Why Haven’t the Palestinian Arab Leadership Established Their Own Independent Arab State?
The Biden administration is pursuing the elusive and failed two-state solution, ostensibly to solve the Israeli/Palestinian Arab conflict.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken “emphasized the … administration’s belief that the two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace alongside a viable and democratic Palestinian state.”
Do the Arabs living in Israel, Gaza or Judea and Samaria even want a separate Jewish and Arab state? The answer is clearly no. Nothing has changed since Jamal el-Hussein, representing the Palestinian Arab Higher Committee, wrote to U.N. Secretary-General Trygve Lie on February 6, 1948: “The Arabs of Palestine … will never submit or yield to any Power going to Palestine to enforce partition. The only way to establish partition is first to wipe them out—man, woman, and child,” which is precisely what the Arabs had planned for the Jews.
The goal to annihilate Israeli Jews is still very much an imperative. In an article published on January 21, 2020, Itamar Marcus, founder and director of Palestinian Media Watch, said that Palestinian Arabs believe the Jewish threat to humanity can only be stopped by exterminating every Jew. One preacher on official Palestinian Authority (PA) TV explained the danger: “These malignant [Jewish] genes and cursed characteristics continue in them. They transfer them from generation to generation. They inherit it from father to son. … Humanity will never be able to live together with them. … Our prophet [Muhammad] informed us [that] at the end of time the Muslims will fight the Jews. … Jews hide behind a stone or a tree, and the stone or a tree will say: ‘Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’ … Allah … count them and kill them one by one, and do not leave even one.”
The Palestinian Arab leadership has never pursued nation-building or attempted to create their own state. For almost a century, they have preferred to have their citizens remain hapless “while they bask in international sympathy and enrich themselves from the proceeds of their self-inflicted plight,” declared historian Efraim Karsh. Furthermore, he noted, achieving statehood would have ruined this “paradise” by instantly transforming the Palestinian Arabs from being the world’s supreme victim into a conventional nation-state, thus ending “decades of unprecedented international indulgence.” It would have also exposed the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) fallacious claim of being “the sole representative of the Palestinian people” (already debunked by Hamas’ 2006 electoral victory in Gaza) and would have compelled any governing power to accept “for the first time in Palestinian [Arab] history, the principles of accountability and transparency.”
Arabs had several opportunities to establish an independent Arab state, Karsh said, yet they rejected every chance they were given. Haj Amin Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem from the early 1920s to the late 1940s, refused to create a separate state, which would have included by 1948 a significant portion of Palestine, and would have spared them the experience of becoming displaced persons and having to remain in exile to this day.
“A War of Terror Is Your Only Realistic Weapon”
Yasser Arafat, who ruled from the mid-1960s until he died in November 2004, could have established a state on several occasions: In the late 1960s or the early 1970s; in 1979, as a component of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty; in May 1999, as part of the Oslo Accords; or at the Camp David summit in July 2000. Instead he transformed the PLO into “one of the most murderous and kleptocratic terrorist organizations in modern times.”
One of the reasons for the failure to establish a nation-state can be found in a conversation Arafat had with Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu în Romania toward the end of the 1970s, according to Ion Mihai Pacepa, a two-star general in the Securitate, the secret police of Communist Romania, who defected to the U.S. in July 1978. At the meeting, Arafat said that “the Palestinians lacked the tradition, unity and discipline to become a formal state. That a Palestinian state would be a failure from the first day.” Creating a state “was only something for a future generations.” Having a government would have impeded “the Palestinian struggle against Israel,” he argued, since “all governments, even Communist ones, were limited by laws and international agreements. That he could not put any laws or other obstacles in the way of the Palestinian struggles against Israel.”
“A war of terror is your only realistic weapon,” Ceausescu advised Arafat. While operating in the shadows, Arafat could orchestrate limitless operations throughout the world while keeping his name and government “pristine and unspoiled, ready for negotiations and further negotiations.” He could then denounce the slaughter of innocent Israeli civilians with feigned outrage, which is precisely what he did, according to Muhammad Al-Daya, Arafat’s longtime bodyguard. In a BBC TV Arabic interview reported by MEMRI, Al-Daya revealed that Arafat would lie when denouncing bombings in Israel. Arafat would condemn the bombing in his own special way, saying, ‘I am against the killing of civilians.’ But that wasn’t true. … Arafat has made a political career by pretending that he has not been involved in his own terrorist acts,” according to Pacepa.
Karsh adds that had Mahmoud Abbas, who followed Arafat as PLO chairman and PA president, and appears to have continued “in his predecessor’s kleptocratic footsteps,” could have established a state after the Annapolis summit of November 2007, or in June 2009, throughout President Obama’s first term when Benjamin Netanyahu publicly agreed to the two-state solution. The justification for Abbas’ refusal to recognize Israel is found in Articles 15 and 20 of the Palestinian National Charter of the PLO. Article 15 asserts, “The liberation of Palestine, from an Arab viewpoint, is a national (qawmi) duty and it attempts to repel the Zionist and imperialist aggression against the Arab homeland and aims at the elimination of Zionism in Palestine.”
A Final Note
Itamar Marcus said that since 2008, the PA has accepted the Hamas position that this is a religious war, and describes Jerusalem and the entire land of Israel as Ribat—holy Islamic land—whose “liberation” and protection are obligatory under Islamic law.
Dr. Grobman is senior resident scholar at the John C. Danforth Society and a member of the Council of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.