|Redefining the Palestinian Problem|
|By Martin Sherman|
|28 August 2005|
TEL AVIV -- The time has come to redefine the conceptual context in which the plight of Palestinians is perceived. The Palestinians' violent rejection of the far-reaching Barak initiative underscores that the chances of reaching a political resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are highly remote if not totally negligible. On the one hand, it is difficult to envisage any Israeli leader offering a proposal substantially more generous than Ehud Barak's; on the other hand, its unequivocally vicious repudiation by the Palestinians indicates that even this offer, for all its unprecedented generosity, fell substantially short of their minimum demands. However, if the Palestinian problem seems insoluble in the political context, it may well be eminently soluble in other contexts -- namely the humanitarian one.
Dispassionate analysis of Palestinian behavior for well over the last half-century strongly supports the "heretical" assertion that the Palestinians are neither genuinely desirous nor deserving of statehood. In spite of unstinting international support for their cause (including strong backing from most influential media organizations, and the sponsorship of one of the two superpowers during the decades of the Cold War), the Palestinians have failed miserably in establishing any semblance of a stable, productive self-governing society or producing any capable, credible, and competent leadership likely to advance them along the path towards that goal. Quite the contrary. Well over a decade after having the generous Oslo Accords virtually thrust upon them by an unprecedented accommodationist Israeli administration that not only acknowledged their claims for independence, but actually identified with them, the Palestinians have done nothing but produce a repressive and regressive interim regime run by cruel, corrupt thugs who have pillaged their people.
Indeed the Palestinian state has perhaps the unique distinction of achieving "failed state" status before it was actually established. Thus by their manifest inability to achieve statehood despite the highly conducive conditions that prevailed in their favor, the Palestinians appear to have failed the "test of history"-- thereby casting severe doubt as to whether they are worthy of such statehood.
BUT EVEN IF ONE is convinced that the Palestinians are undeserving of a state, the question still remains as to whether they are genuinely desirous of one. In this regard, there are two competing -- indeed antithetical -- hypotheses by which to explain the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the motivations behind it. According to the first of these hypotheses, the fuel of the conflict is the lack of Palestinian self-determination, and all that the Palestinians aspire to is the establishment of their own state. There is however an alternative explanation, whereby the fuel of the conflict is not the lack of Palestinian self-determination but the existence of Jewish self-determination, and that as long as Jewish self-determination persists, so will the conflict. Moreover, according to this alternative explanation, the goal of the Palestinians is not to establish a state for themselves but to dismantle a state for others -- the Jews. Any fair-minded analysis of Palestinian deeds and declarations show them to be far more consistent with the latter hypothesis, casting serious doubt as to the genuine nature of their intentions and the authenticity of their desire for statehood.
The generally accepted Palestinian narrative has been the major force not only for the propagation of the Palestinian claims for statehood but also for much of the international acrimony directed against Israel. Accordingly, the de-legitimization of this narrative is essential to the serious exploration of other avenues of solution. But even if the Palestinian narrative is de-legitimized, Palestinian political aspirations are discredited, and the issue of Palestinian state removed from the international agenda, the problem of the Palestinian humanitarian predicament still must be addressed.
This is a problem that can conceivably be dealt with by means of money -- specifically generous sums paid to the Palestinians to relocate and resettle elsewhere in the Arab/Moslem world. Such compensation should be the equivalent of lifetime earnings in any appropriate host country in Asia or Africa -- i.e., the GDP per capita of such a country multiplied by at least 50-100 years. This would entail a grant of US$ 100,000 -150,000 to each family unit.
In fact the cost of such a proposal compares favorably with other more conventional alternatives involving Israeli withdrawal and attempts at Palestinian self rule -- most of which have proved to be unproductive if not indeed counterproductive. The sums required for the humanitarian resettlement of the entire Palestinian population in countries with a similar/familiar socio-religious environment would be significantly less than those already spent by the U.S. on the Iraq War. It would thus be easily affordable to the international community -- especially if it were spread out over a number of years. Indeed, given Israel's current level of GDP, it would not be a ruinous burden even if the country were to bear it alone.
ANY PROPOSAL CALLING for the relocation and resettlement of the Palestinians outside the confines of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza will inevitably raise the question of its feasibility. To be sure, it is likely to be rejected vehemently by formal Palestinian organizations, which must therefore be by-passed. The problem should be "atomized" by making the offer of compensation on an individual basis directly to Palestinian bread-winners each of whom would then be faced with three alternatives: (i) reject the offer and remain under continued Israeli control; (ii) reject the offer and live under a dysfunctional Palestinian regime -- which has proved more onerously repressive than the Israelis'; (iii) accept the offer of a relocation grant equivalent to a life-time of earnings in an alternative country of residence, facilitating the chance of a new life for himself and his/her family.
If reason prevails at the individual level, there is little doubt which choice would be the most attractive. Note that the implementation of the scheme is not contingent on a negotiated agreement with an official Palestinian organ, but on the rational choice of individual families.
The proposed solution would also involve considerable benefits to the host countries accepting the resettled Palestinians, as it would bring with it a considerable -- and sorely needed -- influx of capital to their ailing economies. This would make the proposed endeavor a "win-win" measure for all concerned -- the individual Palestinians, the State of Israel, and the host nations -- except of course for the cruel and corrupt Palestinian leadership.
Martin Sherman is the Academic Director to the Jerusalem Summit and lectures in Political Science at Tel Aviv University.