Half a century of lost battles taught mightier powers to change their mindset – think of Germany after two world wars. The Palestinians never seem to learn By Emanuele Ottolenghi is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington DC
The UN vote upgrading the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to a non-member state with observer status has done nothing to move the cause of Palestinian statehood forward. Instead, it repeats the old adage of Palestinian history: rather than seeking compromise with Israel, Palestinian leaders have again put the fate of their cause into the hands of others, foolishly believing that others will deliver what they themselves are not capable of obtaining.
When nations gathered at the United Nations in 1947 to vote on the UN plan to establish two states – one Jewish, one Arab – in Mandatory Palestine, Palestinian leaders trusted the Arab League. They opposed compromise, since they hoped Arab armies would win the entire country by force. They did not.
Once Palestine was lost, for nearly two decades Palestinian leaders trusted the standard bearers of Arab nationalism to restore them to power and destroy Israel. Instead of asking Jordan – who occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem – and Egypt – who conquered Gaza – to turn those areas into a Palestinian state, Palestinian leaders trusted their Arab patrons to arm for a second victorious round.
Irredentism produced the opposite though: in 1967, Israel repelled the combined onslaught of the Arab world and took over what remained of the Old Mandate.
Half a century of lost battles taught mightier powers to change their mindset – think of Germany after two world wars!
Not so with Palestinian leaders – they embraced the Arab League’s decision, in the summer of 1967, to reject any opening to Israel and continued to wage war. Terrorism was a natural consequence of such an attitude – beneath the murderous acts that followed for nearly two decades rested the foolish belief that Israel could be done with by killing innocents abroad – thereby swaying public opinion in favour of Palestinian grievances.
Public opinion swayed eventually, but still no state.
Even as the PLO replaced Arab leaders as the standard bearer of Palestinian aspirations, their cause did not advance –the late PLO leader, Yasser Arafat, skilfully played Arab intramurals and non-aligned movement politics, but never renounced the old compromise-averse all-demands-and-no-concessions’ stand of Palestinian nationalism.