge loyalty to their clan in a binding, formal code of honour backed by local militias. An attack on one clan member is an attack on all members.

Clan-based systems of governance do not lend themselves to nation states. Little surprise, then, that after Arafat died, civil war broke out and Gaza broke off from the West Bank to form its own statelet. To make dicier still the notion of a coherent Palestinian nation whose people share common values, Gaza is theocratic, run by Hamas, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, while the West Bank is largely secular.

The chance that Trump’s America and today’s other Great Powers can make the Gazan clans and West Bank clans unite in peace and harmony is close to nil. As a practical matter, those who propose a two-state solution are more realistically contemplating a three-state solution — Israel, Gaza and the West Bank — since the Muslim Brotherhood is unlikely to give up its power base. But even a three-state solution in which the many different West Bank clans would be expected to set aside their differences and come together would almost certainly end badly.

If there is hope that President Trump can find a solution to the Middle East morass, it stems from the instincts that are his hallmarks. One instinct is suspicion of multinational organizations — he prefers smaller governing and organizing units, as seen by his support for Brexit and other breakaway groups in the European Union. Applying the same instinct to Palestine would lead Trump to favour smaller self-governing units such as emirates, a traditional form of Arab governance — the United Arab Emirates is an example.

Another Trump instinct — to sanction rather than appease terrorist states — would also favour a multi-state solution for the Palestinian territories. Trump plans to squeeze the Palestinian Authority by cutting off its funds, including by cutting funds to UN organizations that support it. Without foreign funds, the Palestinian Authority would not only be unable to fund its continued support for terrorists, it would be unable to maintain itself in power by dispensing patronage to its supporters, and it would be unable to maintain its claim to being the sole representative of the Palestinian people. The weaker the Palestinian Authority becomes, the stronger the clans become in relation, allowing them to reassert their authority, and thus appoint legitimate representatives to negotiate a settlement with the Israelis.

Trump’s instincts, if applied to Palestine, could form the basis for lasting self-government determined organically by the Arabs of Palestine, unlike a single Arab state based on the pretence of a unified Palestinian people. No other governance model — at least none with a chance of surviving long — is remotely plausible.

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