The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs is to submit a report to UN Security Council detailing why the Palestinians aren’t “prepared” for independent statehood. Reportedly, the report will point to the fact that the Palestinians have failed to hold national or local elections.
Elections? That is the least of it! The Palestinians are far from being “ready” for statehood for several dozen much more significant reasons, ranging from impotency to insolvency, and from maximalist expansionism to raw anti-Semitism.
To begin with, the Palestinian national movement is decentralized, dysfunctional, and divided, as former US negotiator Aaron David Miller has written.
Mahmoud Abbas has no monopoly over the use of force within his society. He cannot mobilize the people of Gaza or East Jerusalem, and he cannot command their loyalties through money, show of force, or diplomacy. He could not survive a week without nightly IDF roundups of Hamas militants and operatives in the West Bank. Hamas itself retains the power to trigger a military conflict with Israel through the use of rockets and missiles from Gaza.
No Israeli government should make a deal with a partner that doesn’t control and silence all the guns of Palestine.
The so-called “Authority” is also an economic basket-case. It survives, barely, on international handouts, with the U.S. providing $450 million a year, the Europeans a similar amount, and Arab states another $100 to $300 million. The PA’s biggest sector is the civil service; more than 160,000 people draw salaries from the Authority, with many of them being paid to stay out of trouble or refrain from causing trouble.
One wonders: On whose dole were the World Bank geniuses who announced several months ago that the PA was economically “ready” for statehood?
Consider the critical issue of water. The PA is neither independent nor judicious nor neighborly in its water usage and sewage management. Israel currently provides the PA 200 million cubic meters of water every year, which, under the Oslo Accords, is more than Israel it supposed to provide a full-fledged Palestinian state under a final settlement arrangement! At a recent conference of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, it was revealed that despite this, over 250 unauthorized deep wells have been dug by Palestinians in the West Bank, which draw an additional 25 million cubic meters a year of water.
Worse still, the PA has now connected most of these pirate wells to its electricity grid! Moreover, the PA has illegally and surreptitiously connected thousands of private wells and storage pools to the water lines of Israel’s Mekorot National Water Company, stealing Israel’s water.
According to Hebrew University geographer and water expert Prof. Haim Gvirtzman, Palestinian famers wildly overwater their crops through old-fashioned, wasteful flooding methods. He says that at least a third of the water being pumped out the ground by the Palestinians (again, in violation of their accords with Israel) is wasted through leakage and mismanagement. No recycling of water takes place and no treated water is used for agriculture. In fact, 95 percent of the 56 million cubic meters of sewage produced by the Palestinians each year is not treated at all. Only one sewage plant has been built in the West Bank in the last 15 years, despite there being a $500 international donor fund available for this purpose.
This is a government that is termed “ready” for statehood? This is an “Authority” that is prepared for peaceful and cooperative statehood alongside Israel? Naw. To me, this sounds like a Humpty Dumpty state, not a real one. Not a nice one. And not a good idea.
All the while, the Palestinian Authority goes on the offensive against Israel in international forums (accusing it of war crimes and the like). Yet Israel is supposed to continue to be a good neighbor and do nothing to undermine the “viability” and “legitimacy” of the Authority. Israel is expected to continue collecting and transferring to the PA tax funds and custom fees amounting to more $1 billion a year. Israel is supposed to continue to give the PA water. Israel is supposed to allow Palestinian exports into its markets (including all those Palestinian vegetables grown cheaply with stolen water). In fact, more than 90 percent of Palestinian exports are to Israel!
For just how long should Israel allow this absurd situation to continue?
* Originally published in Israel Hayom on October 3, 2011.