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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fayyad's plan exposes real Palestinian Arab goals

If one assumes that the goal of Palestinian Arab nationalism is the establishment of an independent state, the Arabs of Palestine have consistently made wrong decisions time after time again. From rejecting the Peel Commission recommendations in 1937 (where the Jewish State would have been minuscule and unsustainable) to the UN Partition through Camp David and Barak's offer, the answer has always been a resounding "NO!" This would appear strange, as the primary goal of nationalism is the establishment of a nation-state.

It has been pointed out many times that Israel was built by Zionists who created and expanded the institutions of statehood while under the control of the British. Their goal was a state, and they instinctively realized that the foundations must exist before such a state could be realized. So through the first half of the century, Jews built the infrastructure of the future Jewish state - hospitals, schools, quasi-government offices, social programs, an economic infrastructure, cultural institutions and more. They organized themselves and acted state-like way before 1948.

Palestinian Arabs have done no such thing. Any infrastructure they have has been mostly built either by Israel or by external parties like UNRWA.

Palestinian Arab prime minister Salam Fayyad is aiming to change that.

Fayyad is an anomaly in Palestinian Arab history; he has little following of his own and he did not come up through the terror ranks. His tenure as prime minister has been consistently pragmatic; he cleaned up a lot of the corruption and made the donor economy of the PA much more transparent to the West. He is not associated with any major political group.

Fayyad has put together a two-year plan of massively building Palestinian Arab institutions with the goal of unilaterally declaring an independent Palestinian Arab state in 2011. In a very real sense, this plan is a far bigger challenge to Israel than decades of terror have been. And it has not been lost on observers that Fayyad is using Zionism as his blueprint.

Fayyad's goal (at least initially) is clearly to build an independent nation-state. This is in direct opposition to the primary goal of Palestinian Arab leaders since Haj Amin al-Husseini - the destruction of Israel. Although they cloaked this goal in nationalist terms, their decisions over the years have proven that statehood was a political cover for their real aim. As such, Fayyad poses a challenge to the traditional Palestinian Arab mindset no less than it does to Israel.

In today's Comment is Free, former Palestinian Arab negotiator Ahmad Samih Khalidi tries to articulate to a Western audience why he is against Fayyad's plan. His article is convoluted and bizarre, as he attempts to hide the ingrained PalArab goals of destroying Israel while also trying to find a logical problem with statehood. It reveals much about the Palestinian Arab psyche. (Khalidi cannot even mention Fayyad's name.)

At the heart of the PA's programme lies a basic contradiction: while it claims to be building a state against the occupation, it is in practice building state-like structures with the occupation. No genuinely sovereign state has been or can be built while still under occupation, and nothing in Israel's current stance on the basic issues of Palestinian sovereignty (territorial extent, control over borders, the right to self defence, and so on) suggests otherwise.
Yet somehow Israel was built while under British occupation and with the presence of hostile Arabs surrounding the Zionists from within and without. Khalidi pretends to explain that:

The second problem stems from a total misreading of history. The Zionist movement may indeed have developed its state-building capacity while under the British mandate, but Israel only came into being as a state by using force against British and Palestinians alike. By way of contrast, the only military capability the PA is building under US supervision is directed against those who seek to take up arms against the occupation. The "Zionist" option of military self-reliance and readiness to use force for political-territorial ends is totally absent from the PA's new approach and is inimical to its political outlook.
In other words, Khalidi (besides making up a history where Israel was the aggressor in 1948) is saying that a Palestinian Arab state must by definition come into existence by successfully defeating Israel in battle.
The state-first approach carries other significant risks: it threatens to transform any final status negotiations into a prolonged state-to-state dispute whereby the fate of Palestinian refugees, the future of Arab Jerusalem and other critical issues will be indefinitely deferred. The urgency of dealing with Palestinians' national grievances as a whole will diminish, and their interests will be gradually pushed to the margins of international and regional concerns on the grounds that they have already fulfilled their major aspiration by being granted statehood.
Here Khalidi admits, in a backhanded way, that statehood is not the goal for the vast majority of Palestinian Arab leaders and thinkers: it is "dealing with Palestinians' [national] grievances." Addressing grievances are the goal: destroy Israel demographically with a "right of return," making Jerusalem Judenrein, and do everything necessary to avoid having a real state where the world will notice that Palestinian Arabs really do not have the will to be independent.

To Khalidi, and to generations of Palestinian Arabs, the goal is the negation of Israel, preferably by violence:
The first essential duty of a state is defending its citizens against foreign incursions and threats.
He believes that an army defines a state and that infrastructure is secondary. Terrorism, in this mindset, is more honorable than a negotiated peace, and humiliating the enemy trumps helping your own people. This is the reason that one hears the words "justice" so often in the words of Palestinian Arabs and their supporters: "justice" is a keyword that ensures that there will never be a compromise and that PalArabs (especially those who remain stateless in Arab countries) will remain in misery indefinitely.

Generations of a mindset where Palestinian Arab "nationalism" was defined in terms of what Jews control, rather than what would help ordinary Palestinian Arabs live their lives honorably, cannot be easily erased by Salam Fayyad.