As the situation in the Middle East grinds slowly towards imposing a state on the Palestinians, I think it would be useful (but unlikely) for Israel and perhaps the blogosphere to wonder about what happens if the Palestinian state is brought in to existence yet continues to attack Israel. I just don’t see any discussion of this at all, yet it seems to be to be by far the most likely outcome.
On the one hand, Orrin Judd argues that the press of running a state will discourage the Palestinian leadership from engaging in attacks on Israel. I can see the merit in the view, if Palestine is at least moderately democratic. Yet given the backing the various armed factions in Palestine have from foreign governments (Iran, the EU, the Saudi Entity) I actually don’t think any votes in Palestine will be more free than that 1996 farce. Moreover, even if the voting is truly free, what does that matter if Hamas or the PA can shoot political opponents as “collaborators” before the election? The recent elections that brought Abbas to “power” illustrate this point. His success was clearly created via back room deals and violent intimidation well before the election was held, making it only slightly more democratic than the recent Iranian elections.
Of course, the single most important enabler for violent attacks from the Palestinian state will be Israel, which is highly unlikely to exact a price the Palestinian leadership and its backers are unwilling to pay. The Palestinian people have consistently demonstrated a willingness to suffer any misery as long as Jews are getting hurt as well. The recent attempt to bomb a hospital is a case in point. The woman was willing to blow a hospital in Israel that treated Palestinians because there were also Jewish citizens and children there, even if it meant no more treatment for Palestinians. Had she succeeded she likely would have been hailed as another hero by the very people now bereft of medical care. Certainly there doesn’t seem to have been any outcry against her for trying it. That would seem to be precisely the attitude that, in contrast to Judd’s view, will permit the Palestinian Authority to ignore local state maintenance as long as they keep up the attacks on Israel, particularly given the complete lack of a free press and politics.
This brings us back to why thinking about this now would be far better than waiting until it happens. A proper response will go against the grain of world and progressive opinion, likely even against public opinion in Israel. If there is any hope of the kind of accountablity of the Palestinian state and government required for a hope of peace, the groundwork would need to be laid now, not after the attacks have already begun and been blamed on Israel.