Barak and Arafat in Camp David
Sever Plocker
The prolonged birth pangs of a Palestinian state
Op-ed: Fifty years ago, Israel was assigned the role of birthing a Palestinian state, but the birth isn't going to happen without a realistic Palestinian initiative; with two generations of Palestinians having lost out on their future, it's time for the fetus to get moving.

The Six-Day War didn't break out on June 5, 1967 because of the Palestinians, and they didn't fight in it; the West Bank was part of the Kingdom of Jordan and was conquered by the IDF from the Jordanian Legion. The role of giving birth to a Palestinian state—bringing it into the world and defining its character, territory, and borders—were imposed on Israel. Against her will, Israel found herself in a prolonged and burdensome pregnancy.



I have many bad things to say about our control of the territories, but I won't repeat them here because the ball, to use the most worn of expressions, is now in the Palestinians' court. The Israel of 2017 is prepared (according to a recent poll) for the painful birth of the Palestinian state because she's sick and tired of carrying the fetus. But that the birth can't take place until the fetus itself is ready to leave the womb and step into the sunlight.


President Abbas and PM Netanyahu in the White House in 2010 (Photo: Reuters) (Photo: Reuters)
President Abbas and PM Netanyahu in the White House in 2010 (Photo: Reuters)


The source for this readiness is a sense of power. Not once in the half-century that has passed since the Six-Day War have we Israelis felt as economically, militarily, culturally and internationally strong—nor have we desired to enjoy the good life more—than now.


We have jobs, livelihoods, health and freedom. It's marvelous. The current liberation from heavy material concerns and from the existential terror that has hovered above us from the leaders of the country explains the willingness for "far-reaching compromises" to reach an agreement with the Palestinians.


According to the recent survey, almost two-thirds of Israelis support concessions and withdrawals, provided that the conflict with the Palestinians would come to an end. The mother, then, is ready to give birth, but the fetus still hesitates. It's a tragic hesitation.


Ehud Barak, despite his pushing of Yasser Arafat in Camp David, never played the role of midwife for the Israeli state.
Ehud Barak, despite his pushing of Yasser Arafat in Camp David, never played the role of midwife for the Israeli state.


After 50 years of reflection, a political peace initiative remains the sole realistic option for the Palestinians. There is no other. It has no substitute and no double. And it must come from Nablus, Ramallah, Jenin and Gaza. An initiative must include an irreversible waiver of the worn-out and contentless slogan "the right of return," which perhaps 1 to 2 percent of Palestinians are willing to realize. An initiative must not be based on outdated UN resolutions, but on the outline formulated by US presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama.


Such initiatives have repeatedly been rejected by the Palestinian leadership, which is interested in continuing the conflict in its current form. It is of great benefit to them, even though the economic gap between Israelis and Palestinians has not diminished compared with 1967 and has possibly even deepened. Although the standard of living in the Palestinian Authority has improved over the past two years, it is still 80-to-85 percent lower than the average standard of living in Israel. Only a peace agreement could change this equation and create the conditions for rapid growth.


Hillary Clinton was also unable to induce delivery. (Photo: AFP)
Hillary Clinton was also unable to induce delivery. (Photo: AFP)


When the Palestinians finally live in a country of their own as masters of their own destiny and economy, the per capita income of an independent Palestine will be able to grow by at least 150 percent within a decade. The chances of a "Palestinian economic miracle" of this magnitude are high. But without peace with Israel, the PA's economy will deteriorate, and the gap with Israel will expand again.


These are facts. The Palestinian leadership, regardless of its organizational or political affiliation, systematically ignores them and stubbornly markets to its public a sweet fantasy of an independent state over the entire territory of Judea, Samaria and Gaza with Jerusalem as its capital.


This is a fantasy. Even those who favor such a solution for reasons of justice and right know that it won't happen. Throughout history, the peoples who survive are those who can shake off the utopian discourse of justice and rights and focus on the achievable.


The same applies to the Palestinians and to us. But we're already there: most Israelis have internalized the fact that control over all the territories occupied in 1967 is impractical, ineffective, and is like a millstone around our necks.


As regards the unwanted pregnancy in our womb: give us a reasonable arrangement, and we'll give up 97 percent of the West Bank, including the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, in order to live in an even stronger, even more prosperous, even more successful Israel at the highest levels in the Western world.


Clinton with Rabin and Arafat at the signing of the Oslo Accords—Braxton Hicks? (Photo: Reuters)
Clinton with Rabin and Arafat at the signing of the Oslo Accords—Braxton Hicks? (Photo: Reuters)


Now the Palestinians must reach the same point of understanding and concession. All their other options no longer exist. They can't sit idly by in anticipation of a demographic upheaval that won't happen. They can't activate international pressure levers whose effectiveness is negligible. They can't call for a boycott that falls on deaf ears (See the masses of artists and investors landing in Israel.) or for a new armed uprising that will only distance them from a sovereign state. The Arab world, which was barely reliable in the past, has become a bloody battleground with hundreds of thousands of dead.


For 50 years, Israel has been carrying the fetus of the Palestinian state. It shakes, it kicks, and it hurts. This is the moment to give birth to it. Even if the newborn isn't perfect—and it won't be perfect—it's right to bring it into the world. Otherwise, it will perish.


Palestinians, look at the calendar. Two generations of your children have already lost their future. The current generation, the third under Israeli occupation, has an historic opportunity to get on its feet and get out of the mud, blood and ignorance.


Is it really worth sacrificing it on the altar of unrealizable aspiration to establish a Palestinian state within all the West Bank borders of the Kingdom of Jordan as it was in 1967 and not in 97 percent of it with land swaps?


Fifty years after the Six-Day War, this shouldn't even be a question at all.


(Translated and edited by J. Herzog)


פרסום ראשון: 06.03.17, 23:30
 new comment
See all talkbacks "The prolonged birth pangs of a Palestinian state"
This will delete your current comment