On August 17 The Jerusalem Post reported that the previous night several Israeli members of the Knesset had met in Ramallah with Yasser Arafat. According to Labor MK Ofer Pines "Arafat said if there is no progress on the interim arrangements and diplomatic process he would 'have no option but to take this step' and declare a state next year. He also said a Palestinian state would be established at the end of the negotiations on the final-status arrangements."
Arafat's repeated statements that he will unilaterally declare a Palestinian state, if a final accord is not reached by the May 1999 deadline, leave Israel with two options. The first is to abrogate the Oslo accords, refuse to cede any more territory to the Palestinian Arabs, wait until Arafat declares his state and then annex the lands of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. The second option is to keep being dragged along the road of Oslo, surrender 9% - 11% - 13.1% of Yesha in the second "redeployment," allow the opening of a Gaza airport and seaport, keep retreating more and more until Arafat has 90% of Yesha (as he claims he should receive after the third "redeployment"), and by doing so create another Palestinian state de facto.
The final result in both cases is the establishment of a second Palestinian state. However, there is a major difference between them. In the first option it is a "paper" state - one that consists of several separated enclaves of land and that is only slightly more viable than the one already declared once by Arafat in 1988. In the second option it is a state that has a contiguous territory, complete freedom of actions (through unhindered use of airport and seaport) and unlimited ways of bringing in forces hostile to Israel. It is crystal clear that the second option creates existential threats for Israel.
The PLO leaders are honest about this matter. The threat of Israel's demise was confirmed recently by Faisal Husseini, the leader of al-Fatah. On August 27 in an interview with the Parisian Le Nouvel Observateur, he said "On May 4, 1999 we will announce the independence of the Palestinian state. We will forcefully open up our borders with Jordan and Egypt, which are currently controlled by the Israeli army. There will be violent confrontation and death."
Another Palestinian official, Nabil Sha'ath, minister of planning and international cooperation, and one of Arafat's "doves," in an interview on the same day with Amman's newspaper Al Ray explained that "after declaring the state, we will continue to work for the restoration of our territories, headed by Jerusalem." Arafat's desire to have a state is understandable: he wants to have a base from which to launch the final assault on the Jewish state. The question is why this desire should be satisfied? The Basques, the Kurds, and dozens of other nationalist movements do not have a state at all and the international community is not in a hurry to grant them one, apparently realizing the implications. So why is this approach different when one deals with the Palestinian Arabs?
There is a simple answer to this. While Israel's PR machine remains idle, the Arab propagandists are doing their job perfectly. They present the Palestinian Arabs as a people dispossessed and deprived of a state who cannot exercise their national and political rights. If Israel wants to survive she must counter this propaganda. She must unveil its own campaign presenting the facts that show the reality, i.e. that there is already a Palestinian state - Jordan.
The Arab propaganda succeeded in convincing the international community that Israel was all that had replaced the land once called Palestine. The Arabs did their job so masterfully that nobody noticed that the Jewish state is actually four times smaller than the original size of Palestine. We are witnessing a unique psychological effect. Jordan, the state that occupies the majority of what was mandated Palestine, and more than 70% of whose citizens are Palestinian Arabs, has become completely overshadowed by "Greater Israel." The tiny Jewish state that constitutes only 25% of mandated Palestine (even including the territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza) made an Arab state that has existed for more than fifty years virtually invisible.
The world seems to have plunged into historical amnesia. Everybody somehow forgot that Arab claims towards Palestine were already satisfied once. It is the Jews and not the Arabs who suffered from the "game" that was played between the Great Powers after World War I. International lawyer David Fromkin described these events in his book A Peace To End All Peace. Fromkin wrote that "Britain feared that if Arabs from the territory of British Palestine were to attack the French in Syria, France would retaliate by invading British Palestine." Thus, Winston Churchill opted for a "Hashemite solution." He decided to "buy off [Prince] Abdullah: to offer him a position in Transjordan." Churchill brought a memorandum to the March, 1921 Cairo Conference, which envisaged "establishing a Jewish National Home in Palestine west of the Jordan and a separate Arab entity in Palestine east of the Jordan. Abdullah, if installed in authority in Transjordan, could preside over the creation of such an Arab entity."
Churchill disregarded important objections that "since Transjordan had been included by the League of Nations in the territory of [mandated] Palestine, it was not open to Britain unilaterally to separate it from the rest of Palestine." However, in order to silence Churchill's opponents, Britain accepted a "compromise concept of Transjordan: while preserving the Arab character of area and administration to treat it as an Arab province or adjunct of Palestine."
It is important to indicate that the British Colonial Office regarded "the administrative separation of Transjordan as a merely provisional measure. It [was] decided not to allow Zionism in Transjordan for the present but also not to bar the door against it for all time." As it often happens, the temporary arrangement "hardened into an enduring political reality and the Arabian prince became a permanent factor of the Palestine Mandatory regime."
Therefore, 76% of the country was given "to an Arab dynasty that was not Palestinian. The newly created province of Transjordan, later to become the independent state of Jordan, gradually drifted into existence as an entity separate from the rest of Palestine; indeed, today it is often forgotten that Jordan was ever part of Palestine." However it is not forgotten by the leaders of the PLO. In her book, The PLO, Jillian Becker quotes Ahmad Shuqairy, the PLO's first president. In a public speech delivered on Cairo radio on June 17, 1966 Shuqairy reminded King Hussein that:
"The first person to separate the West bank from East was Emir Abdullah Ibn Hussein, when the English established for him the Emirate of Transjordan. This Transjordan he rented [from Britain; it] had not been founded as a nation should be."
There are countless statements made by a multitude of prominent Jordanian and Palestinian Arab leaders equating Palestine with Jordan. Benjamin Netanyahu, in his book A Place Among the Nations, quoted many examples. What can be more convincing than Crown Prince Hassan's statement, made in February of 1970, addressing the Jordanian national assembly, when he said, "Palestine is Jordan, and Jordan is Palestine. There is one people and one land, with one history and one destiny." Two thousand years ago the Romans used the name Palestine to erase the Jewish state of Judea from mankind's memory. Today, by working for a second Palestinian state the PLO is trying to erase the Jewish state of Israel from the Middle Eastern map. There is a saying that history repeats itself: first as tragedy, then as farce. In order to prove this saying true, Israel must prevent the establishment of a second Palestinian state.
There are two states in Palestine today. Two people and two states. The Jews named their state Israel. The Arabs named their state Jordan. This is an established political reality. The Arabs' call for the creation of another state in this territory at Israel's expense is simply unjust.
Netanyahu mentioned in his book that Emir Abdullah "originally wanted to call [his Emirate] the Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine." It is a pity that he did not do so, since then it would be completely ridiculous for the PLO to call for the establishment of "a Palestinian state." [9/3/98]
Boris Shusteff is an engineer in upstate New York. He is also a research associate with the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies.