France, with the support of the United States, is leading a new attempt at peace between Israel and the Palestinians, with the implied goal that an independent Palestinian state would be created -- but what should we expect from such a state?
Although past behavior is not a perfect predictor of future behavior, it is a strong indicator of it, especially if no corrective action has been taken.
When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared, "The dawn of freedom rises with the evacuation of the last Israeli soldier and settler." Yet, instead of using that freedom to build a successful economy, Palestinians destroyed the greenhouses that the settlers had left, and terrorists launched rocket attacks against Israel. These attacks forced Israel to institute a naval blockade of Gaza, to limit the supply of weapons to terrorists.
The Oslo Accords signed by Israel and the Palestinians in the 1990s provided a transition period meant to lead to Palestinian statehood. However, instead of peaceful coexistence with Israel, the Palestinian leadership launched an assault that became known as the Second Intifada.
During the recent stabbing attacks by Palestinian terrorists, Abbas declared, "Each drop of blood that was spilled in Jerusalem is pure blood as long as it's for the sake of Allah. Every shahid (martyr) will be in heaven and every wounded person will be rewarded, by Allah's will."
These violent actions and the incitement are not exceptions. They are part of a pattern of Arab denial of the Jews' right to exist, which started well before Israel declared its independence, and that caused several wars and innumerable terrorist attacks against Israel.
Lack of democracy
Palestinian democracy has so far been a failure. Yasser Arafat was elected in July 1994 as president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) for a four-year term, but he stayed in power, without further elections, for more than 10 years until his death in November 2004. Mahmoud Abbas was elected President in May 2005, and is still in office, without further elections, eleven years later.
Hamas, which won the PA legislative elections of 2006, was never invited to take the PA reins of power, but it took control of the Gaza Strip through a violent overthrow of Fatah, and still controls Gaza -- also without further elections -- ten years later.
Fatah and Hamas have used elections to create a semblance of democracy, and both have abused their authority to go far beyond their legitimate mandates. Both routinely use control of the media, control of the education system, and violence to maintain their power, as documented extensively by Israeli-Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh.
Corruption in the PA and Hamas is widely recognized, by commentators who range from extreme anti-Israel, to somewhat moderate pro-Palestinian, to pro-Israel.
As reported by CBS News in 2003, "Yasser Arafat diverted nearly $1 billion in public funds to insure his political survival, but a lot more is unaccounted for."
Abbas has continued the tradition. Haaretz reported that the Panama Papers "show that Tareq Abbas, the son of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, held shares worth nearly $1 million in a company associated with the PA".
Khaled Abu Toameh has written that, "$4.5 billion the Americans invested in promoting Palestinian democracy went down the drain or ended up in secret Swiss bank accounts."
Hamas, which was elected partly in opposition to Fatah corruption, is just as corrupt. Moshe Elad wrote in Tablet Magazine that the Hamas government, "is centralized and corrupt, it lacks effectiveness, bribery plays a very important role in society, and nepotism is prevalent, with just few families or relatives benefiting from state monopolies on basic services and commodities".
Associated Press reported that 95.5% of Palestinians in the West Bank believe that the PA is corrupt while 82% of Palestinians in Gaza believe that Hamas is corrupt.
Promotion of hatred
As noted previously, promotion of hatred by Palestinian leaders is widespread, and it is the main obstacle to peaceful co-existence with Israel. An example of Palestinian hate propaganda is a made-for-children movie where, as reported by London's Daily Mail,
"The little girl, dressed in a hijab, is seen pretending to stab two boys dressed as Israeli soldiers, who respond by 'shooting' her. Then, amid cheers from the baying crowd, a boy dressed as a masked terrorist massacres the soldiers with a replica semi-automatic weapon."
The newspaper added that the video was filmed at a "festival of hate," which was partly funded by a UK charity supported by British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and some other Labor MPs.
Oppression of the Palestinian people
Both Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza run their governments as dictatorships, where freedom of speech is denied and where dissent is punished by jail, beatings, torture, or death. This retribution is widely recognized, even by organizations that are often considered biased against Israel, such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI).
In 2011, in a 35-page report, HRW documented "cases in which security forces tortured, beat, and arbitrarily detained journalists, confiscated their equipment, and barred them from leaving the West Bank and Gaza."
In their 2015/16 report, Amnesty International wrote,
"The Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and the Hamas de facto administration in the Gaza Strip both restricted freedom of expression, including by arresting and detaining critics and political opponents. They also restricted the right to peaceful assembly and used excessive force to disperse some protests. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained common in both Gaza and the West Bank."
Lack of economic drive
Palestinian leaders have concentrated all their efforts on waging war against Israel and increasing their own personal wealth. The best economic opportunities presented to average West Bank Palestinians are in working on settlement construction or commuting daily to jobs in Israel.
The lack of Palestinian economic development in the West Bank is often blamed on Israel, yet when Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, Palestinian leaders did not seize that opportunity to build the economy of Gaza. They chose instead to spend their resources on rockets, terror tunnels, and enriching the leaders of Hamas.
Bad behavior is rewarded
Those who provide funding to the Palestinians are aware of this behavior, yet they have not used their influence to curb it. In fact, they reward it.
The Palestinian leadership in Gaza is rewarded for every war it initiates with Israel in two ways. During the war, it is rewarded by the international media, which provides wide coverage of Palestinian casualties while ignoring the terrorist actions that led to those casualties (thus playing into Hamas's "dead baby strategy"). After the war, Gaza's leadership is rewarded when more funding is provided for reconstruction, despite the knowledge that a large portion of it is used to rebuild the terrorist arsenal.
The Fatah/Palestinian Authority leadership in the West Bank is rewarded by international donors who provide ongoing funding to President Mahmoud Abbas while knowing the extent of the corruption of his regime and its lack of democracy.
Palestinian leaders have repeatedly shown that their priority is not peace, or a two-state solution, or a Palestinian state, but repression. If a Palestinian state is created without correcting these destructive practices, it is highly likely that the new Palestinian regime will follow the same pattern already established, and be a hatemongering, corrupt, undemocratic, oppressive, belligerent, and ineffective regime. This would not only be a security threat for Israel, it would mean more of the same for the Palestinians.
Current talk by Western leaders of peace, a two-state solution, and a Palestinian state makes no mention of these dangers. If those leaders wish to achieve a lasting peace that is beneficial to Israel and the Palestinians, rather than to create an unstable situation that could cause irreparable damage to both sides, peace discussions must account for the Palestinian reality.
Fred Maroun, a left-leaning Arab based in Canada, has authored op-eds for New Canadian Media, among other outlets. From 1961-1984, he lived in Lebanon.