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Palestinians Present Statehood Application To United Nations

Despite efforts by the United States to dissuade them from doing so, the Palestinian Authority has formally requested that the United Nations recognize it as a state on the same day that both Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the General Assembly:

UNITED NATIONS —President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority formally requested the Security Council to grant full United Nations membership on Friday as a path toward Palestinian statehood, rejecting arguments by the United States and Israel that it was not a substitute for direct negotiations for peace in the Middle East.

Mr. Abbas was greeted by numerous standing ovations from the moment he approached the lectern to deliver his speech to the General Assembly. “I do not believe anyone with a shred of conscience can reject our application for full admission in the United Nations,” Mr. Abbas said, calling statehood “the realization of the inalienable national rights of the Palestinian people.”

The largest and most sustained applause, along with cheers and whistles of approval, came as Mr. Abbas held up a copy of the letter requesting membership that he said he had handed to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon shortly before. “The time has come,” he said.

Less than an hour later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel took to the same lectern in “a hall that for too long has been place of darkness for my country” and said that he would not be seeking applause but rather speaking hard truths. “The truth is the Palestinians want a state without peace,” he said.

Mr. Netanyahu lashed out at the United Nations, whose prior actions against Israeli he described as “a theater of the absurd,” and challenged a comment by Mr. Abbas that the Palestinians were armed “only with their hopes and dreams.”

“Hopes, dreams — and 10,000 missiles and Grad rockets supplied by Iran,” Mr. Netanyahu said.

The request for Palestinian statehood on land occupied by Israel has become the dominant issue at this year’s General Assembly, refocusing global attention on one of the world’s most intractable conflicts.

Both men used the occasion to summarize the history of the conflict from their own perspectives. Mr. Netanyahu, in his early remarks, reviewed the many occasions when the United Nations had issued resolutions against Israel, saying the country had been unjustly singled out for condemnation “more often than all the other nations combined.”

Mr. Abbas, in his 40-minute speech, said every previous peace effort had been “shattered on the rock” of Israeli settlements and cited what he said was the historical responsibility of the United Nations to solve the problem.

He described the West Bank as “the last occupation” in the world, one that showed no sign of ending. “It is neither possible nor practical nor acceptable to return to conducting business as usual,” he said.

Drawing a line between his statehood request and the revolutions that swept through the Arab world this spring, he said, “The time has come also for the Palestinian spring, the time for independence.”

The Security Council is likely to take up the issue in earnest next week, diplomats said, when the question becomes whether the United States and its allies can stall it.

Washington is also working to prevent the Palestinians from gathering the nine votes needed for it to pass in the full council and thus avoid further wrecking the image of the United States in the Middle East by casting yet another veto against something Arabs dearly want.

It’s difficult to see how this ends well unless the Israelis and the Palestinians decide to finally sit down and talk about a final resolution of this whole matter, which seems unlikely. If the application falls short in the Security Council, Palestinians are likely to see it as being the result of American intervention to block a majority vote in their favor. If it gets the nine votes required and then gets blocked by a U.S. veto, then the result will be the same. In either case, it strikes me that this has the potential to do serious damage to the long-held American position that we’re a neutral broker in the dispute. I’m not sure that’s ever been true given that our ties with Israel are well-known to the world, but this would make it certain and would likely make it difficult for any American President to approach the Palestinians under the guise of objectivity.

That’s not saying that I think it would be advisable for the U.S. to allow this statehood vote to succeed, of course. However you feel about the Israeli/Palestinian dispute, it’s fairly clear that unilateral action like this isn’t going to do anything but inflame tensions in an already tense part of the world. Furthermore, how can you really say that there is such as thing as a Palestinian state when there’s not even agreement on what the borders of that state are?

The 1947 Partition that created Israel, and would have created a Palestinian state had the Arab world not declared war on the new nation immediately, established borders but it did so in a context where there were no other nations in existence in the area under question. One can quibble about the way the borders were drawn from land that used to be the British Mandate of Palestine, but the situation then was far different from what exists now. Israel is a sovereign nation, and the land that would theoretically make up this Palestinian state is disputed. Creating a state before resolving these situations is idiotic, and only seems guaranteed to create more tension between the parties.

There are already signs of that happening. Palestinians began rallying in the West Bank when word spread that the application was going to be submitted before Abbas’s speech, and tensions in the area are high:

As the Palestinians seek United Nations membership in New York, the situation on the ground remains calm. But tensions lie just below the surface. Israel has stationed thousands more police officers in the West Bank armed with tear gas, noise machines and putrid liquid to stop possible marches on settlements.

