John Bolton highlights the Palestinian threat to unilaterally declare statehood based on the 1948 armistice lines (“Obama and the Coming Palestinian State,” op-ed, Oct. 20). Color me optimistic, but such a declaration may be a bigger problem for Palestinian leaders than for Israel. If the territory on the West Bank and Gaza becomes “Palestine,” that means what is left is Israel, without the influx of Arabs descended from those who left over six decades ago.
Indeed, refugee status, which they uniquely hold generations after the genuine refugees fled, would presumably be nullified because they would no longer be stateless. Likewise, the safety of Israeli citizens-inside and outside their country-would be the responsibility of Palestine’s government. Rockets fired from Palestine would no longer be terrorism but acts of war originating from a sovereign state.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose term expired some time ago, would face even greater questions about his legitimacy. Without an agreement with Israel, Palestinians would lack easy passage between Gaza to the West Bank. Unless Hamas deposed the West Bank’s leaders, something not beyond the realm of possibility, it is likely that, as with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, separated from what is now Bangladesh by India, there would be a different “two state solution.” Much of the world would label Israel’s control of Jerusalem and adjacent suburbs an occupation, but it does already. Israel and Palestine would not be the world’s only states with unresolved border disputes. Just ask the Georgians.
And the biggest impediment for Palestinian leaders? They would have to govern and be responsible for everything from security to electricity to picking up trash-and with nobody to bail them out when they got into trouble.
John R. Cohn
SPME Faculty Forum Editor’s Note: Dr. Cohn is a member of the Board of Directors of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East