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Without introspection, there can never be peace or progress. Theoretically, the case for recognizing Palestinian statehood is long overdue. After all, the United Nations did partition the British Mandate of Palestine into two states nearly 77 years ago. In practice, however, it’s still too early for unilateral recognition of the State of Palestine.


There is no Palestinian State. There are Palestinian factions. They have countless disputes between themselves, and endless scores to settle with the State of Israel. Unless they resolve these outstanding issues, there will never be a State of Palestine. Recognition at the United Nations or elsewhere is unlikely to change this reality for the millions of stateless Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.


Statehood is contingent on several conditions under international law. These generally include effective control of a defined territory, a functioning government, the exercise of sovereignty, and diplomatic recognition from the international community. Ideally, in that logical order. Since the Palestinian factions lack the first three criteria, granting them the fourth unilaterally doesn’t make sense.


In a perfect world, the State of Palestine will be established in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, pursuant to UNSC 242. The latter was divided into Areas A, B, and C as per the Oslo Accords, and remains disputed territory between Israel and the Palestinians. For simplicity’s sake, the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) is responsible for security in Area A, and civil administration in Areas A and B. Israel administers security in Areas B and C, and civilian matters in Area C. Meanwhile, Hamas governs Gaza as a separate entity.


There are significant issues with both Fatah and Hamas. The PA is world-renown for its corruption and incompetence. It is also perceived as illegitimate by most Palestinians. Mahmoud Abbas, its President, is serving the 19th year of his first 4-year term. Like his predecessor Yasser Arafat, the Egyptian-born grandfather of modern terrorism turned billionaire, he too amassed a fortune by stealing from stateless Palestinians.


Apart from the streets of Ramallah, the PA controls little more than the flow of funds that keep its patronage networks loyal. It does not monopolize the use of force nor impose law and order in the West Bank. Consider, for instance, Hamas vigilantes lynching Palestinians who “collaborate” with Israel on the streets of Tulkarm, terrorist groups operating with impunity in towns like Nablus, and the consistent need for Israeli counter-terrorism operations in the region.


The Gaza Strip, for its part, has been a terrorist state since Hamas expelled the PA in 2007. Unlike Fatah, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian wing is designated as a terror group by the West and most of the Gulf States. Few countries, if any, recognize it as the legitimate representative of the Palestinians. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the PA and Israel, like the West and the Gulf States, have a common interest in seeing Hamas’ military wing defeated in Gaza.


These observations beg a multitude of questions.


Which Palestinian faction (there are more than just Hamas and Fatah) can claim that it speaks on behalf of the stateless people of Palestine? Is it the Hamas billionaires residing comfortably in Doha, the terrorists who lead the Muslim Brotherhood’s military wing from the depths of the Gaza metro, or the millionaires from Ramallah? Your guesses are as good as mine.


What will this future State of Palestine look like? Will it be democratic and liberal, or authoritarian and conformist? In the worst-case scenario, which also seems the most likely given the tribal wars between the Palestinian factions, the State of Palestine would resemble the chaos prevalent in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. With respect, the last thing the Middle East needs is another Iran-backed terror group seizing control of a fragile state.


Where will the country’s borders end? Will they follow the maximalist interpretations of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea? If so, what happens to the State of Israel and the 10 million Israelis who reside there? Or will the state’s borders be based on UNSC 242, and co-exist peacefully beside the Jewish State? If so, how will Israeli settlements in Area C of the West Bank be dealt with moving forward? Your guesses are as good as mine.


Who would defend the new state’s borders, manage its ports of entry, protect its airspace, and collect its taxes? How would public utilities such as road networks, power plants, water treatment facilities, and sewage systems be maintained? Who would manage public services like garbage disposal, health care, and education? While Israel fulfils many of these tasks on behalf of the PA in the West Bank, the UNRWA and other NGOs do more or less the same for Hamas in the Gaza Strip.


The Palestinian factions have few answers to the previous questions. Both the PA and Hamas have limited experience in managing day-to-day matters related to governance. So are the loud proponents of unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood, in the West and abroad, driven by the dream of achieving self-determination for the Palestinians or by the sadistic fantasy to eradicate the liberal and democratic State of Israel? Your guesses are as good as mine.


Consider that some 140 states already recognize Palestine as a country. It is also a “permanent observer state” at the United Nations and participates in international fora such as the Olympics. While this might make people feel better about themselves on a personal level, and bolster legitimacy in the imagination of those disconnected from reality, it changes little on the ground for the millions of stateless Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.


Since 1948, the Arab States, and later the Palestinian factions, lost every war they started against the Jewish State. A State of Palestine will not be achieved via endless conflict, resolutions at the United Nations or diplomatic recognition by individual states, but by following the path paved by Egypt and Jordan that leads to immediate recognition of and unconditional peace with the State of Israel. Until the Palestinian factions engage in introspection, resolve their internal disputes, and settle their respective issues with the Israelis, it’s still too early for Palestinian statehood.

Originally published by Toronto Sun on April 25, 2024.

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