What does it take to become a state
As early as 1920, the Palestinian Jews developed viable democratic institutions consistent with a modern nation state: the Histadrut, Va’ad Leumi, Sokhnut, Haganah, and decades later, these centralized quasi-governmental organizations indeed served as a foundation for the Jewish state. Free press (such as The Palestinian Post), egalitarian culture, education (Hebrew U.), industrial and agricultural infrastructure (kibbutzim) also flourished.
Instead of helping to create the Jewish state (the Mandate prescribed “a national home for the Jewish people”), the British actively forestalled it. Efforts of the mandatory power were more along the lines of creating the Arab one (e.g. in 1922 the Brits gave away Trans-Jordan, constituting 75% of the Mandate territory, to the Hashemite Arab dynasty, and increasingly restricted Jewish immigration – especially during the Holocaust years! – but never Arab immigration).
What were the Palestinian Arabs doing during the 1920s? They were rioting, led by the jihadi-du-jour, such as the future Nazi mufti Hajj Amin al-Husseini and Izz ad-Din al-Qassam. No viable Palestinian Arab institutions were created.
Even later, during the occupation by Egypt and Jordan (1949-1967), nothing resembling a Palestinian state was created and there were no complaints then…
Fast forward to 2009. Several departments within the UN are dedicated exclusively to the Palestinian Arab cause, billions of dollars have been donated by the gullible West, and the whole world (except for the Palestinian leaders themselves) seems to crave for a Palestinian state – some insist that it already exists and hurried to recognize it – but, as in the 1920s, the Palestinian Arabs are still disunited, disassociated from reality and irrelevant to anything other than a rallying cry against Jews. Their institutions are either corrupt and dysfunctional (Fatah) or openly terrorist and totalitarian (Hamas). As in the 1920s, their culture is still imbued with radicalism, violence, and cult of death and martyrdom. None of these helped: the Arab League, Organization of Islamic Conference, individual Arab/Muslim countries, the Quartet, the Soviet Union/Russia, the European Union, individual European countries, the US, the UN…
Until the Palestinians themselves seriously engage in constructive – rather than destructive – statecraft, all efforts from the outside will fail.
Gerald F. Seib writes in his When is a Palestinian State Really a State?
What does it mean to call a nation a state?
The Israeli prime minister is willing to cede land, and flatly says he has no desire for Israel to govern Palestinians any longer.
The problem, in his mind, is that people are throwing around the word “state” too freely and allowing for too many assumptions about what that word means. Being a state means running your own affairs, picking your own leaders, and having your own economic system—none of which Netanyahu appears to have any problem with when it comes to the Palestinians.
But when people say “state,” Netanyahu worries, they also are implying a self-governing unit that can raise an army, acquire weapons from abroad and control its own borders. And those aspects of statehood, the Israeli leader argues, are non-starters for Israelis, and not just Israelis of his own Likud party.
Oh, and he also thinks there is ambiguity about what Palestinians really mean when they say they accept the state of Israel. He thinks they need to accept not just that there will be a country called Israel, but accept that it will be, specifically and eternally, a Jewish state.
The key question is this: Is the difference over what it means to establish a Palestinian state a semantic distinction, or a deep substantive divide? That’s the nub of the matter, and the issue that Obama’s special Middle East peace envoy, George Mitchell, will have to parse out.
The Netanyahu formulation would seem to leave plenty of room to agree to the formation of a self-governing, independent Palestinian entity of some kind. One journalist suggested to a senior Israeli official Tuesday that maybe it’s time to revive a term of art that has been used in the past to describe the goal of talks: formation of a “demilitarized Palestinian state.” The Israeli official nodded knowingly, but didn’t bite on the suggestion.