During a speech in Baghdad, “Palestinian” President Mahmoud Abbas (a.k.a. Abu Mazen) statedÂ that in order for negotiations to continue between his government and Israel, Israel’s new government would have to “accept the creation of a Palestinian state, stop construction in West Bank Israeli settlements and remove army roadblocks crippling life in the West Bank so that we can resume dialogue in order to reach a political solution.” This statement, at first glance, appears more than reasonable. After all, why should he try to engage with people who don’t recognize his “people’s” right to statehood, and are attempting to undermine that statehood. However, on closer examination, this statement is practically laughable.
First, the crippling of the West Bank has less to do with roadblocks than with a lack of economy. While a part of the poor economy can be blamed on Israeli security measures, such as roadblocks and checkpoints, and an additional part can be blamed on competition from other Arab states (after all, how different are the goods produced in Gaza City from those in Cairo, or those in the West Bank from those in the East Bank), the far larger part is that of the “Palestinians.” P.A. laws are not written in a way which secure property rights, thereby going against the Coase Theorem, and preventing investment. Think about it, would you invest somewhere where you weren’t sure the government or some other strongman would one day just claim it for their own, and you would have little or no legal recompense to get it back. Moreover, with low education, even minor innovations, such as the use of newer tractors or agricultural techniques are not implementable. Furthermore, regardless of whether you think there is an inherent right in armed militias in the “Palestinian territories,” there nonetheless exists a situation in which a manufacturer cannot be certain that his (and this is not meant to be non-politically correct, but realistically, I have yet to have read a report about a female manufacturer in the West Bank) goods will even make it to market, forget in a timely manner.
Second, why would the Israeli government want to stop building settlements when they are a useful bargaining chip? If he wants settlements dismantled, or wants them to stop being built, he should be negotiating for it. Now, I’m not saying that its right for Israel to keep constructing settlements, but frankly, its strategically smart for the Israeli government to keep building, so as to put pressure on the “Palestinians” and bring them to the negotiating table. It’s not as though terrorist attacks aren’t occurring and that Israel is simply ignoring a large population. With each new settlement or settlement expansion, the message is: talk to us now, for in a few years, there will be little or nothing to talk about. In essence, it is establishing an “Iron Wall.”
Third, regardless of whether it is fair, “Palestinians” are not in the position to be issuing demands. If the Israeli government chooses to, and can find a country which will take them, the government could, though illegally**, to transfer the entire Arab population of the West Bank, thereby removing the whole question of “Palestinian” statehood in the regions of Judea and Samaria. While I am not advocating such an action, it seems to me that the Abbas should be trying to convince Israel to talk to him and to help establish his state, rather than leave his people at risk of not having one. That is, of course, if his goal is the establishment of a Palestinian state, something of which this author is not so sure.
**Thanks to P.J. for pointing out that I had misremembered the Geneva Convention!