"There are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. We are all part of one nation. It is only for political reasons that we carefully underline our Palestinian identity… the existence of a separate Palestinian identity serves only tactical purposes. The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel."
(Zuheir Muhsin, former head of the PLO's Military Department and member of its Executive Council)
In principle, there are two countervailing hypotheses by which to account for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to prevailing conventional wisdom, the fuel of the conflict is the lack of Palestinian self-determination, and all the Palestinians want is to establish a state for themselves.
There is, however, an alternative proposition, diametrically opposed to the former – and which in light of the deeds and declarations of the Palestinians themselves - appears the more plausible.
According to this alternative explanation, the fuel of the conflict is not the lack of Palestinian self-determination but the existence of Jewish self-determination – thus, as long as Jewish self-determination continues, so will the conflict.
Moreover, according to the alternative explanation, the goal of the Palestinians is not to establish a state for themselves but to dismantle a state for others - the Jews.
Choosing between the two
The question which now must be addressed is: Which of these two alternative hypotheses has the greater explanatory power?
The answer seems to be unequivocally in favor of the latter – for it provides eminently plausible explanations for a range of events that the former is totally unable to account for. For example:
- It explains why every territorial proposal, which would have allowed the Palestinians to create a state of their own (from the 1947 partition plan to Barak's offer at Camp David in 2000), never satisfied them. They rejected every one.
- It explains why only the total negation of Jewish independence appears acceptable to the Palestinians, as evidenced not only by their abovementioned rejection of all viable "two-state solutions", but also by nearly all Palestinian rhetoric and symbolism which invariably portrays the whole the Land of Israel, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, as constituting part of Arab Palestine.
- It explains not only why the Palestinians eschewed claims of national sovereignty over the pre-1967 "West Bank" and Gaza (as evidenced by the explicit text of their original 1964 National Charter in which they specifically forgo any aspirations to "exercise any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank .(or) on the Gaza Strip..."); but also accounts for why today the Palestinians, as an overwhelming majority in Jordan, clearly resign themselves to the rule of a Hashemite monarch, who belongs to the non-Palestinian minority in the land . This clearly indicates that Palestinians are not at all averse to non-Palestinian rule, only to the existence of Jewish rule.
- It explains not only why they rejected the far-reaching generosity of the 2000 Barak proposal, but also the violent manner in which they rejected it. For although these proposals did include a proviso insisting on "end of conflict", they were unprecedented in the concessions offered towards making a Palestinian state a feasible prospect. However, the ferocity of the repudiation by the Palestinians seems to indicate that even these were far short of their real demands. After all if they were only marginally inadequate, it would be reasonable to expect that the Palestinians would have preferred to negotiate the details of issues of contention, rather than launch such a fierce and destructive wave of violence. This is a response that seems explicable only if "end of conflict" is an unacceptable concept for them.
- It explains why the Palestinians stubbornly insist on the "right of return", which would imply placing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians (and possibly even more), now living in Arab countries … under Israeli jurisdiction!? This is a demand that really tears the mask off Palestinian intentions for it is a position totally inconsistent with an alleged desire to be free of "oppressive" Israeli control... or with an equitable two-state solution.
By contrast, none of the above phenomena can be reconciled with the explanation propounded by the advocates of the conventional wisdom hypothesis. For in reality the Palestinians seem to have little motivation in expressing their national sovereignty in territories under non-Palestinian Arab rule. Strangely, this desire only manifests itself in these territories when they fall under Jewish rule.
Continuing the struggle
Indeed, Palestinian efforts seem far more comprehensible if seen as directed toward eliminating - or at least undermining - Jewish sovereignty, than in the establishment of their own independence.
If this is true, then making ever more generous proposals regarding Palestinian statehood will be totally unproductive, indeed counterproductive, for these will induce no peaceable response whatsoever. After all, as Muhsin said: "The founding of a Palestinian state is (no more than) a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel."
Thus in the final analysis the crucial question the Israeli leadership- and the international community - must ask themselves is: Upon which of these hypotheses should a prudent nation base its policies? The hypothesis which can account for all the above phenomena or the hypothesis which accounts for none of them?