Why supporting a Palestinian state at this time is a bad idea
- Fatah, which controls the Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank, faces a serious problem of legitimacy, with a leadership in crisis and general loss of public support.
No legislative or presidential elections have been held in the Palestinian territories since 2005, even though Abbas’s presidential term was supposed to end in 2009. Fatah and Hamas have been at loggerheads since 2007 when the hard-line Islamist party seized Gaza, following a brutal battle.
In 2021 Hamas was poised to sweep the parliamentary election in the West Bank, which was widely seen as the real reason for Fatah’s President Mahmoud Abbas postponing the poll. Abbas cited Israel’s refusal to allow voting in eastern Jerusalem as the reason for postponement.
A public opinion poll undertaken by the Palestinian Centre for policy and survey research in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip between 8 and 11 March 2023 highlights the low level of confidence in the Palestinian Authority.
“Public evaluation of internal conditions points to a greater deterioration in the standing of the PA and a significant loss of trust in it. Findings show a rise in the belief that the PA is now a burden on the Palestinian people and for the first time in our polls, a majority supports the dissolution of the PA and views its collapse as an interest for the Palestinian people. In fact, a majority thinks that the continued existence of the PA serves the interests of Israel and that its dissolution or collapse would strengthen Palestinian armed groups.
- 44% think Hamas and Fatah do not deserve to represent and lead the Palestinian people; 26% think Hamas deserve to represent and lead the Palestinians and 24% think Fatah deserves to do so
Demand for Abbas’ resignation stands today at 76% in the West Bank and 78% in the Gaza Strip.
The declining status of the PA can also be seen in the vast public support, standing at about two-thirds in the West Bank, for the strike of the West Bank teachers in public schools and the belief of about 80% or more of the public that the current PA government will fail in conducting elections, reunifying the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, or improving economic conditions. Loss of trust in the PA can be seen in the overwhelming opposition to the PA’s imposition of a one-Shekel tax on the telecommunication bill to support East Jerusalem. On top of that opposition, about 80% say the money will not really go to East Jerusalemites.
- 82% think there is corruption in the PA institutions
- 71% think there is corruption in the public institutions administered by Hamas
- 63% believe the PA is a burden on the Palestinian people
In a question about the main problem confronting Palestinian society today, the largest percentage, 26% (12% in the Gaza Strip and 35% in the West Bank), say it is corruption; 21% (26% in the Gaza Strip and 18% in the West Bank) say it is unemployment and poverty; 20% say it is the continuation of the occupation and settlement construction; 16% (26% in the Gaza Strip and 9% in the West Bank) say it is continued siege and blockade of the Gaza Strip; 11% say it is the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; and 4% say it is the weakness of the judiciary and the absence of liberties, accountability and democracy.”
Given the low level of public trust in the PA, with no sound leadership in place and without incentives for an improved performance, it would be foolish to recognise a Palestinian state.
- There is a high likelihood that recognising a Palestinian state in the current climate will lead to a blood bath.
When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 a bitter struggle for power between Hamas and Fatah ensued.
Human Rights Watch concluded that during the battle in 2007 between Hamas and Fatah:
…both sides violated international humanitarian law, in some instances amounting to war crimes. “The accusations include targeting and killing civilians, public executions of political opponents and captives, throwing prisoners off high-rise apartment buildings, fighting in hospitals, and shooting from a jeep marked with “TV” insignia. The International Committee of the Red Cross denounced attacks in and around two hospitals in the northern part of the Gaza strip”.
“These attacks by both Hamas and Fatah constitute brutal assaults on the most fundamental humanitarian principles. The murder of civilians not engaged in hostilities and the willful killing of captives are war crimes, pure and simple”.
— Sarah Leah Whitson,
Middle East director for Human Rights Watch.
According to the current findings of the Palestinian Centre for policy and survey research, there is “a significant decline in the support for the two-state solution”, which is the policy that New Zealand has advocated for many years. There has also been a rise in the percentage of Palestinians who support a return to armed confrontation and intifada.
