Doug Wilson raised that question in this post several weeks ago, and he argued that Israel is actually the best option for improving the lives of Palestinians. Unfortunately, he presents only two options: Israel keeping the 1967 lands and building “new and bigger settlements” or Israel being “pushed into the sea.” Perhaps he just doesn’t think that there’s any possibility in between, like a Palestinian state. Also, his thinking is based on this article by George Gilder, which I haven’t read but hope to, so I am missing the context of his thinking. I will follow up this post after I read it. I really have a hard time seeing Israel being destroyed by the Palestinians without help from the “Resistance Bloc” of Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah working with their Palestinian ally, Hamas. And remember, for now at least, Israel is the lone Middle Eastern state with nuclear weapons.
But the question that Wilson raises is quite important: will a Palestinian state actually be a good thing? Is there something magical that will make Palestinians’ lives better because they have a state?
In one of my class readings, I ran across a link to an article from STRATFOR called “The Geopolitics of the Palestinians.” I requested the free article and they e-mailed it to me. You can request it here STRATFOR is less nuanced than I am about Palestinian intentions for Israel. It’s of course true that the destruction of Israel has been a consistent theme of Arab rhetoric since 1948, and sympathy for that sentiment is, I’m sure, higher than people who hope for peace want to admit. But my understanding is that majorities of Israelis and Palestinians alike tell pollsters that they want a two-state solution but don’t trust the other side. Other than that, the STRATFOR article is quite sympathetic to the difficulties of the Palestinians in the 20th and 21st centuries while not demonizing Israel (from what I understand, George Friedman, the founder of STRATFOR, is pretty pro-Israel).
At any rate, here is what STRATFOR has to say:
If a Palestinian state were created, it is not clear that the dynamics of Gaza, the city-state, and the West Bank, more of a nation-state, would be compatible. Under the best of circumstances, Gaza could not survive at its current size without a rapid economic evolution that would generate revenue from trade, banking and other activities common in successful Mediterranean cities. But these cities have either much smaller populations or much larger areas supported by surrounding territory. It is not clear how Gaza could get from where it is to where it would need to be to attain viability.Therefore, one of the immediate consequences of independence would be a massive outflow of Gazans to the West Bank. The economic conditions of the West Bank are better, but a massive inflow of hundreds of thousands of Gazans, for whom anything is better than what they had in Gaza, would buckle the West Bank economy. Tensions currently visible between the West Bank under Fatah and Gaza under Hamas would intensify. The West Bank could not absorb the population flow from Gaza, but the Gazans could not remain in Gaza except in virtually total dependence on foreign aid.The only conceivable solution to the economic issue would be for Palestinians to seek work en masse in more dynamic economies. This would mean either emigration or entering the work force in Egypt, Jordan, Syria or Israel. Egypt has its own serious economic troubles, and Syria and Jordan are both too small to solve this problem — and that is completely apart from the political issues that would arise after such immigration.Therefore, the only economy that could employ surplus Palestinian labor is Israel’s.Security concerns apart, while the Israeli economy might be able to metabolize this labor, it would turn an independent Palestinian state into an Israeli economic dependency. The ability of the Israelis to control labor flows has always been one means for controlling Palestinian behavior. To move even more deeply into this relationship would mean an effective annulment of Palestinian independence. The degree to which Palestine would depend on Israeli labor markets would turn Palestine into an extension of the Israeli economy. And the driver of this will not be the West Bank, which might be able to create a viable economy over time, but Gaza, which cannot.From this economic analysis flows the logic of Gaza’s Hamas. Accepting a Palestinian state along lines even approximating the 1948 partition, regardless of the status of Jerusalem, would not result in an independent Palestinian state in anything but name. Particularly for Gaza, it would solve nothing. Thus, the Palestinian desire to destroy Israel flows not only from ideology and/or religion, but from a rational analysis of what independence within the current geographical architecture would mean: a divided nation with profoundly different interests, one part utterly incapable of self-sufficiency, the other part potentially capable of it — but only if it jettisons responsibility for Gaza.
But if things go the other way, and Israel is pushed into the sea, and the humanitarian disaster I am speaking of comes to pass, there is one bright spot for the do-gooders of the West. It will be the kind of humanitarian disaster that will be assiduously ignored, and will get virtually no coverage at all. And that means that they will be able to go to their graves without rethinking any aspect of their economic illiteracy, which is a pleasant way to go, I suppose.