The publication of “A Palestinian State – Not A Priority” in the Palestine Telegraph on May 23 offers the tantalising prospect of a possible breakthrough in resolving the Arab-Jewish conflict.
Three reasons support such optimism:
First – the Palestine Telegraph is published in Gaza, its web site declaring:
“The PT is a non-profit project that depends totally on donations from people of good will committed to freedom of speech for all people. Our success will come from the commitment of our volunteer reporters and the interest of people of good will seeking true change in our world; one where all people are respected and indeed have equal human rights… …The Palestine Telegraph/PT is the first Electronic Newspaper based in the Gaza Strip, Palestine, staffed by Palestinians and international volunteers; professional journalists and members of the New Fourth Estate – citizen journalists who do not take assignments from editors or paychecks from corporate controlled media.”
Secondly – the article’s editor, Yoram Ettinger, is a distinguished Israeli whose CV includes:
“(Since 1993) Consultant to Israel’s Cabinet Members, to Israeli legislators and to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on US-Israel bilateral projects, US policy and Mideast politics. Executive Director of “Second Thought – A U.S. Israel Initiative,” dedicated to generate out-of-the-box thinking on US-Israel relations, Middle East politics, the Palestinian issue, Jewish-Arab demographics, Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.”
Thirdly – Ettinger’s article contains the following powerful message for Gaza’s readers to digest – indeed for all who seek to end this conflict that has raged unresolved for the last 130 years:
‘The Palestinian issue has benefited from the Arab/Muslim talk, but – due to the Palestinian record of intra-Arab subversion – has never been supported by the Arab/Muslim walk. Arab/Muslim policy makers have never considered the Palestinian issue a strategic interest, but rather a tactical instrument to advance intra-Arab or Muslim interests and to annihilate the Jewish state.
Irrespective of this, Palestine has been a geographic, not a national, concept, as evidenced by the lack of distinct, cohesive national character of its Arab inhabitants. This lack of cohesion has been intensified by the violent internal fragmentation along various lines: cultural (such as Bedouin vs. rural vs. urban sectors), geographic (e.g. mountain vs. coastal Arabs, southern vs. northern, Hebron vs. Bethlehem, Nablus vs. Ramallah, Nablus vs. Hebron), ethnic, ideological, political (pro- or anti-Jordan), historical and tribal identity. Such turbulent fragmentation was fueled by the multitude of Arab or Muslim migration waves from Bosnia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, the Arabian Peninsula, Syria and Lebanon.
The establishment of a Palestinian state was not on the agenda of the non-Arab Muslim Ottoman Empire, which ruled the area from 1517 through 1917. The Ottomans linked the area, defined by most Arabs as a region within Southern Syria or the Levant, to the Damascus and Beirut provinces.
The British Empire, which dominated the Middle East from 1917 until the end of World War II, did not contemplate a Palestinian Arab state, while establishing a series of Arab countries throughout the Middle East. Moreover, the 1917 Balfour Declaration dedicated Palestine, including Jordan, to the Jewish homeland. The 1920 San Remo Resolution, formulated by the principal Allied Powers, formalized the Balfour Declaration-based British Mandate for Palestine, which was ratified on Aug. 12, 1922, by the League of Nations, eventually transferring 77 percent of Palestine (Jordan) to the Arabs. The U.S. House and Senate approved it unanimously on June 30, 1922. In 1945, the Mandate for Palestine was integrated into the U.N. Charter via Article 80, which precludes alterations, and is still legally binding.
Jordan and Egypt occupied Judea and Samaria and Gaza from 1949 through 1967, but did not ponder the establishment of a Palestinian state; nor did the Arab League.
According to Dr. Yuval Arnon-Ohanna of Ariel University, who headed the Palestinian Desk at the Mossad Research Division, the secretary-general of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha, stated in September 1947 that the core problem was not a Palestinian state or Jewish expansionism. The only priority was the duty to uproot the Jewish presence from Palestine, which was defined by Muslims as “Waqf” – an area divinely endowed to Islam and not to the “infidel.” ….’
Such an article appearing in a Gaza electronic newspaper written by so eminent an Israeli with such close links to the Israeli Government would have been unthinkable just one month ago.
Did the publication of this article somehow accidentally slip through the Hamas Government censor’s scrutiny or does it signify the willingness of Hamas to engage in negotiations whose agenda for the first time would be based on the facts presented so succinctly by Ettinger?
Until now the PLO has dismissed the 1917 Balfour Declaration, the 1922 Mandate for Palestine and everything that has happened since then as being null and void.
However, three weeks ago Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told Middle East Monitor:
“Both nations, Jordan and Palestine, share the same history and present”
Jordan and Palestine’s joint modern history commenced with the Balfour Declaration and Mandate for Palestine – and subsequently unfolded as accurately recounted in Ettinger’s article.
As negotiations to effect a reconciliation between Hamas and the PLO reportedly gain momentum, the beginnings of a commonly-agreed Jewish and Arab narrative based on fact – not fiction – could hopefully become the basis for resuming future negotiations.
Imminent breakthrough or yet another lost opportunity?
David Singer blogs at Jordan is Palestine