Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ianiv Lowy: Palestinian Statehood, An Israeli Invention – A Result Of Democratic Rule And Tolerance

A Strategic Review by Ianiv Lowy

Ianiv Lowy is an Israeli born Canadian citizen. He has a Masters degree in Government, Counter-Terrorism and Homeland Security studies from the IDC in Herzliyah Israel. To contact him please send emails to

By now, most of us are well aware of the recent Palestinian unity deal between rival factions Hamas and Fatah and the subsequent bid to render a Palestinian state by approaching the UN for approval. The PA’s Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad had sought to sidestep the pressure placed upon them and their administration from the US as well as the Mideast Quartet in reviving peace negotiations with Israel because ultimately hard and bold concessions would have to be made. Hence, the best alternative was to concede to a fellow Palestinian faction, better to concede to people of your own roots rather than the Jewish state right (considering a final peace status would most likely result in recognizing Israel as the Jewish State)? Yet again however, the Palestinian Authority took steps that were too myopic, not considering in the context of things the possible far-run effects that are just now unfolding.

For instance, Prime Minister Fayyad was forced to release a public statement on 03 July 2011, explaining that government employees will only be receiving half their salaries because “international donors were not making good on their pledges”. These international donors consist of fellow Arab nations as well as European nations. However, with the EU’s economic distress looking more and more dim as well as the ‘Arab Spring’ that is forcing Arab nations to recede outsource funding until they solve their own domestic issues, the PA now all of a sudden looks towards their popular Western sources, aka the United States, to bail them out of this new hole. What do we see all of a sudden? The PA knows the US will bail them out but only if they drop their UN bid for statehood. So, they laid down a couple of the usual pre-texts, Israel should withdraw to ’67 borders and halt settlement construction; two issues of which can be discussed in negotiations anyway. But hey, it’s nothing new after all, the PA doesn’t want to be seen speaking to a right-wing government no less than actually getting any closer to reaching a final status deal. I mean, they’ve already sought to overture the Oslo Accords and everything the PA, Israel, the US and the Mideast Quartet worked for up until this point since the early 90’s by heading to the UN for statehood and avoiding contact with Israel at all costs. Well that is a new approach, but what isn’t new is the PA’s lack of appreciation or understanding of how far they have come, since 1967 in terms of just the mere freedom to take such an approach, they could only thank Israel if they did.

Sure, Mahmoud Abbas does not want to be seen as the man who spoke with hard-lined right winger Netanyahu far less than he wants to be put down in the history books as “betraying” his people by agreeing to peace with a right wing Israeli government. Lest we forget that it was a right-wing government that got Egypt to the negotiating table and ultimately signed a peace treaty with them. We also can’t forget that it was also a right-wing former military man and politician, Yitzhak Rabin, that during his tenure as Minister of Defense for the Israeli right-wing Likud party (during the 1st intifada), he laid the ground work for the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, before leaving to head the left-wing Labor party (which won the next national elections and placed him as Prime Minister) and once in place as leader of the Israeli state, finalized the treaty with his Jordanian counterparts. Nonetheless, it’s not about being scared to lose your life like Anwar El Sadat or the fear of domestic assassination like Yitzhak Rabin, it’s more so just the lack of appreciation or mere understanding that thanks to Israel’s annexation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, the Palestinian people no longer had to live oppressed, in fear and under strict confines to survive like they did under Egypt’s rule of the Gaza Strip or Jordan’s rule of the West Bank.

Egypt placed military rule over the Gaza Strip from 1957 to 1967. During that tenure, the Palestinians were truly refugees. They were not absorbed as Egyptians nor given any sort of landed immigrant or citizenship status. A constitution was drawn up that gave the Egyptian military commanders full discretion on Gaza. “There were no elections. A puppet government automatically ratified all legislation that the governor brought before it. In 1965, even this façade of local autonomy collapsed when the Egyptian army dismissed the legislature.” Strict curfews were placed, in which no one was allowed outside their homes after 9pm until dawn or they would risk death. Other oppressive techniques were used such as the enforcement of secret police, leaving practically anyone vulnerable to sudden questioning, detainment or imprisonment. Due to their refugee status, most Palestinians were refused salaries or work, were barred from owning land and thousands of young Gaza residents were forced to conscribe to the Egyptian army.

It can only lead one to imagine what kind of intifada or revolution would need to take place to fight for sovereignty against the Egyptian military rule. How many deaths would be required? How many families would be lost? Would it look anything like the revolts happening now in Libya, Syria or Iran? However, before you can even get to those questions, one would need to ask if it would even be possible to speak up and have the freedom of expression, the freedom to gather in groups and march towards Egypt in demand of autonomy or sovereignty, the way they were allowed to do so under Israel’s occupation. Clearly, it’s a possibility the Palestinians only saw a light to after Israel took them over. Israel, the single democratic state in the region, permitted them to assemble their own rule and governance and to take the steps needed so that they no longer have to rely on Israel. Ariel Sharon, considered one of Israel’s strongest hard line right-winger leaders took a bold move in implementing, the first step in the late George W. Bush’s 2003 Road Map plan, and unilaterally at that, to secede from the Gaza Strip. In return, all Israel received was an Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah proxy neighbor known as Hamas. But Israel’s intentions since 1967 had consistently been to give the Palestinians autonomy and sovereignty; they were lands acquired as a result of war and were not in Israel’s grand scheme of things except to be used diplomatically as bargaining chips to end hostilities with its neighbors. With regards to Jerusalem, it was ruled firstly by the British, then by Jordan which voided UN Resolution 181 that was to ensure Jerusalem be an international city, while also barring any Israelis from entering it hence violating the Armistice agreement that ended the Independence day War in 1949, and then finally Israel; any legal claims to the city by today’s Palestinians is merely a far cry from reality. Regardless, Egypt was more than happy to give up the Gaza Strip to Israel, they no longer had to place military rule over it and the Palestinians were even more ecstatic, they were no longer ruled by dictatorship. They could now return to ‘normal’ civil life without fear.

Observing occupation under Jordan, while not nearly as oppressive, was still futile. Unlike any of the other Arab nations that absorbed the Palestinian refugees (up until today), Jordan was the only one to give them citizenship. However, they still lived in refugee camps and depended almost entirely on UNRWA assistance for survival. UNRWA reported in 1956: "One of the obstacles to the achievement of the General Assembly's goal of making the refugees self-supporting continues to be the opposition of the governments in the area." Sir Alexander Galloway, a UNRWA official who quit in frustration, observed bitterly: "The Arab states don't want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders don't give a damn whether the refugees live or die." So of course, with knowledge of that, Jordan was more than prepared to give up the West Bank.

What happened as a result of Israel’s annexation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem since 1967? The development of roads, towns, cities and state institutions that today has allowed the PA to qualify for a statehood bid with the UN. If only the PA could realize that the reality in which they reside in today and the capacity for statehood that they have built for themselves is a result of being “occupied” by the only democratic state in the region and not their fellow Arabic theocracies and dictatorships, then maybe, just maybe, they would be approaching Israel with unilateral concessions with an open handshake for peace and not the other way around. Perhaps then we could finally lay to rest the popular expression/belief that if you give the Palestinians a hand they will want the whole arm. Israel has done a lot more for their cause whether directly or indirectly than any other nation or state in the region, arguably more than the Palestinians themselves and recognition of that could also lead the PA government to the end of hostilities, fears and mistrusts with Israel.

Ianiv Lowy is an Israeli born Canadian citizen. He has a Masters degree in Government, Counter-Terrorism and Homeland Security studies from the IDC in Herzliyah Israel. To contact him please send emails to

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