At first glance, today’s editorial [now archived, but see below] in the Lebanese Daily Star is a real shocker. The Palestinians have wanted statehood for years. But the Lebanese paper says forget Palestine. Why? Vengeance against Israel. Clearly defined borders, it says, will set the stage for slapping Israel on the wrist if they cross them. No corresponding recognition of the problem of rockets fired on Israeli towns from inside the Palestinian towns and the security issues that creates. Just a poo-pooing of the entire idea of building Palestine in exchange for feeding the latest cycle of hate.
With Arab brothers like Lebanon for friends, Palestine doesn’t need enemies. Why place an artificial obstacle of borders to statehood? Did the U.S. have borders carved in stone before declaring independence? Of course not. That’s why the American flag has grown from thirteen stars of the original colonies to a flag with 50 stars. America has always been a work in progress.
So why insist that a country like Palestine have unshakable borders before anyone will do business with it as a country? Because someone somewhere has an ax to grind. Hatred against Israel is what keeps incompetent regimes in power. Any number of Arab governments don’t want to lose the suffering of the Palestinian people as the national scab they can continuously pick in order to keep the hate levels ratcheted up and keep themselves from actually having to govern.
So much Arab power feeds on the misery of the Palestinian people. You can expect that any attempts to secure independence for Palestine will be met with determined behind the scenes resistance from the Arab community at the same time they are paying public lip service to the rights of the Palestinian people. It is no accident that the only peace process to make any headway within the last 20 years has been the 1993 secret negotiations at Oslo, on a parallel track to other negotiations and kept secret even from the U.S. government.
Let’s hope the Obama administration and the Clinton Department of State can pull this one off.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s pledge to “vigorously” pursue a peace process that will lead to the creation of a Palestinian state is not likely to generate huge excitement among Arabs in the Middle East. Even though we would like to believe in the change promised by President Barack Obama’s administration, many of us have grown disillusioned with a lengthy peace process that has produced so few tangible results. Decades into the conflict, the long-promised state that would give Palestinians their most basic rights as human beings – including citizenship, freedom of movement, and the right to study and work abroad, for example – Palestine still seems to be out of reach. Instead of building up our hopes again, Clinton should focus on an easier achievement: Create an Israeli state.
Yes, the United States formally recognized Israel just 11 minutes after Zionists declared its creation on Palestinian land in 1948, and most other nations have since followed suit, but the Jewish state remains a nebulous entity because its exact borders have not yet been drawn. This territorial ambiguity has allowed Israel to continue with its endless expansion and conquest of Palestinian lands, resulting in new “facts on the ground” that make Palestine’s creation increasingly impossible. The Israeli organization Peace Now, for instance, warned this week that current expansion plans would double the number of illegal settlers in the Occupied West Bank. Plans such as these have been carried out under the noses of the international community for far too long because no one has tried to put territorial limits on Israel’s insatiable appetite for more Palestinian land.
We have long heard promises that a Palestinian state is within reach, and have later been told that more hurdles need to be cleared before this basic right of self-determination will be acknowledged by the international community. Early in his presidency, George W. Bush vowed that such a state would be created through his own peacemaking efforts by the year 2005, but later pushed that date back, promising that he would press for its creation before he left office in 2009. Clinton would do well to avoid repeating the mistakes of Bush and his predecessors by raising – and then crushing – the hopes of yet another generation of Arabs.
Instead, she should work with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to nail down the exact borders of the state of Israel. Then at least Israel’s egregious acts of expansion would be defined as taking place outside the Jewish state’s borders. Maybe then the world would finally put an end to this crime.