All Writings
May 13, 2002

It Is Not Up To The Likud Party

t is not up to the Likud Party or any other political party in Israel to decide whether or not a Palestinian state should be created. The eventual establishment of a Palestinian state has been and will continue to be the Palestinians' national right. Opposing it in principle is at best arrogant and presumptuous and at worst a decision fraught with the potential for perpetual war.

Sharon Although the Likud resolution is not binding, and Prime Minister Sharon's himself declared only few a months ago that a Palestinian state is inevitable, it can inhibit him from taking steps designed to bring the Palestinians closer to their national goal. Considering the fragile makeup of the Sharon government, the resolution can impede the negotiating process which is necessary if the escalating violence is to end anytime soon. For example, it may prevent Mr. Sharon from surrendering additional land to Palestinian control even after most of the violence has subsided. The extent to which this resolution may impact how Sharon deals in the future with the Palestinians depends on whether he uses it as an excuse not to make any move that may accommodate them. Arguably, he will remain bound by the coalition agreement to maintain the same policy of vigilance against terrorism while working toward the easing of tensions that is necessary to usher in political talks with the Palestinians. Bolstered by a 70% approval rating in a recent poll, Mr. Sharon will most likely continue his current policy irrespective of his party's resolution. Moreover, he knows that a similar majority of Israelis still support the establishment of a Palestinian state along the lines stated in former President Clinton's formula.

By engineering this resolution, former Prime Minister Natanyahu hopes to control Likud's agenda and replace Sharon as its leader in the next elections. I believe this tactic will backfire against Natanyahu not only because of Sharon's popularity, but because the Israelis themselves are sick and tired of the endless bloodshed and want to see it end. Openly adopting policies designed to prevent the Palestinians from achieving their cherished national goal is nothing less than a recipe for continuing and escalating violence, with disastrous consequences for both sides. The Palestinians' right to statehood is not for Natanyahu or any other Israeli to give or deny. This right was granted to the Palestinians in 1947 by a United Nations resolution partitioning Mandated Palestine into two states–an Israeli and a Palestinian. That the Palestinians refused to establish their state then does not nullify their right to establish it at any other time. Since 1947, fair-minded Israeli leaders have recognized this historic imperative, and after the Oslo agreement in 1993 the creation of a Palestinian state became only a matter of time. The only preconditions were and still are that such a state coexist peacefully side-by-side with Israel and harbor no further claims or engage in any hostilities against it once a mutually agreed on political and territorial formula is devised. In recent days the United has States recognized the same right, and no force or a political party can change or obscure this simple fact.

It is sad that there is still an element in the Israeli body politic that justifies occupation in any form. I wonder what formula Natanyahu and those who supported the resolution envision that can satisfy the Palestinians' aspirations short of a state of their own? Can Israel maintain its occupation and remain a democracy? Will the Palestinians simply succumb to Natanyahu's whims and forget about their present plight and the suffering they have endured, albeit in part self-inflicted, for the past 55 years? Have the first and the second Intifadah taught Natanyahu and his zealot followers anything about human rights and a people's rights to self-determination? Has he forgotten that his failed policies as Prime Minister from 1995 to1998 torpedoed the negotiation process then?

NetanyahuNatanyahu certainly is aware that an overwhelming majority of Israelis are willing to make substantial territorial concessions, similar to those proposals by Clinton/Barak in exchange for genuine and lasting peace. Certainly, no sane Israeli will be willing to make such sweeping concessions unless the Palestinians unequivocally accept Israel's right to exist behind secure borders and understand that no Palestinian state will ever be built on Israel's ruins. Moreover, a Palestinian state must be constructed on democratic principles, with accountability, transparency, a fair judiciary and enshrined human rights. All Israeli governments–present and future–have a solemn duty to defend and insure Israel's safety by whatever means are at their disposal. That said, every Prime Minister has the same solemn obligation to end the violent madness that has been consuming both peoples and destroying the social fabric on which a peace of reconciliation must be built.

There is no Israeli military leader who will not attest to the fact that although in an overall agreement all types of security arrangements must be established, it is peace itself that provides the ultimate security. Presently, the Palestinians have nothing to lose. But with a state of their own, they will have everything to lose. They know by bitter experience that Israel's military power is such that it can reach into any place at anytime should it feel threatened or undermined by irredentist Palestinian extremists.

If the Palestinians have learned anything from the second Intifadah, it is that Israel will not be forced out of the territories by violence and, in the final analysis, their welfare and well-being are tied to Israel's. The Israelis may have been fooled once by Natanyahu's rhetoric but are savvy enough politically not to be fooled twice.