The words and deeds of many Palestinian officials, whether they are from Fatah or Hamas, do not seem to be bringing the Palestinians closer to fulfilling their aspiration of creating a modern and democratic state next to Israel.
In this regard, the Palestinian Authority leaders in the West Bank are continuing to act [and speak] in a way that only radicalizes Palestinians and demonizes Israel and the Jewish people.
Preparing for statehood is not only about building infrastructure and institutions; it is also about educating the people about the importance of living in peace with your neighbors and respecting their right to live insecurity.
Almost every day, the Palestinian Authority, which is dominated by the secular Fatah faction, provides the world with evidence that it is not leading its constituents toward the path of moderation and co-existence. And this is without mentioning what Hamas is saying and doing.
If the Palestinians were serious about building their own state, they should not wait for Israel or any other country to present it to them as a gift.
Had the Palestinian Authority invested perhaps half of the money that went into Yasser Arafat’s secret bank accounts or to support the shopping sprees of his wife in Paris, it is highly likely that the Palestinians would by now have had their own state.
Had the Palestinian leadership built schools, hospitals, universities and housing projects instead of building a casino, there is no doubt that the Palestinians would have had their state several years ago.
Had the Palestinian Authority invested some of the billions of dollars for the welfare of its people, combating poverty and unemployment, it is certain that the Palestinians would not have resorted to violence in September 2000. That is because when the Palestinians launched the second intifada, many people had nothing to lose.
So has the Palestinian Authority since learned from its mistakes?
While it is true that the economic situation in the West Bank has improved in the past two years, largely thanks to the fact that the international donors have finally begun holding Palestinian leaders accountable and are pressing harder for transparency, the messages coming out of the Palestinian leadership are not encouraging.
In the past week alone, the “moderate” Palestinian leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas took two decisions that will only have a negative impact on the future of the “peace process.”
First, Abbas’s representatives dismantled a Palestinian teenager musical band for performing in front of Holocaust survivors in the Israeli city of Holon. An Israeli-Arab woman who was in charge of the ban has been told by Abbas’s lieutenants that her life would be in danger if she ever showed her face again in Jenin. Fatah activists later sealed her apartment and confiscated all the musical equipment, accusing her of “exploiting” the children for a “political event” - the Holocaust.
In the second case, Abbas’s Chief Islamic Judge, Tayseer Tamimi, issued another fatwa [religious decree] that imposes the death sentence on any Palestinian who sells his lands to Jews.
And then there is Mohammed Dahlan, one of Fatah’s senior operatives who is closely associated with Abbas, who went on Palestine TV to proudly declare that his faction has never recognized Israel’s right to exist.
He also boasted that as a former security commander he and Fatah had killed more suspected Palestinian “collaborators” with Israel than Hamas.
Dahlan, who has long been hailed by US Administration officials as a “moderate” leader and a staunch supporter of the peace process, even went as far as urging Hamas not to succumb to pressure to accept Israel’s right to exist.
The Palestinian leadership in the West Bank has also been fighting “normalization” with Israel by boycotting Israeli products and banning Palestinian teenagers from participating in joint Jewish-Arab events aimed at promoting tolerance and coexistence.
It is no wonder then that public opinion polls continue to show that Hamas’s popularity is on the rise and that a majority of Palestinians support suicide bombings.
Over the past few weeks, numerous Palestinian spokesmen have been warning against the “dangers” of having a right-wing government in Israel. According to these spokesmen, the rise of Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to power is an indication of the Israeli public’s shift to the right and the beginning of the end of the “peace process.”
The Palestinian officials say they are particularly worried about Netanyahu’s refusal to accept the two-state solution.
But were these folks expecting? That Netanyahu and Lieberman would give them more than what former prime ministers Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak, Shimon Peres, Ariel Sharon and Yitzhak Rabin had either given the Palestinians or offered to give them?
There is absolutely no reason why Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhayu should be worried about American and European pressure on him to accept the two-state solution.
Even if Netanyahu accepted the two-state solution tomorrow, he will quickly discover that the Palestinian Authority in particular and the Palestinians in general are the least prepared for establishing an independent and normal state alongside Israel.
Netanyahu and Lieberman can sit relaxed. Even if they offered the Palestinians a state, they will discover that there is no credible partner, neither in Ramallah nor in the Gaza Strip, to deal with.
Finally, the failure of the Hamas-Fatah “reconciliation” talks means that the world will have to live with the fact that the two-state solution has already been realized. In the end, the Palestinians got two states - a mini-Islamic republic in the Gaza Strip and an incompetent, powerless and unreliable entity in parts of the West Bank.