Given the current view espoused in much of the media that the Palestinian-Israeli squabble is the root of all or much of America's poor image in the Arab world, we might want to examine whether creating a Palestinian state -- in whichever form of borders -- would indeed solve the problems that the United States finds itself confronting in the Middle East, and whether the creation of a Palestinian state would improve America's popularity in the region. Will a sovereign Palestinian state solve America's problems, or will it create more headaches for Uncle Sam?
Before one can answer these questions, it is necessary to address what the term "Palestinian state" means. Currently there are two Palestinian areas -- Gaza and the West Bank. At the present time, these two regions are governed by very different entities. Hamas -- the Palestinian chapter of the Moslem Brotherhood, which categorically denies Israel's right to existence -- controls Gaza, and the secular nationalist Fatah -- which pretends to tolerate a Jewish state, at least to the extent that it may be willing once again to enter into negotiations with the State of Israel -- controls the West Bank. Currently the two Palestinian parties are much divided and seem united only in their disdain for Israel. That commonality has not been enough to unite them in anything else. As a result of this division, Israel has no negotiation partner in Gaza, and a skittish, very reluctant addressee in the West Bank.
But despite the situation today on the ground being what it is, we may still ask our original set of questions: Would the creation of a Palestinian state solve America's problems in the Middle East? Put succinctly, no, a Palestinian state will not solve America's problems in the area; indeed, it may serve only to compound them. The rejectionists among the radical Islamic front -- Syria, Iran, Turkey, Sudan, (at times) Libya, Hizballah, Hamas, al-Jihad al-Islami (PIJ), al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the various Salafi and other jihadi groups -- reject the West. Palestine is a convenient focal point, but it is not the prime concern of these anti-Western nations and terror organizations.
Even were Israel to cease to exist, these groups and nations would still be opposed to (as Iran commonly terms it) the "Global Arrogance," aka the United States. So for this group of players, Palestine is a convenient rallying concern, but in reality, its status is irrelevant to the antagonism that the members of this group feel towards the West in general and to the U.S. in particular. Indeed, creating a Palestinian state that doesn't unequivocally recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state would serve only to strengthen the resolve of the radical Islamic front. After all, these people's identity is centered in the idea of rejecting any accommodation with the West as they slowly develop the power to overcome and dominate the West on the way to creating a worldwide Islamic empire.
Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, and (to a certain degree) Libya sit on the fence. Libya is still trying to rehabilitate its image, but Muammar Gaddafi is mercurial, and despite making noise about Arab solidarity and solidarity with the Palestinians, he is not really that concerned about their situation. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates talk about Arab solidarity and their desire to see a Palestinian state before they are willing to normalize relations with Israel, but under the table, they are cooperating and doing some business with Israel while praying that Israel will solve their Iran problem. They are not incognizant that a Palestinian state will not make it any easier for Israel to solve the Iranian problem. Saudi Arabia financially supports a variety of Sunni Islamist groups and promotes Wahabi madrassas throughout the Muslim world, but its ruling family looks to the West (including Israel) for help in fighting Salafi and Iranian-sponsored terrorists who threaten their interests and stability.
This leaves us now with Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and to a certain extent, Iraq -- assuming that Ayad Allawi and the Iraqiya party succeed in forming a moderate government. The first three have peaceful relations with Israel (Egypt and Jordan have signed peace treaties with Israel) and an Allawi-led Iraqi government would probably fit into the Egypt-Jordan axis. These four nations all reject Islamic fundamentalism as represented by the Moslem Brotherhood and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Since a Palestinian state that includes Gaza would include an Iranian-supported, Hamas-dominated government, these four nations would regard such a Palestinian state as a source of trouble and may not really desire its creation despite all their public statements to the contrary. Certainly, to date, Egypt has shown very little solidarity with Palestinian Gaza under Hamas rule, maintaining a blockade of Gaza far more stringent than that imposed by Israel.
There is also the sad fact that none of the Arab countries are democracies (with the possible exception of Iraq if it emerges with a moderate government). These monarchies and oligarchies (particularly Ba'athist Syria) have needed Israel as a scapegoat in order to divert attention from their own problems. Real concern for the "plight of the Palestinian refugees" is lacking throughout the Arab world; nowhere have the Palestinians received citizenship in their "brotherly Arab" host countries. Even the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, whose East Bank population is 60% Palestinian, recently revoked the citizenship of any Palestinian that had not lived within the Kingdom before June 1967.
Creating a Palestinian state would remove the "Palestinian question" from the Arab public agenda, thereby allowing the citizens of each Arab state to focus their attention on the corruption and lack of human rights in their own lands. That is a situation that most Arab leaders do not want to face; therefore, maintaining antagonism against the "Zionist entity," aka Israel, creates definite advantages for these Arab rulers.
While this quick survey has not examined all Arab and Moslem states, it has demonstrated that key Arab and Moslem nations are not likely to change their approach to the West and to the United States because of the creation of a Palestinian state. The Palestinian issue serves as a convenient focal point, but it is not the root of the problem, and "solving it" improperly -- that is, without "de-radicalizing" the Palestinians -- will not solve America's problems at all. It may make things worse, first by introducing another radical nation-state, and secondly by giving the radicals the impression that they are winning, thus emboldening them to a greater degree.
What Washington and most of Europe appear to fail to understand is that the Palestinians and their rejectionist front supporters refuse to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own in their ancestral homeland. That continued refusal for well over a century is what fuels Israel's reluctance to return to the untenable 1967 borders. Continual terrorist attacks as well as a non-stop campaign of virulent anti-Semitic incitement from the Palestinian side (as well as much of the Arab and Moslem media) cause Israelis and many of Israel's supporters to maintain a fortress mentality.
The shame here is that the Palestinians have failed to find leaders who are willing to rise above the use of incitement and also are corruption-proof. There is no argument that Palestinians deserve autonomy in their lives and that the occupation (this refers to the West Bank, as Gaza has not been occupied since 2005) is burdensome to the average Palestinian. However, until the Palestinians reject incitement to violence against Israelis and/or Jews, reject corruption in their leaders, and agree to respect the right of a Jewish state to exist, Israel will find it impossible to agree to Palestinian sovereignty.
If America and Europe want to help birth a viable sovereign Palestinian state, it would behoove them to emphasize that message very clearly to the Palestinians and other Arab states. If and when the Palestinians and their friends finally absorb that message and actualize it, they will find that a peace agreement with Israel will not be that difficult to forge.
Rabbi Daniel M. Zucker is founder and Chairman of the Board of Americans for Democracy in the Middle-East, a grassroots organization dedicated to teaching our elected officials and the public of the dangers posed by Islamic fundamentalism and the need to establish genuine democratic institutions in the Middle East as an antidote to the venom of fundamentalism. He may be contacted at contact@ADME.ws.