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Monday, July 25, 2011

The day after Palestinian Arab statehood

For all the talk about Palestinian Arab statehood, I find it interesting that none of the articles about the supposed benefits of statehood actually enumerate any benefits for real live Palestinian Arabs.

A recent example is this article in Al Jazeera by Noura Erakat (apparently Saeb's niece) where the benefits of statehood can be summed up as: it will hurt Israel politically.

But will even a successful statehood bid benefit real Palestinian Arabs? What would happen the day after it achieves its unilateral aims?

If the bid goes forward, the economic and security cooperation with Israel would disappear. The vast majority of Palestinian Arab exports are to Israel and if Palestine is a sovereign nation Israel will feel no obligation to continue that relationship. It would take years for a similar trade program to grow with the Arab world, and there is no evidence that there is a pent-up demand for Palestinian Arab goods in Jordan and Syria and the Gulf states.

Tens of thousands of Palestinian Arabs who are now employed in Israel and in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria would lose their jobs, putting more economic pressure on the PA. And, of course, the PA already is heavily dependent on foreign aid, aid that may be put in jeopardy after the supposed goal of independence is achieved. NGOs will likewise start looking elsewhere for recipients of their cash, and Israeli NGOs that have been working hard for cooperation with Palestinian Arabs would no longer be able to continue. Israeli Arabs will have a much harder time visiting their relatives across the border.

A third intifada seems likely, with the inevitable Israeli response. Even if it is a low-level war with "only" firebombs and stones and handguns against Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria, Israel would no longer feel obligated to respect the autonomy of Area A. Checkpoints that have been removed because of security cooperation would return, with the concomitant loss of mobility among the newly liberated people.

Hamas would take advantage of the nascent chaos and recruit the newly unemployed for their terrorist brigades with ready Iranian cash. They would also use that cash to build a separate social infrastructure, using that as a means to recruit new members and fans. In Gaza, of course, they will continue to consolidate their iron grip on the people there while paying lip service to "unity." Targeted killings of terror leaders will resume, and the current sense of relative safety that West Bank Arabs have will disappear. Freedom of the press and assembly would likely be even more severely curtailed than it is now.

Israel's coordination in sending thousands of tons of goods to Gaza would dry up, as the line between Israel and Gaza becomes an international border. The problem will go into Egypt's lap - and Egypt is not rushing to expand the Rafah crossing to handle hundreds of trucks daily.

Millions of "diaspora" Palestinian Arabs may demand to move into "Palestine," causing huge problems. It is not inconceivable that Syria or Libya would "encourage" their Palestinian "guests" to move out. that Imagine 200,000 Lebanese Palestinians saying that it is time for them to move to their new homeland. Would the PA build new camps for their people, trading one form of misery with another? They haven't even taken down the camps in their own autonomous areas!

Right now, as Abbas famously said a couple of years ago, "in the West Bank we have a good reality . . . the people are living a normal life." Statehood would change that "good reality" in an instant, and Mahmoud Abbas (who is now 76 years old) will not be able to fix it. Does he have any successor with any charisma or a following? How popular will Fatah be after the economy goes down the drain?

So why isn't the media looking at these issues? The only supposed benefits of statehood involve political issues like how "Palestine" would be able to go to the International Court of Justice to press bids against Israel or become a full member of various international bodies. Nobody is spelling out a scenario where Palestinian Arabs, in the territories or in Arab countries, will personally benefit.

Which indicates that, just as they have been throughout their short history, Palestinian Arabs are again being used as pawns by their leaders. As always, no one cares a bit about them.