Beware Palestinian Statehood

The practice of terrorism as religious sacrifice will not disappear with the creation of a Palestinian state.

Israeli border police officer
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There is another nuance of deception that must be addressed. Aware that the dangers of violence from a widely-legitimized Palestinian state could be substantial, or even existential, Prime Minister Netanyahu has made his own acceptance of such a state contingent upon Palestinian demilitarization. Although this condition might at first appear prudent, it ignores a very important norm of international law. This is that every state maintains a fundamental and irreducible right of "self-defense," a prerogative so basic that it can't even be given away by the pertinent negotiating Palestinian Authority in its pre-independence form. This means that the Palestinian Authority could cheerfully agree to abide by any demilitarization provisions in a pre-state agreement with Israel, and later, after independence has been formally achieved, lawfully reject this negotiated limitation.

In the end, the precise shape of any Palestinian state would be determined, at least in part, by the non-negotiable culture of jihad. Notwithstanding American and Israeli commitments to the now re-started peace process, their Palestinian terrorist "partners" have different orientations to national "self-determination." This stark asymmetry puts Israel and the United States at a tangible disadvantage. While Palestinian "freedom fighters" will continue to express their expectations for immortality, both individual and collective, via ritualistic slaughter of "enemies," the administrations in Washington and Jerusalem will remain largely unmindful of these fighters’ core hierarchy of values and preferences.

[Read the U.S. News Debate: Has Obama Properly Handled the Arab Spring?]

In Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu, now more-or-less falsely-comforted by "road map" expectations of Palestinian demilitarization, confronts an expanding threat of unconventional war and unconventional terrorism. Still faced with unreconstructed Palestinian adversaries who are not only willing to die, but who may actually seek their own "deaths," Netanyahu should finally understand the intolerable security harms that could be expected from the ongoing juridical creation of "Palestine." In this connection, it is also useful to point out that (1) Palestinian fedayeen or self-sacrificers were first operationalized in 1948, long before there were any "Israel occupied territories;" and (2) all Palestinian Authority and Hamas maps still unambiguously identify all of Israel as "Occupied Palestine."

The practice of terrorism as religious sacrifice will not disappear with the creation of a Palestinian state. On the contrary, following Israel's recently-announced planned release of over 100 Palestinian terrorists as a "good will gesture," the new state's orientation to "martyrdom" will likely remain enthusiastic and energized. Even more ironic, the grievously violent consequences of this release will be injurious to Israel whether or not it "succeeds" as a Peace-Process gesture. This is because the freed Palestinian insurgents, still animated by a longstanding cultural adoration of terrorism as religious sacrifice, will just as readily target Israeli noncombatants from their newly legitimized state of "Palestine," as from the so-called "Occupied Palestinian Territories."

Louis Rene Beres is a professor of International Law at Purdue University. Born in Zurich, Switzerland at the end of World War II, he is the author of many major books and articles dealing with world politics, law, literature, and philosophy.

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