As with every Administration, President Obama is facing questions about the Middle East. Specifically, many in the press want to know if he supports Palestinian statehood. President Bush was the first American President to call specifically for a Palestinian state, and much has been said about the positive and negative repercussions of such a move.
In order to address the merits of a Palestinian state, one much first look at the history.
On 29 December, 1947, the United Nations passed Resolution 181 calling for the partitioning of the territory known as Palestine into Jewish and Arab states with Jerusalem coming under international control. Six months later, on 14 May, 1948, the State of Israel declared independence and was recognized by the United States, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Uruguay, the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Ireland and South Africa.
Immediately following Israel’s declaration, Arab League Secretary General Abdul Razek Azzam announced the intention to wage “a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.” The Arab intent to eradicate Israel, evident since her inception, has never faltered, instead gaining strength over the years.
The primary argument made by the Arab League was that Israel had no right to exist, particularly on the tract of land captured by the Ottoman Turks in the 13th Century.
The land, they argued, had been conquered by military might and thus belonged to the victor, as had been recognized by the international community throughout history.
This argument is invalid on its face. Should the right to territorial conquest be held constant, Italy could easily claim rightful ownership of Israel, since Roman legions captured the land in 70 AD and named it Palestine.
Further, archeological evidence has categorically established a Jewish presence in Israel dating back over three thousand years. Thus, the Israeli claim predates the claim of any other peoples in the region – the ancient Philistines are extinct, and no other people have the unbroken line to this date that the Israeli’s have.
The Arab League however, did not concern itself with the historical basis of Israel’s claims, instead, launching four wars of aggression with the announced intention of eradicating Israel. In every instance, and against overwhelming odds, the Israeli military not only defeated, but humiliated the combined Arab forces.
This humiliation at the hands of what Arab states consider a lesser people has added to the tensions in the region. Honor and revenge are mainstays of Arab culture, and to be embarrassed on an international state by a nation with no right to exist has served to heighten the hatred felt by the Arab states toward Israel.
Having proven incapable of defeating the Israelis on the battlefield, a loose confederation of fourteen Arab countries including Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon met in Cairo and established a political body to deal directly with the problem of Israel. What became known as the Palestinian Liberation Organization established a charter calling for the destruction of “the Zionist state,” and for the establishment of a “Palestinian entity.”
Soon after the founding of the PLO, Yasir Arafat took control of the organization and began his quest for the destruction of Israel. To establish his legitimacy, he claimed to have been born in Jerusalem, but was actually born in Cairo.
During his life, Arafat drove relentlessly toward the eradication of Israel, ignoring efforts toward peace and negotiation. Even in 2000 when then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered to return Israel to her 1967 borders and cede control of Eastern Jerusalem to the Palestinians, Arafat refused.
At that moment, the PLO lost all claims to legitimacy. Were the argument truly about who owned what swath of soil, Arafat would have eagerly accepted both peace and the territory the Palestinians claimed.
Instead, Arafat walked away from the table without making a counter-offer, scuttling the peace process and ensuring further bloodshed. The battle rages today, with no end in sight.
In relation to the current state of the conflict, many cite Israel as the aggressor and instigator claiming that even the United Nations has gone on record condemning what some see as heavy-handed responses to Arab attacks. While numerous resolutions have been passed chastising the Israelis, the UN itself seems to recognize an unfair bias.
On 20 September 2006, then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan admitted at the opening of the 61st General Assembly that Israel is often unfairly judged at the UN. “On one side,” he said, “supporters of Israel feel that it is harshly judged by standards that are not applied to its enemies, and too often this is true, particularly in so UN bodies.”
The United Nations also passed Resolution 3379 which determined Zionism was, by definition, racism, thereby labeling all Jews as racists. The resolution was not repealed until 1991, and even then was opposed overwhelming by the Arab-bloc states.
Further, the UN Human Rights Commission voted 32-1 to declare Israel’s presence in the Golan Heights illegal and 45-1 to condemn Israel’s settlement construction. After these votes, the Council had become so embarrassing that Kofi Annan warned the Council might be discredited, stating, “There are surely other situations besides the one in the Middle East, which would merit scrutiny at a special session; I would suggest that Darfur is a glaring case in point.”
There are also those who deny Israel’s right to self-defense. They claim that the Palestinians would not resort to suicide bombings and indiscriminate rocket attacks against civilian targets if Israel would simply retreat from her borders and concede to every demand made.
Under the “Land for Peace” agreement, Israel attempted to trade away territory in exchange for pledges for a cessation of hostilities. Instead, every inch given became a platform for further attacks into Israel. In 2000, Israel withdrew troops from Southern Lebanon in exchange for peace and was rewarded instead with the Second Intifada.
In the 18 months after 9/11, Israel’s six million citizens suffered 12,480 terrorist attacks and buried over 400 victims – a per-capita death toll six times that of the United States. Even in light of this violence, however, Israel is still being pressured to make concessions to the Palestinians, thus sacrificing her basic right to exist.
The United States should be supporting Israel’s right to take whatever military action is necessary to defend herself against her enemies. If it is right for America to bomb al-Qaeda strongholds in Afghanistan – and it is – then it is equally justifiable for Israel to bomb the terrorist strongholds in the occupied territories.
A Palestinian state headed by groups like the PLO would be a launching pad and training ground for terrorists targeting not only Israel, but the United States. Forcing Israelis to accept a Palestinian state under terrorist rule is like forcing Americans to accept a state the size of Mexico 12 miles from New York City, ruled by Osama bin Laden (who was recently shot in the face).
As long as the Palestinians sanction terrorism and aggression, they should not be permitted their own state.