“In fact, 70% of West Bankers expect the eruption of a third armed intifada. Moreover, more than 70% declare support for the latest Huwara shooting attack against settlers; two thirds support the formation of armed groups, such as the Jenin Battalion or the Lions’ Den; and almost all express the view that the PA security services should not arrest or disarm members of these groups. More than 60% of the West Bankers believe that members of these armed groups will resist with arms any attempt by the PA security services to disarm or arrest them. Public support for armed resistance is further confirmed by overwhelming opposition to the Palestinian participation in the Aqaba meeting, [which took place last month in order to stop the escalation of the armed conflict in the West Bank]. Almost all Palestinians think Israel will not honor its commitments in that meeting. A large majority, standing at 70%, think Israeli counter measures, which are meant to punish those who commit armed attacks or their families, such as home demolition, expulsion, or the imposition of the death penalty, will only lead to an increase in the intensity of such attacks.”
Currently, there is a high likelihood that if Israel withdrew from the Palestinian territories, as it did in Gaza in 2005, there would be a bitter and bloody battle between Hamas and the PA, in which many Palestinians would be injured or killed. Further, given there is no indication that either the PA or Hamas is willing to live in peace with a Jewish state, the territory of the West Bank would become a launching pad for further terrorist attacks on Israel.
Further, the question arises, what would be the borders of a Palestinian state? Negotiations over decades have not produced a definitive answer to this question.
- Palestinian leaders show no sign of wishing to live in peace with Israel. They continue to pursue a strategy of rejectionism and internationalization of the conflict, rather than direct negotiations with Israel. They engage in historical revisionism which seeks to deny any Jewish claims to the land. They foster a climate of antisemitic hatred and glorification of martyrdom.
Numerous offers have been made and rejected – in 1937, 1947, 2000, 2008, 2020. The Oslo Peace Process of 1993-1994 was followed by suicide bomb attacks on innocent Israeli citizens in restaurants and buses. The Palestinian response to the peace offer of 2000 was the launching of further terror attacks on Israel that led to the death of approximately 1,184 Israelis. This spate of terrorism also led to the building of the security wall and checkpoints, which have proven successful in reducing terrorism, but have made life more difficult for Palestinians.
Whether it’s the International Criminal Court or the various organs of the United Nations, the Palestinians would rather use international platforms to push its case than negotiate directly with Israel. Israel will not allow such tactics to force an outcome. Even in the last month Abbas used the platform of the UN to continue his strategy of historical revisionism, propagation of lies and even Holocaust distortion. Abbas addressed the United Nations on the occasion of the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of what Palestinians call “the Nakba”.
He slandered Israel claiming that Israelis and Zionists “continue to lie, like Goebbels.” He called the creation of the State of Israel a “catastrophe” of history, and accused the United States and Great Britain, countries that have given billions to help the Palestinians, of expelling their respective Jewish populations and planting, for their own colonialist purposes, a “foreign entity” in what he claims was then an Arab State of Palestine.
In an act of cultural colonisation, Abbas seeks to erase the more than 3,000 years of Jewish history in Jerusalem and displace the Jews in their indigenous homeland. This demonstrates once again that Abbas is no partner for peace.
Further, a litmus test in the attitude of the government is what is taught to children. Sadly, Palestinian children are indoctrinated to hatred with a school curriculum that encourages violence, jihad, martyrdom, antisemitism, hate, and intolerance. This is further entrenched in Summer camps where children are encouraged to become martyrs and recruited to become child soldiers, a war crime. Sadly, New Zealand is complicit by its policy of financially supporting UNRWA, whose schools have been shown to use antisemitic material. Palestinians are incentivised to terrorist activity with the families of ‘martyrs’ receiving financial rewards.
Any recognition of the state of Palestine in the current circumstances would be counterproductive to a peaceful outcome. It would not enhance the well-being of Palestinians and would likely result in a fierce internecine struggle between Hamas and Fatah, leading to the deaths of Palestinians, further terrorist attacks on Israel and greater instability in the region. While recognising a Palestinian state is probably seen as a symbolic way of supporting the Palestinians, to do so in the current situation would send the message that the Palestinians leadership does not need to negotiate with Israel, does not need to get its house in order and deal with corruption and does not need to forgo violence towards Israel and each other.
Finally, it is nothing short of arrogance for people of New Zealand to seek to impose an ill-conceived “solution” on a long-standing conflict in a distant and very volatile region of the world.