The settlers themselves have no training in such crowd-control techniques, and they fear for their communities, some of which reject fences for ideological reasons, arguing that they live in their homeland and will not fence themselves in. So the risk of their using live fire against Palestinians who might try to march on their communities is quite real. In more remote outposts, wooden clubs have been distributed.

“They feel the world is with them, so why not make an innocent march?” asked Shimon Shomron, a former undercover commando who heads the rapid response team of Bat Ayin, a fenceless settlement near Bethlehem known for its radicalism. He stood on a ridge looking at the Palestinian town of Tzurif across the valley, an M-16 across his shoulder. “But they know we will not meet them with flowers.”

For much of the world, the very presence of more than 300,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank amounts to a kind of violent crime. They are holding land widely considered Palestinian by right, obstructing a two-state solution. And they are armed and protected by one of the world’s most powerful militaries.

But geopolitics aside, the question facing security forces — both Palestinian and Israeli — in the coming weeks and months is whether the relative quiet of the past few years is coming to an end. And a wild card in their calculations, they say, is the small group of radical, frightened settlers who have recently attacked both Palestinian villages and an Israeli military base.

“I consider this a major threat,” Police Chief Yohanan Danino, Israel’s national police chief, said recently of settler violence in announcing a new team of police officers aimed at tracking radical Jews. “Those events are liable to produce an escalation, and that is the last thing we need right now.”

All it takes is one little incident to set off a tinder box like the West Bank. The Arab Spring started when a fruit vendor in Tunisia set himself on fire in a public square because he was sick and tired of being harassed by the police. It’s not hard to imagine one confrontation between a settler and a group of Palestinians going badly and leading to something more widespread. Both sides are at fault in this dispute, and they both need to make the compromises necessary to get negotiations started, but I fear that Abbas’s foolish move is only going to make more conflict inevitable.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Tano says:

    It’s difficult to see how this ends well unless the Israelis and the Palestinians decide to finally sit down and talk about a final resolution of this whole matter, which seems unlikely.

    This move by the Palestinians may well help to push a peace process forward. Already we have seen today that Netanyahu is urging, almost pleading for Abbas to join him in negotiations.

    The truth is that the Israelis (at least those in power) seem to think that the status-quo can be sustained indefinitely. It is hard to interpret Netanyahu’s actions over the past few years in any way other than an intent to do just that. There seems to have been no factor pushing the Israelis toward negotiation. Maybe this pending application, with the negative consequences for Israel were it to advance, is just the thing needed tip the Israeli calculations toward seeing a peace process as the more fruitful path forward.

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  2. ponce says:

    Furthermore, how can you really say that there is such as thing as a Palestinian state when there’s not even agreement on what the borders of that state are?

    The border between the United States and British Canada wasn’t set until 1842.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Webster-Ashburton_Treaty

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  3. @ponce:

    Yes Ponce and the West Bank isn’t British Columbia. Two totally different situations

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  4. ponce says:

    Two totally different situations

    Only in the minds of the Likudniks.

    Look at a map sometime, there are plenty of unresolved borders around the world.

    The rest of the world knows about where the borders between Israel and Palestine should be and that’s a good enough start.

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  5. @ponce:

    Yes because the Palestinians who teach their children about how the Jews want to destroy them are completely innocent.

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  6. ponce says:

    Aah, Doug,

    Now your true colors are showing.

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  7. @ponce:

    What does that even mean Ponce? Are you upset by the fact that I don’t buy the nonsense that the Palestinians are innocent in any of this?

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  8. @Tano:

    Yes let’s see how Abbas responds to that request from Netanyahu for a meeting.

    And, oh yea, Hamas has already denounced the statehood application because it doesn’t go far enough (I.e., it doesn’t call for the destruction of Israel)

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  9. Matt says:

    Why does the Palestinian state (which already exists regardless of the amount of people saying it doesn’t) want or need recognition by the worthless and corrupt UN anyway?

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  10. Hey Norm says:

    Maybe this is what needs to happen to move things off the staus quo. This has been goinig on forever. It’s easy to sit at a keyboard and be negative. Solutions are hard. Governing is hard.

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  11. ponce says:

    What does that even mean Ponce? Are you upset by the fact that I don’t buy the nonsense that the Palestinians are innocent in any of this?

    No, it’s just telling that you claim to be neutral on this issue but you blurted out a non sequitur piece of fringe right Israeli propaganda when you were cornered on the border issue being such a problem that we should deny the Palestinians a state because of it.

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  12. PJ says:

    In either case, it strikes me that this has the potential to do serious damage to the long-held American position that we’re a neutral broker in the dispute.

    Who actually believed that?

