If You Like Syria, You'll Love Palestine

Syria's civil war shows what a Palestinian state would look like.

 The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported fierce fighting in Damascus province between rebels and troops backed by pro-regime militias and fighters from Lebanon's Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah.
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To stalwart supporters of the "two-state solution," therefore, one ought to respond: "If you like Syria, you'll love Palestine."

The issues of Syrian disintegration and Palestinian statehood are closely related. This is true especially in their common reflection of irremediably deep rifts and fragmentations in the larger Arab world, and in their roughly analogous propensities for violence and cruelty. To be sure, in a Palestinian state, the internecine rivalries now so starkly evident in Syria could be quickly replicated between Hamas, Fatah and other assorted terror-group factions.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Iran.]

Once it is carved out of the still-living body of Israel, Palestine would almost certainly escalate its regular rocket bombardments upon Israeli cities. These terror attacks, from Gaza and elsewhere could then be augmented by multiple, coordinated missile assaults from Lebanon. Oddly enough, in such virulent circumstances, Sunni Hamas and Shiite Hezbollah would gleefully collaborate in a joint war. At the same time, Fatah could find itself under sustained attack from some of its Sunni "partners."

This is to say nothing about what might also be expected from Iran.

Israel, a country half the size of Lake Michigan, has had nothing to do with causing incessant regional conflict, backwardness and squalor. Undoubtedly, if Israel had never even been formally re-established in 1948, these disabling conditions would still be ubiquitous and full-blown. Nonetheless, although Washington fully understands the long and destabilizing history of scapegoating Israel, an almost atavistic mantra that echoes loudly from Morocco to Iran, U.S. President Barack Obama remains stubbornly committed to the unavoidable dead end of the "Road Map."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reluctantly agreed to a Palestinian state in June, 2009. Still, he conditioned this apparently concessionary agreement upon prior Palestinian "demilitarization." Said the prime minister: "In any peace agreement, the territory under Palestinian control must be disarmed, with solid security guarantees for Israel."

In principle, it had sounded like a perfectly sensible and prudent position. The problem, however, is that in both geopolitical fact and in law, it offered no real obstacle to a fully-militarized Palestine or to a subsequent Palestinian war against Israel.

[Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

Neither Hamas, nor Fatah, whose "security forces" were trained by American General Keith Dayton in Jordan (at considerable American taxpayer expense), will ever negotiate for anything less than full sovereignty. Why should they? After all, supporters of Palestinian statehood can readily discover authoritative legal support for a dedicated military stance in certain binding international treaties.

Pro-Palestinian international lawyers seeking to identify self-serving sources of legal confirmation could conveniently cherry-pick pertinent provisions of the (1) Convention on the Rights and Duties of States (the 1933 treaty on statehood, sometimes called the Montevideo Convention), and (2) the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.

As with any other state, Israel has a basic or "peremptory" right to survive. Originally, it had been perfectly proper for Netanyahu to strongly oppose a Palestinian state in any form, an opposition once even shared by Shimon Peres, himself the most conspicuously ardent Israeli champion of a "two-state solution." In his book, "Tomorrow is Now," Peres warned against accepting any form of Palestinian statehood.

Any Israeli arguments for Palestinian demilitarization, however carefully-fashioned and well-intentioned,are destined to fail. Jurisprudentially, international law would not expect Palestinian compliance with any pre-state agreements concerning the right to use armed force. It's that simple.

This position holds true even if these legal agreements were to include explicit U.S. guarantees. Per the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, because authentic treaties can only be binding upon states, an inherently non-treaty agreement between the Palestinians and Israel could prove to be of little reliability and of no genuine legal authority.