The President's Dream of a Palestinian State

by HERBERT LONDON November 17, 2016

For those who believe President Obama is a lame duck simply waiting for his departure from the White House and the commencement of wealth pursuits, there is a likely surprise coming. The president has signaled that he may seek a U.N. Security Council Resolution which embodies a Palestinian state with pre-1967 lines, notwithstanding a different stance by President Elect Donald Trump.

This remarkable act would unequivocally betray the U.S. policy of vetoing anti-Israel resolutions. It would also attempt to make "illegal" Israeli buildings in east Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and set in place a stance that President Trump would be hard pressed to overturn. Recently President Obama, in language that can only be regarded as hostile, said that settlement construction, even if regarded as an organic expansion of overcrowded areas is unacceptable.

Despite the long-standing and "inmutable" ties between Israel and the United States, the Obama administration questioned whether Israel is a "friend". Even a New York Times editorial called for the president to lead the Security Council in a resolution to support a two-state solution. When Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu argued a Palestinian state would be one with "no Jews," an extreme form of ethnic cleansing - which President Abbas of the Palestinian Territory actually said - the U.S. administration denied it.

Should such a Palestinian state be created, the consequences are likely to be extreme. First, direct negotiations between Israel and Palestinian authorities would be rendered irrelevant. Why negotiate when your goals can be achieved through third parties?

Second, despite assurances likely to be provided by President Obama, the influence of Hamas and Iran is almost inevitable. As a consequence, terror and violence will be the aftermath of the president's initiative.

Third, should this Palestinian state be created, Israel's width would be reduced to nine miles and threaten a significant portion of its water supply. Israeli security would most assuredly be put in jeopardy.

Fourth, even if terror isn't immediate, rogue Islamists could use shoulder deployed rocket launchers in the Palestinian Territory, just three miles from Ben Gurion Airport, to paralyze commercial air traffic into Israel.

Surely President Obama knows of these likely effects. Why then would he proceed? Although this enters the realm of conjecture, I believe the president wants to be able to contend he "stabilized" the Middle East by granting a wish many Arab leaders have long sought. For him, the Palestinian state is the political equivalent of the opening to Cuba, or the Iran deal on nuclear weapons. Moreover, he probably views it as symbolic rather than practical. The Palestinians do not have the infrastructure to maintain a state. If truth were recognized- and it rarely is in the Middle East - most residents of the area simply want an entry pass into Israel where there is the possibility of a well-paying job.

However, the president cannot let his dream die. He initiated his aim in his 2009 Cairo speech and now at the end of his term in office, the aim can be realized. For Israel this position is disastrous; it undermines Netanyahu's negotiating leverage and it further isolates Israel from the U.N. and former allies on both sides of the Atlantic.

Blaise Pascal once wrote that "the heart has reasons that reason cannot know". It is impossible to know what is in Obama's heart, but reason tells us that his decision will cause a hardship for Israel, a hardship in the midst of hardships. Of that, the evidence is very clear.

 

Herbert London is a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the President of the London Center for Policy Research. He is the author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). 

 


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