The concluding paragraph of a front-page article in The New York Times on Jan. 9 referred to the Biden administration’s call for a “revamped and revitalized” Palestinian Authority that would govern the Gaza Strip once the current war there has finally ended. This would lead the way to “a Palestinian state consisting of Gaza and the West Bank.” By now, this has become a repetitive Times refrain. Its primary advocate, not surprisingly, has been Thomas L. Friedman. There is “no hope for peace,” he wrote on Sept. 23, “without a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank.”
There is nothing new about this fantasy. The term “occupied Palestinian territory” appeared in a U.N. Security Council Resolution (2009) that identified the Gaza Strip as an integral part of the territory that Israel “occupied” in the 1967 Six-Day War. According to Amnesty International, “Israel’s continuing oppressive and discriminatory system of governing Palestinians and the Occupied Palestinian Territories committed the crime of apartheid.” Wikipedia concurs: These “Palestinian territories” have been “occupied” by Israel ever since its victory in the Six-Day War.
U.S. President Joe Biden has added his voice to the chorus of criticism of Israel. In a November opinion piece in The Washington Post, he recommended that “Gaza and the West Bank be reunited under a single governance structure, ultimately under a revitalized Palestinian Authority, as we all work toward a two-state solution.” Meeting recently with P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed his support for a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.
There is, however, an unacknowledged problem—ignored, perhaps, because it is only Israel that would be affected, and dangerously so. A Palestinian state flanking Israel on the east and west, sandwiched between the West Bank and Gaza, is an invitation to disaster. They would be linked by a tunnel constructed beneath Israel—and tunnels, Hamas’s favorite launching site for attacks and hiding places, would be shielded from Israeli monitoring. Israel is unlikely to embrace this menacing, indeed absurd, proposal.
A glimpse of history might be helpful for understanding boundaries. Following World War I, Winston Churchill, the newly appointed Secretary of State for the Colonies, assumed responsibility for the British administration of Palestine. He was strongly committed to a national home for the Jewish people in that land, as pledged in the Balfour Declaration of 1917. Churchill claimed that “my heart is full of sympathy for Zionism,” and stated his belief that “a Jewish national Home in Palestine will be a blessing to the whole world.” It was, he asserted, “manifestly right that the Jews should have a National Home … And where else could that be but in this land of Palestine, which for more than 3,000 years they have been intimately and profoundly associated.”
But where was “Palestine”? According to the Balfour Declaration, it comprised territory east and west of the Jordan River. But after a meeting with Emir Abdullah, the newly chosen King of Jordan who was not happy with the prospect of Jews in his country, Churchill assured him that no Jewish settlement would be permitted east of the Jordan River. Israel’s war of independence in 1948 left it without its ancient homeland in Judea and Samaria, conquered and claimed by Jordan as its West Bank. But 19 years later during the Six-Day War, Israel regained its historic homeland.
It is highly unlikely to accept a Palestinian state led by Hamas, linked by an underground tunnel between Jordan and Gaza, which would pose a menacing threat to the Jewish state from east and west. (Israel has learned what it needs to know about Hamas tunnels.)
National suicide is hardly an Israeli aspiration.