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  13. Tano says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    And, oh yea, Hamas has already denounced the statehood application because it doesn’t go far enough (I.e., it doesn’t call for the destruction of Israel)

    Actually, reading the link that you provide, it seems Hamas opposes this move using the same argument that Netanyahu, and many others make. That the state needs to be established on the ground first, then comes international recognition.

    The bit about “destruction of Israel” is your interpretation, not, as you seem to be reporting, the explicit reason given by Hamas for their opposition.

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  14. @Tano:

    Don’t be naive. That’s all in Hamas’s charter. They don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist. Their idea of a state being established on the ground involves pushing the Jews into the sea.

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  15. @ponce:

    It’s not propaganda. It’s been verified by international organizations. I freely admit that Israel has made mistakes but so have the Palestinians and their Arab friends. I also reject the notion that either the United States or the United Nations can force either of these parties to settle this dispute. When that happens, it will only happen when they are ready and it will only happen on their terms.

    This application is a dangerous waste of time.

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  16. ponce says:

    I also reject the notion that either the United States or the United Nations can force either of these parties to settle this dispute. When that happens, it will only happen when they are ready and it will only happen on their terms.

    It wouldn’t take long for NATO to clear the IDF out of the West Bank.

    God knows we’ve intervened in Muslim countries for worse reasons.

    Why should we be shy about imposing our will on the West Bank?

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  17. @ponce:

    Okay now you’re talking about going to war for no good reason. Yea, that’s nutty.

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  18. Tano says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Don’t be naive. That’s all in Hamas’s charter

    Its not a question of being naive – its a question of being able to read the words you write and have at least a minimum level of confidence that you are trying to accurately report what happens in the world, when you phrase things as you did – i.e. as if you were reporting what they said is the reason for their opposition.

    But in the large sense, my response to your point is – so what? If you read the collected thoughts of the Likudniks, then it seem quite apparent that their only goal is to annex the West Bank and get rid of the Palestinians

    The whole point of a peace process is to create a space in which all sides manage to evolve their positions toward an eventual agreement. The PLO was also opposed to the existence of Israel, until they changed their position. The Israelis were, for decades, opposed to a Palestinian state, until they changed their position.

    It may well be the case that Hamas has not changed its position yet (although I have heard reports of their leader expressing a willingness to support a two state solution), but it should be up to them to state their current position. In this latest statement, they did not say what you said that they did.

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  19. ponce says:

    Okay now you’re talking about going to war for no good reason. Yea, that’s nutty.

    No reason?

    The Israeli-Palestinian dispute has been a festering sore than has poisoned America’s relations with the Middle East for decades.

    A few weeks air strikes could end it once and for all.

    Besides, if we veto Palestinian statehood, we very likely will be facing a 1970s style oil embargo from Gulf states…or worse.

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  20. @ponce:

    This is the nuttiest idea I have ever heard, and I’ve heard plenty of them.

    And my guess is that the Arab world isn’t going to do anything because, in the end, they’ve never really cared what happens to the Palestinians

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  21. Brett says:

    @Doug Mataconis

    This application is a dangerous waste of time.

    On the contrary, it was necessary if Abbas was to regain even an ounce of credibility among the populace he is supposedly leading in the West Bank. Negotiating with the current Israeli government is a pathetic joke, and it’s been a pathetic joke since Netanyahu got into power on the back of a coalition that depends on pro-settler parties.

    A Third Intifada would be bad news, but frankly the Israeli occupation needs to be shaken up a bit.

    And my guess is that the Arab world isn’t going to do anything because, in the end, they’ve never really cared what happens to the Palestinians

    Don’t confuse the dictatorships with the population.

    @ponce

    Besides, if we veto Palestinian statehood, we very likely will be facing a 1970s style oil embargo from Gulf states…or worse.

    They wouldn’t go that far. The embargo hurt them as well in the 1970s.

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  22. ponce says:

    And my guess is that the Arab world isn’t going to do anything because, in the end, they’ve never really cared what happens to the Palestinians

    Geez Doug,

    You’re a font of fringe right Israeli propaganda today.

    Isn’t it strange how the Republican party and the State of Israel have been rotting away at roughly the same pace for decades?

    It explains the unholy alliance between the two of them.

    They have both now reached the point where all the decent people who have supported them in the past are reluctantly abandoning them.

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  23. Ponce,

    When will you understand that the fact that I don’t buy into the myth of the saintly Palestinians doesn’t mean I am a rabid pro-Israeli partisan?

    As far as I’m concerned, we need to stop sending them military aid, they can defend themselves.

    As I said, this is a problem only the two parties can solve.

