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April 23rd, 2009
08:01 PM ET

Do the Palestinians really want a state?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/meast/04/01/israel.peace.process/art.avigdor.lieberman.afp.gi.jpg caption="Israeli Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman remarked earlier this month about the new Israeli government's view of the peace process."]
Robert D. Kaplan
The Atlantic

The statelessness of Palestinian Arabs has been a principal feature of world politics for more than half a century. It is the signature issue of our time. The inability of Israelis and Palestinians to reach an accord of mutual recognition and land-for-peace has helped infect the globe with violence and radicalism—and has long been a bane of American foreign policy. While the problems of the Middle East cannot be substantially blamed on the injustice done to Palestinians, that injustice has nonetheless played a role in weakening America’s position in the region.

Obviously, part of the problem has been Israeli intransigence. Despite seeming to submit to territorial concessions, one Israeli government after another has quietly continued to bolster illegal settlements in the occupied territories. The new Israeli government may be the worst yet: Its foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, is so extreme in his anti-Arab views that he makes the right-wing Likud prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, appear like the centrist he isn’t. The prospects for peace under this government are fundamentally bleak.

And yet this Israeli government faithfully represents the Israeli electorate, which is in utter despair over the impossibility of finding credible partners on the Palestinian side with which to negotiate. Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. President Mahmoud Abbas’s more moderate Fatah movement may be willing to live in peace with Israel, but it has insufficient political legitimacy among Palestinians to negotiate such a deal. With Fatah and Hamas facing off against each other, the Palestinians are simply too divided to plausibly meet Israel across the table. And because the Palestinians are unable to cut a deal, a majority of Israelis, as shown by the recent election results, have apparently given up any hope for peace.

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Filed under: Global 360° • Israel • Palestine
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Rachel

    "Israeli Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman"...should be Foreign Minister or Deputy Prime Minister, unless something major happened that no one reported on...

    April 27, 2009 at 9:36 pm |
  2. Olweiss

    Palestinians, the eternal immolation cattle of the arabic world, don´t want anything, I suspect, besides being alive and having something on the table for dinner. It´s sad to see how this miserable population is being played with for the needs of big politics, mostly by their fellow muslims. Another thing that many omit due to being politically correct / afraid of being bombed in their own car, is that Palestinians are not capable in many aspects as of now to function as a sovereign state. It’s funny though how seriously the world keeps discussing the “Israeli-Palestinian problem”, chewing the same gum for decades.

    April 24, 2009 at 6:09 pm |
  3. Terry, TX

    "Do the Palestinians really want a state?" No...they want it all...and the rest of us too.

    April 24, 2009 at 10:14 am |
  4. Albert

    How can so many people be wrong and still accuse Israel of an illegal occupation. Can someone please just read internional war treaties or the treaties of the Hague? Maybe thje day that Russia gives back st petersberg to the fins and the US returns land to the native americans, they can critisize Israel all they want. Until that happens keep dreaming that Israel will give up its sovereign land. Lets not forget about the 900000 jews who were kicked out of there homes by the Arabs either

    April 24, 2009 at 3:35 am |
  5. Marilyn

    What's happening in Pakistan right now with the Taliban is exactly what happened with Hamas. The Pakistanis gave away land for peace and it just emboldened the Taliban. Hamas used the same technique to gain hold of Gaza and then double-crossed everybody and renegged. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda have no greater desire to take Pakistan just as the Palestinians (including Fatah by the way) have no qualms about trying to take all of Israel and islamasize the whole region. That, by the way, according to the Quran, would embolden them even further to move their Islamic ideology into the Western World.

    April 23, 2009 at 10:57 pm |
  6. Masoud

    Why wouldn't the Palestinians want a state of their own? I am 17 and I understand it isn't all just Isreal's fault, but with that said, it is mostly Isreal's fault becuase they have the power over the Palestinians and abuse this power to their gain an in illegal form.

    April 23, 2009 at 10:43 pm |
  7. Jacqueline, NY

    Wow! This is most honest reporting on this topic I have ever seen in mainstream media.

    April 23, 2009 at 9:48 pm |
  8. Jim Carroll internet free press.com

    When I see the wall that the intelligentency of America has around their minds, I find it easy to understand the mindsets of Israel, Palestinianes, and the Taliban.

    April 23, 2009 at 9:45 pm |
  9. Marc Eisenman

    Palestinians statelessness has been an issue for over 50 years... Is that so?There never was a 'Palestine' nation. It's make believe. It's the name given to the area by Rome after they put down the Jewish revolt. A name used by the British after they curved up and ruled the Middle East with the French. And after Israel defeated the Arabs in 1948 'Palestine' was ruled by Eygpt and Jordon until 42 years ago when Israel beat the Arabs again. Please, don't rewrite history just report the facts.

    April 23, 2009 at 9:40 pm |
  10. Jim Carroll internet free press.com

    America needs to give up the Judo Christian Religion concept that Israel is God's Chosen people and have an even-handed policy in the
    Middle East. Since the State of Israel was created by the UN, Why
    not let the UN create a Palestinian State?

    April 23, 2009 at 9:30 pm |
  11. Michael C. McHugh

    They have stated for many decades that they want a state, so I just take them at their word. It's true that there have been many plans to partition Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state since the 1920s and 1930s. All of them failed because they often haven't recognizede each other's right to exist, at least not in a form acceptable to those concerned. Still, if anyone ever has a better answer than the two-state solution, I've never heard it.

    April 23, 2009 at 9:21 pm |
  12. Jane Palomera

    The Israel-biased rhetoric dripping from Kaplan's article is enough to make me physically nauseated. I understand subscribing to one side or another, but to blindly generalize the Palestinians as a people all but heady with the "power" displacement brings them is disgusting and ignorant. The Israeli government has not "given up any hope for peace": the Israeli government has never seriously sought out peace. To Mr. Kaplan, I suggest stepping back from the pro-Israel smokescreen you've settled yourself into and watching raw, candidly-shot documentaries that cover the lives of everyday Palestinians, such as BBC Dispatches: The Killing Zone. And then in good conscience tell me those normal Palestinians, whose homes have been bulldozed and children have been murdered in the middle of their classrooms, are gaining something from this.

    April 23, 2009 at 9:09 pm |
  13. Annie Kate

    This makes more sense than anything else I have read about the Palestinians. As a victim they appear sympathetic with Israel the big bad oppressor. However, with time this victimhood status may decline in its effectiveness and the Palestinians will not be viewed as sympathetically but more like a pest that just won't go away. Works both ways – I just hope that we can repair out image in the Middle East and that someday both Palestinian and Israelite can live side by side in peace.

    April 23, 2009 at 8:48 pm |