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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Why a Palestinian State Today Will Endanger Israel and the Middle East

Filed under: Operation Swords of Iron, Palestinians

Why a Palestinian State Today Will Endanger Israel and the Middle East
Lawless in Gaza: Palestinians loot a truck with humanitarian aid that entered the Gaza Strip from the Egyptian side through the Rafah Border Crossing. November 2, 2023. (Abed Rahim Khatib/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

Discussions on recognizing or creating a Palestinian state in the aftermath of Hamas’s October 7, 2023, attack on Israel convey to the Palestinians that terrorism is profitable and can lead to the realization of their goals.

Hamas has taken credit for the recent decision by Ireland, Norway, and Spain to recognize a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines. Hamas officials see the decision by the three European countries as a result of the October 7 massacre, which they claim thrust the Palestinian issue back onto the forefront of international affairs.

Ironically, the decision emboldens both the Palestinian Authority and, more consequentially, Hamas, who reject Israel’s right to exist and seek to replace it with an Islamist state while undermining moderate Palestinians who search for a peaceful resolution with Israel. Moreover, the decision discourages the Palestinians from going back to the negotiating table with Israel to talk about fundamental issues such as borders and the status of Jerusalem.

Not only is the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state in violation of the provisions of the agreements signed between Israel and the PLO more than 30 years ago, it will have no effect on realities on the ground. 

More Is Needed than Recognition of a State

The recognition offers the Palestinians nothing more than a symbolic victory. Notwithstanding its significance for other Western states, symbolic wins alone will not suffice for the Palestinians. They need new leaders with the moral and political will to start a de-radicalization process and get the Palestinians ready for peace with Israel, as well as new leaders who would enact significant administrative and financial reforms. Regrettably, such leaders are currently unavailable. For years, both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have separately used their power to suppress the emergence of new leaders or a “third-way alternative.” Under such circumstances, there is no room for moderate and pragmatic leaders.  

Those who are currently advocating for the creation of a Palestinian state, meanwhile, are neglecting several considerations.

First, any prospective Palestinian state will most likely be controlled by Hamas. Public opinion polls conducted both prior to and following the October 7 massacre indicate that the majority of Palestinians prefer Hamas over the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. The polls also showed that a majority of Palestinians support the “armed struggle” against Israel, reflecting support for Hamas Jihad on October 7 and beyond. 

Second, the state would serve as a springboard for additional acts of terrorism against Israel. Until October 6, the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip was essentially a separate, sovereign state. After taking control of it in 2007, Hamas exploited the coastal enclave to produce rockets and mortars, build the world’s largest network of terror tunnels, and smuggle weapons from Egypt. The Hamas terrorists who attacked Israel crossed an internationally recognized border with the Gaza Strip (Israel withdrew from the entire Gaza Strip in 2005). The Israeli communities that were attacked near the border with the Gaza Strip were not “illegal settlements;” some were established in the 1940s and 50s.

Third, the assumption that a “demilitarized” Palestinian state would not pose security threats to Israel has proven to be untrue. As the October 7 attack demonstrated, Palestinians are capable of killing a large number of Israelis using relatively light weapons, such as rocket-propelled grenades, handguns, gliders, hatchets, AK-47 rifles, and incendiary bombs. Additionally, no Palestinian leader would be able to stop the smuggling of weapons or the formation of armed militias in a Palestinian state. When the Palestinian Authority ruled the Gaza Strip between 1994 and 2007, its security forces were unable to prevent the strip from being transformed into a base for multiple terrorist groups, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Nor was the Palestinian Authority able to stop these groups from smuggling weapons across the border with Egypt. The same applies these days to the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority has failed to reign in several armed groups, among them Iran-backed cells, particularly in Nablus, Jenin, and Tulkarem.

Fourth, a Palestinian state ruled by Iran’s proxies would undoubtedly be a source of instability and insecurity in the Middle East, aside from the threat it would pose to Israel. Four Arab countries are already under Iranian regime occupation: Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon. The last thing that other Arab countries, such as Egypt and Jordan, need is another Iranian-affiliated Palestinian state on their borders. The Egyptians and Jordanians prefer the Israel Defense Forces on their borders over Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Fifth, the experience of the past 30 years has demonstrated that a Palestinian state will not vary from the majority of Arab dictatorships in terms of human rights abuses, corruption, and a lack of democracy. Under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, the Palestinians lack free speech, a functioning parliament, and a free media. The last presidential election was held in 2005 when Mahmoud Abbas was elected for a four-year term. The previous parliamentary election was held a year later. Since then, Palestinians have been deprived of the right to vote for a president and a new parliament because of the rivalry between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, which erupted after the Islamist group won the 2006 parliamentary vote.

The last thing the Palestinians need is another corrupt authoritarian kleptocratic state run by leaders who have long been depriving them of international aid and who have led them from one catastrophe to another.