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  24. Brett says:

    By the way, the Quartet release their statement today. It’s the same old stuff, with more aid money and a timeline that will simply be ignored when it goes by.

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  25. ponce says:

    When will you understand that the fact that I don’t buy into the myth of the saintly Palestinians doesn’t mean I am a rabid pro-Israeli partisan?

    When have I ever claimed the Palestinians are saintly, Doug?

    Please provide a link.

    The Israeli military currently occupies over 80% of the West Bank, and the state of Israel denies the Palestinians access to 50% of the West Bank.

    Nothing the Palestinians have done justifies this.

    As I said, this is a problem only the two parties can solve.

    So you think Obama should stay out of the U.N. vote then?

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  26. Pan says:

    That Likud and Hamas agree on the declaration is very telling. This NPR interview with a Palestinian’s reaction to Abbas’ declaration, if it can be represented as a majority opinion in the West Bank, is a repudiation of Hamas and its hardline.

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  27. dutchmarbel says:

    The Palestinians apply for statehood with the 1967 borders. That means that Israel would have internationally recognized borders.
    Of course they may not LIKE that. In all the talk about how Israel wants various parties to recognize Israel I never find a clear definition of what they want recognized. Do you?

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  28. Pan says:

    I pray for a miracle and have us abstain from the UNSC vote. Not likely that’ll happen, though.

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  29. Ben Wolf says:

    @dutchmarbel: The Israeli right knows if it actually gets recognition of Israel’s right to exist they’ll be forced to give up a great deal of occupied land in return, so they obfuscate. On the other hand the Palestinians obviously can’t agree to recognize Israel without getting huge concessions in return; recognition is one of the few chips the Palestinians have to bargain with.

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  30. dutchmarbel says:

    @Ben Wolf: But if they apply with a border drawn between them and Israel, that basically means they acknowledge that it’s not theirs, isn’t it?

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  31. mattb says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    When will you understand that the fact that I don’t buy into the myth of the saintly Palestinians doesn’t mean I am a rabid pro-Israeli partisan?

    Doug, the problem I think some of us see is that while you are willing to critique the Israeli Government (in particular its conservative arms), your critiques of Palestinians tend to aim at both to governmental level and the level of the average person on the street (hence the entire problem with “the Palestinians who teach their children about how the Jews want to destroy them”). The onesidedness of those comments does two things:

    1. It more or less helps justify the overall position of the Palestinians as inherently dangerous (thanks to immoral propaganda since birth) and the Israeli people (not government) as victims that are fighting a just war against an irrational enemy. It also means that the Isreali’s are completely correct in their assumption that “Palestinians want to destroy them.”)

    2. Is it largely ignores all of the evidence of Isreali citizens attacking Palestinians, killing them and driving them off their land as part of illegal settlement programs. It also misses how many Israeli’s give their childern similiar indoctrination. And I’m not even going to get into the harsh realities of life around the wall.

    The fact of the matter is there’s a lot of blame to go around. And both sides have sadly become at once victims and victimizers (though this is — despite all claims — in no way an equivalent relationship of victimization).

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  32. tps says:

    @ponce:

    The same NATO that took how many months to drive Gaddafi out? Them up against somebody who can actually shoot back? I’ll lay odds on the IDF doing just fine against them.

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  33. ponce says:

    Them up against somebody who can actually shoot back? I’ll lay odds on the IDF doing just fine against them.

    TPS,

    Judging by how poorly the IDF did against Hezbollah, I’d say they are the ones that have trouble against targets that shoot back.

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  34. Jay Tea says:

    @dutchmarbel: The Palestinians apply for statehood with the 1967 borders. That means that Israel would have internationally recognized borders.

    That may be true, but the application was printed with letterhead that showed a unified, contiguous Palestine that completely took up the area of Israel. Their letterhead features an image that is virtually omnipresent in Palestinian imagery — a map that shows Israel obliterated and Palestine taking the entire territory that is currently divided into Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.

    See for yourself: http://www.pmw.org.il/pages/allmaps.aspx

    That’s just one symbol of the situation. But an exceptionally telling one.

    J.

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  35. @Jay Tea:

    Can we thus accuse Israel of wanting to obliterate the Palestinians?

    http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/facts%20about%20israel/israel%20in%20brief/

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  36. ponce says:

    I hope America is never judged by its TV shows, Jay.

    The U.N. might veto our status as a country.

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  37. Jay Tea says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Congrats, you found ONE example! Where do I send you your kewpie doll?

    @ponce: You’re not seriously comparing… say, Nickelodeon to the Palestinian TV stations cited are you? The Palestinian Authority owned and operated television network? You wanna make it even close to a similar comparison, how about Voice Of America?

    And note that that was example category #5 of 5 direct PA examples — behind “schools and schoolbooks,’ “leaders,” “flags,” and “government publications.” A few times can be accidental or the work of a few subversives. This is systemic.

    J.

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  38. Ben Wolf says:

    @ponce: The IDF is an American-trained, American-equipped conventional force. Against a real insurgency it ‘s every bit as ineffective as our military, and we’re going to see that when the U.S. vetoes statehood and the Arab world responds by arming the Palestinians to the teeth.

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  39. Brett says:

    Lest anyone think I actually believe the Two-State Solution is viable, let me make it clear that I don’t. There’s a significant fraction of Israelis that will never trust the Palestinians with a real state on their border, and an even larger fraction of Palestinians (I’m including the refugees and their descendents in this) that will never accept the two-state solution without a “right of return” that Israel will never permit.

    More likely, what will eventually happen is that we’ll either get a South Africa-like situation which ends up with the Palestinians getting full citizenship rights, or the Israelis will pressure enough Palestinians to leave that the Demographic Transition will do the rest, leaving them as a permanent minority akin to the native Americans in the US. Gaza in the latter situation would end up as a dysfunctional Palestinian micro-state.

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  40. @Jay Tea:

    Well let’s see, there’s also the Israeli government’s official tourism board:

    http://www.goisrael.com/NR/rdonlyres/1EB6BDEA-AEB9-428D-AE39-2561A8D7FFA2/21522/MapOfIsrael1.pdf

    The Jerusalem Post (which was originally the Palestine Post. Hmm, wonder why they changed their name?):

    http://info.jpost.com/C006/Supplements/MapOfIsrael/

    Israeli postage stamps:

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/ISRAEL-STAMPS-45-BONDS-1951-MAN-HOLDING-MAP-MNH-/380159538791

    Now admittedly that was just a few minutes of looking.

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  41. Can someone free my comment from moderation please?

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  42. Brummagem Joe says:

    “We may have entered a new and dangerous phase of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

    Oh you mean it hasn’t been one long dangerous phase ever since 1947?

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  43. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Brett:
    Actually what seems increasingly likely to me is that the US may have to accept millions of refugees from Israel before the 21st century is out.

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  44. Brett says:

    Under what circumstance? I could maybe see that happening if Israel ends up going down the South Africa route, but Israeli emigrants would just as likely go to the EU as they would to the US.

    Otherwise, it’s not going to happen. Throughout all of the drama since the early 1990s, Israel has maintained overwhelming military force and a nuclear arsenal. If it came to open war, they could drive the rest of the Palestinians out and turn the rest of the Middle East into a nuclear wasteland.

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  45. Jay Tea says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Let’s see… the tourist map: it clearly shows, in the color-coded sections, the areas that are currently under the control of the Palestinians. Rather handy info for tourists.

    The Jerusalem Post map: when you zoom in on the map, it shows the demarcations of Gaza and the West Bank quite clearly, with — again — darker shading.

    Your postage stamp: it’s from 60 years ago. I got stuff from today.

    The Jerusalem Post’s name itself: Founded in 1932 itself, when the land was officially known as Palestine — and the “Palestinians” was the term for the Jews living there. Look it up yourself. Changed its name in 1950, two years after Israel was founded and its historical name restored from “Palestine,” the name the Romans imposed on it as part of their move to obliterate the whole concept of “Israel.”

    What else ya got?

    J.

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  46. @Jay Tea:

    They show the Palestinians areas as internal divisions, but the coloration is clearly intended to say “this is part of Israel and not some other country”. And as for the stamp, being from 60 years ago makes it worse, not better. In 1951, there was a clearly definied separate Palestinian state. As that stamp makes clear, the “Poor Israel only wanted peace and had no choice but to occupy the west bank when they were attacked in 1967” narrative is revisionism. They had designs on the Palestinian land long before the war in 1967, which just gave them excuse to go ahead with the occupation they were already planning.

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  47. Jay Tea says:

    @Stormy Dragon: In 1951, there was a clearly definied separate Palestinian state.

    Pardon the language, but that’s just plain bullshit.

    There has NEVER been a “Palestinian state” as you define it. NEVER. From 1948 to 1967, the West Bank was controlled by Jordan, formerly known as Transjordan, set up largely as a homeland for the Palestinians. Jordan claimed the West Bank in 1948, lost it in the 1967 war, and relinquished their claims to it in 1988 — to the PLO. And, in the process, stripped the residents of their Jordanian citizenship.

    Further, almost NOBODY recognized Jordan’s claim to the West Bank, and therefore didn’t recognize their right to pass that claim on to the PLO.

    J.

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