By David Frum
Perhaps you’ve forgotten already – this season is such a busy time of year – but a little over a month ago, the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to recognize a “state of Palestine.” As we enter 2013, I find myself wondering: Whatever happened with that?
On Friday, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas issued a decree that henceforward the PA would be known as the “State of Palestine.” Henceforward, all signs, stamps and official documents will bear the new letterhead.
Yet here’s what’s puzzling: Only a few days before issuing his proclamation, President Abbas had publicly speculated about dissolving his new state and summoning Israel to reoccupy the whole West Bank. Meanwhile, Palestinian social-service recipients are protesting cuts – and directing their ire not against their own government, but against the United Nations.
From the Ma’an news agency, datelined Dec. 17, 2012, in Ramallah: “The heads of popular committees in refugee camps across the West Bank met Monday in Ramallah and agreed to escalate protests against UNRWA [The United Nations Relief and Works Agency]. Demonstrators will shut down all UNRWA offices on Tuesday to protest the dismissal of over 100 staff at the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, the committee chairman said.”
Is this state-building? After the UN vote, you might imagine that the Palestinian Authority (or “State of Palestine”) would do something to make a reality of its new status. It might seek direct negotiations with Israel. It might advance a proposal for a final settlement. It might initiate confidence-building measures or suggest new areas for useful cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians.
No, nix, not.
The PA (“State of Palestine”) seems to have no plan at all to make a reality of its proud words.
Palestinian nationalism often seems a mirror-image of the Zionist project, but with this one crucial difference: Over the half century before the foundation of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement pre-built the institutions of a state. The Zionist movement built not only a proto-government and the elements of an army, but charitable institutions, educational institutions, even artistic institutions. The Jewish state, when it came, was voted by the UN. But it was in no sense a gift from anybody, let alone an international organization.
When it came, that state did not have the boundaries its most ardent supporters would have wished. Much of the Jewish homeland lay outside the Jewish state, and remains outside that state to this day. But the practice of realism defined the founding generation of the state fully as much as the ideal of self-reliance. They accepted less than they dreamed of in order to achieve at least something of what they aspired to.
Fast forward to our present time. One of the two dominant parties within the Palestinian Authority (“State of Palestine”) still professes its ambition to destroy and replace Israel. The other tallies foreign aid as the largest item in its budget. Both realism and self-reliance are totally lacking.
I’ve spent the past week in the region. I was on holiday this time. I return with no special political insights, except just this one obvious to any vacationer: the terrible waste caused by this conflict, the stupid and pointless loss of human possibilities. There could be networks of peaceful commerce across the Middle East. There could be technological exchanges, electrical grids, a non-stop superhighway from Tel Aviv to Basra, daily shuttle flights from Jerusalem to Mecca. There’s no sensible reason for any of these things to be lacking, and yet lacking they all are.
In 1953, a newly elected President Eisenhower lamented the costs of conflict.
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children … Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”
Cross Israel’s borders, and you will see many millions who face the want that Eisenhower described – including those in the Palestinian territories. The decision of the leaders of the Palestinian Authority (“State of Palestine”) to forgo the responsibilities of nation-building for the flim-flam of state ceremonies only extends and deepens those deprivations all the longer, and all the more unnecessarily.
Source: NATIONAL POST