One should never say never, but it appears that the Palestinians have shut the door against the idea of a state.
Too often they have done what Abba Eban placed in the handbook of political aphorisms, missing yet another opportunity to miss an opportunity.
One can produce numerous explanations of their fatality.
•An insistence on a monopoly of justice for their claims
•Not taking account of the economic, military, and political weight of Israel, and the need to adjust their demands to what Israel would be likely to accept
•Becoming overly reliant on economic and political aid from others, thus depriving themselves of the opportunity to mature into a self-reliant entity capable of recognizing opportunities and dangers
•Wearing out their supporters with their excessive demands and insufficient flexibility, not only among sympathetic Israelis, but also among western governments and even their supposed friends among Arab governments
•Widespread disappointment--among Israelis, westerners, and Arabs--from the violence and chaos that has come from Arab spring
The most recent signs of these problems are
Yet another expression of Palestinian demands for others to solve their problems. Prior to the Israeli election, members of the West Bank ruling clique perceived a move to the right, and began pleading for others to pressure the Israelis into doing what the Palestinians consider proper. In the Palestinian parlance, the proper is accepting the Palestinian narrative of history and the Palestinian demands for refugees, a substantial share of Jerusalem, and the rest of the well known list.
In what Arab commentators have called a break through toward a recognition of the Israeli reality, the Arab League issued a request of Israeli Arabs not to boycott the Israeli election. In years past, the international Arab community has considered Israeli Arabs traitors for remaining in Israel and participating in its politics. Jerusalem Arabs are steadfast--and under considerable pressure--not to vote in municipal elections. There was a call issued by Israeli Arab activists to protest Netanyahu by boycotting the national election. However, the Arab League weighed in during the last week to urge participation. Perhaps responding to that, Israeli Arabs participated in greater numbers than the previous election, as did Jews.
What this means for larger Arab support of Palestinian nationalism is not entirely clear. However, it may be taken along with the significant and persistent shortfalls between the money promised and actually delivered from Arab coffers to suggest Arab fatigue with the Palestinian leadership.
We are also hearing Arab voices that Israeli Arab Knesset Members ought to spend less time on their extremist nationalist demands--which get their constituents nowhere--and begin emphasizing economic concerns. Perhaps one day they will learn to work like minority politicians who have become successful elsewhere, and go along in order to get along.
It's also not clear if the larger message about the failure of the Palestinian dreams is apparent to the American White House and those political leaders in Europe who follow its leadership. We have heard from on high that the President is likely to withdraw from active involvement in the mess of the Middle East, along with what may only be a routine output from White House and State Department bureaucracies that Israel and the Palestinians must return to meaningful negotiations.
If one listens carefully, it is also possible to hear from Israeli politicians their commitment to negotiations.
This suggests that Israelis likely to be in high office have not fallen off the world, and will continue playing the games required to remain acceptable in the community of decent countries.
However, much more prominent in what the new MKs are saying is their support of evening the weight of domestic responsibilities. This means pushing the Haredim out of the academies and into the army or national service, and especially to work, and insisting that their youngsters learn something that will help them earn a living, support their families, and pay taxes like the rest of us.
The Israeli routine expression is that the door remains open to negotiations, without preconditions, as long as the Palestinians are willing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The latest Palestinian expression is that they are willing to negotiate as long as Israel recognizes the legitimacy of their state. Now Palestinian expressions come with a threat that they will use their recent blessing from the UN General Assembly in order to bring a case against Israel for violating international law by continuing settlement activity, and that the Palestinians will exercise that option if Israel builds in E 1.
I will not conclude by declaring that the door is closed and locked with respect to a Palestinian state. However, the door is closed, even if not yet locked never to be opened by someone who held the key and has thrown it away.
At least for the time being, which can last who knows how long, the Palestinians will continue to have substantial autonomy in the West Bank and--separately--in Gaza, with increases in autonomy and freedoms of movement, import, and export as long as they behave themselves. That means severely limited violence against Israelis.
We, or our children, or their descendants, will see how long this lasts.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem