Shlicha's/Shaliach's View

Gelbart: What kind of Palestinian state can we expect?

Guy Gelbart
Guy Gelbart

Is creating a Palestinian state truly in the best interest of hu­man rights? This fundamental question is often ignored. Many, including myself, refer to a two states for two peoples solution as the best possible option. I personally tend to support this approach, yet I have some significant concerns.

In this article I choose to ignore my main concerns about Israel’s future and focus on the well-being of the Palestinians and the world at large. In challenging the basic concept that a Palestinian state at the current time is in the best interest of human rights, I intend to help us understand and face the harsh, complex realities.

I believe simplistic approaches lead to bad solutions. In the unforgiving reality of the Middle East, bad solutions often lead to more pain, bloodshed and misery. Looking at current events in the Middle East makes me certain I don’t want to take part in creating another dictatorship. One can easily see the result of such dictatorships by looking at Syria today. The bloody Syrian civil war has taken the lives of over 70,000 in less than a year. Clashes between an evil dictator and several violent organizations that seek to replace him are spreading sorrow, pain and suffering.

When we help build the first-ever Palestinian state we take responsibility over future actions of that state — over the future well-being of all people who live in and around it. It is our most basic obligation to carefully analyze and understand what we wish for.

Palestinian leaders often say that the future Palestine should be free of Jews. They claim that the political disagreement with the settlers prevents the option of them staying. Most Israelis take it for granted that the creation of a Palestinian state will require uprooting Jews from their homes. Israelis assume that any Jews left behind after the Israel Defense Forces disengage would be slaughtered by a Palestinian mob.

Why should we accept that as a given? How can we help create a Jew-free state, a state where slaughtering Jews simply for being Jews is even an accepted thought, let alone a reality? Wouldn’t it make more sense to create a Palestinian state that can accept and endorse a Jewish national and religious minority? Shouldn’t we demand that the future state respect the rights of minorities, just as we expect of Israel, Italy and other Western counties? Don’t we have more than enough countries harshly ignoring and oppressing their own minorities, preventing them from teaching their culture, heritage and language?

In a recent statement U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “The way governments treat their LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) citizens can tell us much about their overall approach to human rights and democracy. Mistreatment of sexual minorities is a microcosm of greater repression.”

The horrible manhunt of gays led by Hamas across the Gaza strip and the harsh laws of the Palestinian Authority, which refer to openly gay people as criminals, raise concerns even higher.

Building a true democracy requires a long tradition of solving internal conflicts by peaceful means. Do the Palestinians have such a tradition? Some might refer to sulcha, the traditional Arab mechanism for solving conflicts. Yet major conflicts between organizations, villages, families within Palestinian society are often very violent. The sulcha often comes after a long and bloody fight. Even with regard to the basic mechanisms of democracy — elections, separation of government powers, checks and balances — neither the Palestinian Authority nor Hamas in Gaza has progressed. Both abused their power and illegitimately extended their time in government. The Palestinian Authority does not have a true separation of powers nor did it create an open environment to allow opposing positions to be heard.

Recently a friend told me it is ridiculous to expect the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state when the Jews find it hard to agree about who is Jewish ourselves. We should honestly admit the question of who is a Palestinian is in no way simpler. Once again many people might lose their rights depending on how that question is answered. Many already lost their rights as their Jordanian citizenship was revoked by the Jordanian government.

When we come to create and recognize a future Palestinian state we need to know: What type of state will it be?

Guy Gelbart is Tucson’s shaliach (emissary from Israel) and director of the Weintraub Israel Center.