As the Palestinian Authority continues to seek recognition by the United Nations as a "state," the world should consider the implications.
If the U.N. now recognizes Palestine as a state without requiring its leaders to negotiate a compromise peace with Israel, it would send a clear message to other groups seeking recognition and statehood: Terrorism will earn you the sympathy of the world and get you your way.
Palestinian terrorism has a decades-long pedigree that far predates Israel's nationhood. In 1929, Haj Amin al Husseini — the grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the official leader of the Palestinian people — ordered his followers to murder hundreds of elderly Jews in Hebron and other cities and towns where Jews had lived for millennia.
During World War II, Husseini moved to Berlin where he met with Adolf Hitler and Adolf Eichmann. At Eichmann's trial for war crimes in 1961, it came out that Husseini had personally prevented nearly 1,000 Hungarian-Jewish children from being sent to neutral countries. Instead he insisted that they be sent to Auschwitz, where they died.
In 1948, Palestinians refused to accept the compromise two-state solution proposed by the U.N., and instead they engaged in the Arab states' genocidal war in which 1 percent of Israel's population, including many civilians, were killed.
In 1968, a Jordanian-born Palestinian, Sirhan Sirhan, educated to hate anything associated with Jews or Israel, assassinated New York Sen. and presidential candidate Robert Kennedy. Five years later, Palestine Liberation Organization head Yasser Arafat arranged to have three American diplomats kidnapped and offered in exchange for Kennedy's assassin. When the U.S. refused to release Sirhan, Arafat personally ordered the torture and murder of the Americans.
In 1972, Arafat ordered the terrorist attack on the Olympics in which several Israeli athletes and coaches were murdered. There followed decades of airplane hijackings, synagogue bombings and other attacks that attracted the attention of the world. These attacks continue, the most recent being this week's killing of Egyptian soldiers near the border with Israel, apparently carried out with the complicity of Palestinian terrorists from Gaza.
Rather than condemn this pervasive violence, the U.N. has done everything in its power to reward it, including devoting special agencies entirely to Palestinians and their cause. Meanwhile, the U.N. and the international community have given the cold shoulder to Tibetans, Kurds and other stateless groups that have not used terrorism as their primary means of achieving recognition and statehood.
Yet the case for Palestinian statehood is far weaker because the Palestinians have been offered statehood on numerous occasions — 1938, 1948, 2001, and 2007. On each occasion the Palestinian leadership has rejected the offer, choosing the gun and the bomb instead.
Despite this sordid history, the U.N. General Assembly — which includes dozens of states that don't recognize Israel — is likely to vote for the first time in favor of Palestinian statehood this fall.
I favor the establishment of a Palestinian state, but only if the Palestinian leadership negotiates such a state with Israel and rejects terrorism. Israel's government has offered to begin negotiations, promising generous proposals without any preconditions. The Palestinians continue to reject these offers of a negotiated two-state solution — with the Palestinian Authority preferring unilateral action through the U.N., and Hamas preferring terrorism.
I favor a Palestinian state not so much because the Palestinians have earned this right by their actions and their history, but because Israel will benefit by ending civilian settlements on the West Bank and allowing the Palestinians to control their own destiny. Were the Palestinians to accept a "land for peace" proposal of the kind long offered by Israel, the world would see that the conflict has always been more about land compromises, and the acceptance of Israel, than about human rights.
Another important reason for requiring the Palestinian leadership to negotiate and compromise as a condition of statehood — which the Israelis did when they accepted the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan for Palestine — is because of the experience with Gaza. Israel left Gaza in 2009 unilaterally, without a deal or agreement. It left behind farming and other equipment in the hope that the Palestinians would use their newfound autonomy to build a prosperous homeland that could live side by side in peace with Israel.
Instead, Hamas exploited this autonomy to conduct a violent coup, followed by repeated rocket attacks against Israeli civilians. There is every reason to worry that such mayhem would be repeated if the Palestinians were to be given statehood without negotiating a compromise peace with Israel.
If the U.N. were to reward this abysmal history of violence and terrorism, it would be encouraging other groups to follow the "Palestinian path" to statehood. The end result would be more violence and terrorism in the world.
Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He is a graduate of Brooklyn College and Yale Law School. Read more reports from Alan M. Dershowitz — Click Here Now.
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