“If You Build It, the (Palestinian) State Will Come”

by James M. Wall

In the summer of 2009, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (right) released a lengthy document which described plans and a program to build a future Palestinian state alongside Israel, with borders along the 1967 Green Line.

He predicted that such a state would be ready for statehood within two years.  The London Guardian greeted the announcement with the optimistic observation and with a nod to the movie, Field of Dreams, ”If you build it, the state will come.”

This coming September, 2011, the two years are up. Over the past two years, Fayyad and the Palestinian Administration, have put into place a working structure for statehood.

Right on schedule, the recognition of a Palestinian state will be voted on at the United Nations in September.

And something that was not anticipated in the Fayyad plan, there is a strong possibility that a unified Hamas-Fatah political structure will be in place.

In a Wall Writings posting, dated September 2, 2009, I reported on a Washington Post column written by former President Jimmy Carter, in which Carter discussed the Fayyad program and described the support it had received from Javier Solana, secretary general of the Council of the European Union.

Carter and the Elders, a group of distinguished world leaders, met with Fayyad in 2009 after he announced his two year plan. After that meeting, Carter wrote:

. . . Solana proposes that the United Nations recognize the pre-1967 border between Israel and Palestine, and deal with the fate of Palestinian refugees and how Jerusalem would be shared.

Palestine would become a full U.N. member and enjoy diplomatic relations with other nations, many of which would be eager to respond. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad described to us [the Elders traveling with Carter] his unilateral plan for Palestine to become an independent state.

Fayyad’s program was published under the optimistic title, “Palestine: Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State”. It was described in the Huffington Post by Palestinian Journalist Daoud Kuttub, as ‘brilliant'”.

Kuttub explained the reason for his optimism:

Palestinians have finally started to act in a different way. Instead of cursing the occupation, the new strategy is aimed at building up the desired Palestinian state.

The idea is to force the Israelis to the negotiating table rather than beg them to come. The way to do that is to work for a state as if there were negotiations. This idea has been brilliantly developed by the Palestinian prime minister.

Salam Fayyad proposal for the de facto creation of a Palestinian state within two years is a brilliant idea that is hard to ignore or oppose it.

Fayyad’s blueprint includes plans to end the Palestinian economy’s dependence on Israel, unify the legal system and downsize the government. The idea, submitted by him after weeks of meetings with his ministers and staff, also involves building infrastructure, harnessing natural energy sources and water, and improving housing, education and agriculture.

After the Brussels meeting in April, 2011, Riyad Mansour, PA ambassador to the UN, told a UN committee that it is time to end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and to “allow for full membership of a Palestinian  state in the UN.”  Press TV has a clip:

Someone who has the ability and the experience to connect the dots in developments in the Middle East is veteran American diplomat, Ambassador Chas Freeman, who delivered a major lecture on May 4, at the Palestine Center, in Washington.

Freeman was this years’s Hisham B. Sharabi Memorial Lecturer, part of a lecture series named in honor of Dr. Sharabi, who help found the Palestine Center as well as the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University.

Freeman described Sharabi as a “great figure in the study of Arab politics and society” and “an indefatigable advocate of Palestinian rights. “Sharabi was born in Jaffa, Palestine. He received his undergraduate degree from American University and an MA from the University of Chicago. He died, at the age of 78 in Beirut.

Sharabi was an outspoken supporter of Palestinians, but was also known for his willingness to speak critically of Palestinian leaders when they failed to exercise strong leadership.

Ambassador Freeman fits nicely in the Sharabi tradition. After many years of service as an American diplomat, Freeman was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as chairman of Obama’s National Intelligence Council.

Freeman, and Obama, ran into intense pressure from hardline Israeli Zionist supporters, led by New York Senator Chuck Schumer. The pressure was so intense that President Obama agreed that Freeman should withdraw from the nomination. Freeman did not go quietly. For background and more on the political infighting around this episode, click here to read my piece in the AMEU publication, The Link.

Zionists seem never to learn.  They savor small victories only to discover that they have set themselves up for future defeats.  Ben Smith covered Freeman’s departure from the National Intelligence Council for Politico:

The attacks on Freeman, in the end, hinged primarily on the question of Israel, something the Democratic senators who helped break the back of the nomination Tuesday made clear.

“His statements against Israel were way over the top and severely out of step with the administration,” said Senator Chuck Schumer in a statement. “I repeatedly urged the White House to reject him, and I am glad they did the right thing.”

Hours before the Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, expressed his “regret” at Freeman’s withdrawal, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) told Blair he was concerned about “statements that [Freeman]’s made that appear either to be inclined to lean against Israel or too much in favor of China.”

