Monday, June 20, 2011

Three Palestinian Places

By Jay Bergman

Published in the Waterbury Sunday Republican on June 19, 2011.

Largely absent in the extensive analyses of President Obama's recent pronouncement that the Palestinians deserve a state of their own - without their having to agree Israel should remain a Jewish one - is acknowledgment there already is a Palestinian state. It is called Jordan.

Jordan has been ruled since its creation in 1946 by Hashemites, who, while Arab and Muslim, are not Palestinian. This enabled King Hussein, in ejecting the PLO from Jordan in September 1970, to kill more Palestinians in one month than Israel has killed, almost always in self-defense, in 63 years.

But the majority of Jordanians are Palestinian. For purely pragmatic reasons, it might be best for both Israel and America, not to mention the Hashemites themselves, that Hussein's successor, his son Abdullah, remain in power, but his overthrow remains a real possibility. In that event, Jordan would be a Palestinian state de jure as well as demographically. Should that occur, the Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza that President Obama desires would be the second one, not the first.

But this second Palestinian state could generate a third one. Because Gaza and the West Bank are separated by 25 miles of Israeli territory, it is easy to imagine them becoming separate, independent entities. In fact, Gaza under Hamas is already self-governing and can thus be included among the many other Muslim states in the Middle East that are more interested in killing Jews than in improving the lives of their own people.

In a passage in his recent speech at the State Department, Obama said the Palestinian state he envisaged would be "contiguous," which is to say there would be a band of territory linking Gaza and the West Bank. The mind boggles at what might exist on such a territory. An express lane for suicide bombers? Toll booths that enable the kleptocrats running the Palestinian Authority line their pockets?

The contiguity President Obama is calling for is of course wildly impractical, and it is hard to imagine Israel - or any other nation in similar circumstances - agreeing to what in practice would be an obvious infringement of its territorial integrity. For that reason, the Palestinian state he desires very likely would devolve into two states.

And should Abdullah be overthrown in Jordan, there would be three states, all Palestinian, and all with the same objective of destroying Israel.

This scenario may seem far-fetched, but the mere fact it is not impossible underscores how dishonest the Palestinian leadership - the Palestinian Authority as much as Hamas - is in pretending the Palestinians are state less, and that Israel is responsible for this. Jordan is indeed Palestinian, and it would be helpful to the cause of peace in the Middle East if President Obama gave some indication he knows this.

Jay Bergman is professor of history at Central Connecticut State University and the author, most recently, of "Meeting the Demands of Reason: The Life and Thought of Andrei Sakharov."

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