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Palestinian Statehood and the Lessons of Oslo, by Fouad Ajami

Palestinian Statehood and the Lessons of Oslo, by Fouad Ajami

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Published by Hoover Institution
Appeared in the Wall Street Journal September 23, 2011.
Appeared in the Wall Street Journal September 23, 2011.

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Published by: Hoover Institution on Sep 23, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Fouad Ajami 
Palestinian Statehood and the Lessons of Oslo
by Fouad AjamiSeptember 23, 2011‘U.N. 194” is the slogan o the campaign to grant the Palestinians a seat at the UnitedNations, to recognize their authority as the 194th nation in that world body. This is thePalestinians’ second chance, or there was the session o the General Assembly in 1947that addressed the question o Palestine, and the struggle between Arabs and Jews overthat contested land.A vote took place on the partition resolution that November and provided or two statesto live side by side. It was a close aair. It required a twothirds majority, and the nal tallywas 33 states in avor, 13 opposed, 10 abstentions, and one recorded absence. Israel wouldbecome the 58th member state. The Palestinians reused the 59th seat.Arab diplomacy had sought the deeat o the resolution, and the Palestinians had waitedor deliverance at the hands o their wouldbe Arab backers. The threat o war oeredthe Palestinians a alse promise; there was no elt need or compromise. The infuentialsecretarygeneral o the Arab League, the Egyptian Azzam Pasha (by an exquisite twist o ate a maternal grandather o al Qaeda’s leader Ayman alZawahiri), was to tell a talented,young Zionist diplomat, Abba Eban, that the Arab world was not in a compromisingmood. “The Arab world regards the Jews as invaders. It is going to ght you,” he said. “Waris absolutely inevitable.”For the Zionists, the vote was tantamount to a basic title to independence. But the Jewishcommunity in Palestine had won the race or independence where it truly mattered—onthe ground. Still, theirs was a ragile enterprise.Britain, the Mandatory Power in Palestine since the end o World War I, had wearied o theZionists, o the Arabs, and o the whole sordid burden o adjudicating their competingclaims. The British Empire was broke and looking or a way to reduce its burdens. InAugust 1947, it had given up India, the Jewel o the Crown, and stood aside as a wave o cataclysmic violence between Hindus and Muslims provided a shameul end to a longimperial dominion. It was no use shedding blood and treasure in Palestine, and PaxBritannia was eager to pass the problem onto the U.N.Nor were matters clinched or partition, and or the cause o a Jewish state, in theAmerican councils o power. President Harry Truman was indecisive. He drew sustenancerom the Bible and the cause o Jewish statehood tugged at him, but he was underimmense pressure rom a national security bureaucracy that had no sympathy or theA WALL STREET JOURNAL OP-ED
Palestinian Statehood and the Lessons of Oslo
Fouad Ajami 
Palestinian Statehood and the Lessons of Oslo
2 Hoover Institution
Stanord University
Zionist project. An accidental president who had come to the presidency ater thedeath o FDR, he lacked the selcondence a crisis o this kind called or.His secretary o state, Gen. George Marshall, was dubious o the idea o partition,earul that a war would break out over Palestine that would require the interventiono American troops. Truman stood in awe o Marshall, regarded him as one o the“great commanders o history.” Secretary o Deense James Forrestal was moreantagonistic still. There were oil interests in the Arab world, and a big strategicposition in the region to protect. The voting at the U.N. was messy. In the end, all American doubts were swept aside,and the United States opted or partition, lobbied or it, and was joined by the SovietUnion. Britain abstained. The tire magnate Harvey Firestone secured Liberia’s voteor partition. The Philippines hesitated but cast a avorable vote. India had hintedthat it was in sympathy with partition but in the end chose not to run aoul o thesensibilities o its own Muslim population. Rumor had it that the delegate rom CostaRica sold his countrys vote or $75,000.“The partition line shall be nothing but a line o re and blood,” Azzam Pasha warned.And history would vindicate him. Six months later, with Britain quitting Palestinewithout even a ceremonial handover o responsibility, war would break out.But the scenarios o doom or the new Jewish state were not to be ullled. Israelheld its own. And the Palestinians who had bet on the Arab cavalry riding to therescue were to know deeat and dispossession. Their cause was subsumed under awider Arab claim, mandatory Palestine was to be divided—there was the new Jewishstate, Jordanian sovereignty over the West Bank and east Jerusalem, Egyptian controlover Gaza. The victory o Israel two decades later in the Six Day War reunited the landand, ironically, gave the Palestinians a chance to release themselves rom panArabcaptivity.“We need to have ull membership at the U.N. We need a state, a seat at the UnitedNations,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared last week in Ramallah ashe launched this bid, in deance o American wishes. Thus statebuilding would bebypassed, and the Palestinians, in a amiliar pattern o their history, would place theiraith in deliverance through the indulgence o others.But were the Palestinians to look at their history, they would come to recognize thatthe one break that came their way happened in 1993, through direct negotiationswith Israel. The peace o Oslo that secured them their national authority, thatbrought Yasser Araat rom his Tunisian exile to Gaza, was a git o direct diplomacy.Araat was looking or redemption; he had bet on Saddam Hussein in the Gul Waro 199091 and lost the nancial support o the Arab oil states. Israel, or its part, had

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Hoover Institution added this note
Tune in to hear Fouad Ajami discuss his Wall Street Journal op-ed on the nationally syndicated Wall Street Journal Radio’s Daily Wrap today during the 3pm PT/6pm ET broadcast online at www.dailywrapWSJ.com. Ajami will also discuss the Palestinian request for statehood at the U.N. on FOX News Channel’s America’s News Channel HQ Saturday during the 9am PT/12noon ET broadcast.

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