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Palestine and Israel

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Palestine Not Ready for Statehood

August 10th 2007

World Citizens - Micah Halpern headshot
Micah Halpern

The Palestinian people deserve a state of their own. But not now, not yet.

Why? Because the Palestinians have not yet adequately proven themselves ready for total self-government. At least, not democratic self-government. The Palestinians have been in control of their own destiny for a significant chunk of time. And each time they are faced with a pivotal challenge, they fail to rise up to that challenge. And each failure is then blamed on Israel.

The election of Hamas to power, for example, was a challenge to the concept of democracy. And the result was a miserable failure of democracy and a return to anarchy. The decision to arrest terrorists is another example of a challenge the Palestinians faced and failed. The result was the decision not to make arrests by circumventing the issue and calling the gun-toting, saber rattling, Qassam throwing brigades not terrorists, but resistance fighters. Everyone speaks of normalization, but these actions should never be termed normal. These actions are an ab-normalization of the situation and they are an abomination.

Before they can become a democratic state, the Palestinians must be ready, willing and most crucially, able, to make changes in attitudes and in behaviors. Democracy is more than a system of self-government. Democracy is about respect. Respect for law and for laws. Respect for religious and cultural minorities. Respect for education.

Neither Palestinian leadership nor the Palestinian people have grasped the true essence of democracy. They have no understanding of the concept of freedom. They do not yet understand that democracy and freedom are co-joined, that democracy without freedom is dictatorship, that freedom without democracy is anarchy.

Striving for democracy is an admirable goal. Freedom is an inalienable right. But they come with a price - responsibility. Until Palestinian leadership is willing to accept that responsibility, the people will continue to live under an umbrella of violence, poverty and uncertainty.

Building a democracy is an investment in time and good will. Commit to the concept honestly and the entire free world will be at your side. But play games with democracy and you will be devoured by the forces of terror and tyranny.

This is a pivotal time in Palestinian history. George Bush, the leader of the most powerful democracy in the world has joined with Israeli leader Ehud Olmert and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in attempting to move ahead with the “Two-State Solution” the “Road Map” calling for Israel and the Palestinians to live side-by-side that was devised by the group of democratic countries known as the Quartet. Is it ultimately the best solution? No, but it is the best solution for now. One must crawl before walking and walk before running. It is a means to the end, not the end for the Palestinian people.

But even the “Two-State Solution” seems remote right now. In conversations with Olmert, discussions suggesting the exchange of pre’67 lands for post ‘67 lands - a condition until now considered a deal breaker for the Palestinians - Abbas proclaimed that the could not be held responsible for security in the West Bank. But being held responsible is what it’s all about. And it appears that the Amnesty Agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, calling for 178 terrorists to hand over their weapons to the Palestinian Authority and sign a pledge to no longer engage in terrorist activities in return for which they will not be targeted by Israel was one big farce. Few weapons have been handed over, fewer pledges have been signed.

Running to democracy can be a big mistake. The move must be slow, slow and steady, much like the famous tortoise who ended up winning that race. Right now, the Palestinians are barely even crawling. One day, I hope, they will be truly ready to herald democracy and achieve statehood. But not now, not yet. And that’s disappointing.

Michah Halpern, who frequently writes on security, is the author of Thugs (Thomas Nelson 2007), and editor of the Micah Report. He can found at www.MicahHalpern.com

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