The Palestinians have developed an independent, self-regulating government that controls their lives as well as their foreign policy. Indeed, they have accumulated all the trappings of independence and have recently been recognized as an independent state by the United Nations. They have diplomatic relations with almost as many nations as Israel does. They have their own security forces, central bank, top-level Internet domain name, and a foreign policy entirely uncontrolled by Israel.The Palestinians govern themselves. To anticipate the inevitable comparison, this is not an Israeli-puppet “Bantustan.” From their educational curriculum to their television content to their terrorist pensions, they implement their own policies by their own lights without any subservience to Israel. They pass their own legislation, such as the measure prohibiting real estate transactions with Jews on pain of death. If Israel truly “ruled over” the Palestinians, all these features of their lives would be quite different. Indeed, the Bantustans never won international recognition because they were puppets. “The State of Palestine” just got a nod from the General Assembly because it is not.Whether the Palestinian self-government amounts to sovereignty is irrelevant and distinct from the question of whether Israel is denying them democracy. Indeed, Israel’s democratic credentials are far stronger than America’s, or Britain’s–the mother of Parliaments. Puerto Rico and other U.S. controlled “territories” do not participate in national elections (and this despite Puerto Rico’s vote last year to end its anomalous status). Nor do British possessions like Gibraltar and the Falklands. These areas have considerable self-rule, but all less than the Palestinians, in that their internal legislation can ultimately be cancelled by Washington or London. The Palestinians are the ultimate masters of their political future–it is they who choose Fatah or Hamas.
This has not been costless for Israel. It subjected Israel to an unprecedented campaign of terror–to its citizens incinerated in buses and cafes–coordinated by the Palestinian government during the Oslo war. It legitimized the Palestinians as full-fledged international leaders, vastly facilitating their diplomatic campaign against Israel. And it has made most of the territories a Jew-free zone.
The PLO commits itself to the Middle East peace process, and to a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the two sides and declares that all outstanding issues relating to permanent status will be resolved through negotiations.The PLO considers that the signing of the Declaration of Principles constitutes a historic event, inaugurating a new epoch of peaceful coexistence, free from violence and all other acts which endanger peace and stability. Accordingly, the PLO renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence and will assume responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel in order to assure their compliance, prevent violations and discipline violators.
The truth is, no security arrangement is foolproof. The only thing that might be foolproof is, along with the best security tools, giving Palestinians a state worth their defending and preserving by surprising them with a little trust — exactly the way Nelson Mandela surprised South African whites. What Palestinians do and say matters. But what Israelis do and say also conditions what Palestinians do and say — and vice versa. Up to now, neither this Palestinian leadership nor this Israeli leadership has shown an ounce of “Mandela-ism.” Everything they do to and for each other is grudging and fraught with suspicion, so there is never any sense of surprise. Without some trust breakthrough, I don’t see how a big deal gets done.
In debates about Israel, disagreements that might seem minor on the surface – the "tyranny of small differences," as one Israel-watcher put it to me – are often something much graver. If you know what to watch for, you can observe somber, serious people like these four panelists talk around underlying issues so sensitive they are rarely addressed or even acknowledged. Issues that are almost always below the surface, but too deep to come out except in moments of the most heated candor, often surprising even the people naming them.These are questions so difficult, and that cut so close to the core of what it means to be an American supporter of Israel, that even scholars or professionals with decades invested in Israeli issues will hesitate to touch them. But you can hear them, if only hinted at, in arguments like Monday evening's. Is it good or bad for Israel that more American Jews are questioning Israeli policies? At what point, if ever, should one's support for Israel be limited by the needs of non-Israelis touched by the conflict? Is a Zionist's responsibility to guard Israel's survival, to guard Israel's interests or merely to concern oneself dispassionately with the issues facing the country?
On March 1, 1980 the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution “rebuking” Israel for maintaining settlements in Arab-claimed territory. The resolution went further; it proclaimed Israel guilty of “flagrant violation” of the Fourth Geneva Convention, thus associating that country with the crimes of Auschwitz. The United States voted in favor of the resolution.