In particular, Freeman has described “Israeli violence against Palestinians” as a key barrier to Mideast peace, and referred to violence in Tibet last year – widely seen in the United States as a revolt against Chinese occupation – as a “race riot.”

Freeman left no doubt where he places blame in a written statement after his withdrawal.

“The libels on me and their easily traceable email trails show conclusively that there is a powerful lobby determined to prevent any view other than its own from being aired, still less to factor in American understanding of trends and events in the Middle East”.

In his 2011 Sharabi lecture, delivered two years after his Zionist-inspired departure from the Obama administration, Chas Freeman spoke of the role played by Zionist forces in American politics and governance in the US. I would like to believe Hisham B. Sharabi was applauding throughout. Below are a few excerpts from the lecture.

Freeman’s lecture (38 minutes) deserves to be read and/or heard, in full, which you may do by clicking here:

As the former head of the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) Legal Department has argued:

“If you do something for long enough the world will accept it. The whole of international law is now based on the notion that an act that is forbidden today becomes permissible if executed by enough countries . . . . International law progresses through violations.”

A colleague of his has extended this notion by pointing out that:

“The more often Western states apply principles that originated in Israel to their own non-traditional conflicts in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, then the greater the chance these principles have of becoming a valuable part of international law.”

These references to Iraq and Afghanistan underscore the extent to which the United States, once the principal champion of a rule-bound international order, has followed Israel in replacing legal principles with expediency as the central regulator of its interaction with foreign peoples. The expediently amoral doctrine of preemptive war is such an Israeli transplant in the American neo-conservative psyche.

Neither it nor other deliberate assaults on the rule of law have been met with concerted resistance from Palestinians, Arabs, or anyone else, including the American Bar Association. The steady displacement of traditional American values – indeed, the core doctrines of western civilization – with ideas designed to free the state of inconvenient moral constraints has debased the honor and prestige of our country as well as Israel. . . . .

Given the protracted failure of U.S. diplomacy in the Israel-Palestine arena, Palestinians and others may be forgiven for believing that it is time to entrust peacemaking to other parties who are more objective, less politically constrained and less emotionally biased. Others in Europe and elsewhere have taken alarmed note of the adverse effects of the unending conflict on Israel, on the Palestinians, on Arab politics, on regional stability, on inter-religious relations, on the moral standing of global Jewry and Islam, on Arab and Islamic relations with the West, on international law and organizations and on world order.

Media outside the United States have taken progressively more balanced and nuanced note of the human suffering in the Holy Land. Europeans and others now evidence a considerably greater sense of urgency about these problems than Americans have done. The notion that only Americans have the capacity to manage conflict resolution in the Middle East will no longer withstand scrutiny. One recalls the role of Norway in crafting the Oslo Accords. Perhaps, now that the United States has struck out, it’s someone else’s turn at bat.

Ambassador Freeman then points the way to what could, should and must happen in 2011.

A new game is clearly beginning. A self-confident, religiously tolerant but secular Turkey has emerged as a major influence on regional affairs and as an inspiration to its democrats.

Arab diplomacy is being invigorated by the aftereffects of the revolutions in Egypt and elsewhere. There is mounting pressure on all Arab governments to accord greater deference to popular opinion in both domestic and foreign policy. The Middle East will no longer allow itself to be the diplomatic playground of great powers outside it.

There will, however, be new opportunities for interested outside parties to forge diplomatic partnerships with those in the region.

Opportunities, like, a unified Fatah-Hamas government which has become a significant development in this emerging “new game”.

Nazareth-based Jonathan Cook describes this dramatic new move in CounterPunch (May 5).

Israeli officials have expressed alarm at a succession of moves by the interim Egyptian government that they fear signal an impending crisis in relations with Cairo.

The widening rift was underscored yesterday when leaders of the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation pact in the Egyptian capital. Egypt’s secret role in brokering the agreement last week caught both Israel and the United States by surprise.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called the deal “a tremendous blow to peace and a great victory for terrorism”.

Several other developments have added to Israeli concerns about its relations with Egypt, including signs that Cairo hopes to renew ties with Iran and renegotiate a long-standing contract to supply Israel with natural gas.

More worrying still to Israeli officials are reported plans by Egyptian authorities to open the Rafah crossing into Gaza, closed for the past four years as part of a Western-backed blockade of the enclave designed to weaken Hamas, the ruling Islamist group there.

Egypt is working out details to permanently open the border, an Egyptian foreign ministry official told the Reuters news agency on Sunday. The blockade would effectively come to an end as a result.

Finally, there is the matter of the worldwide response to the death of Osama bin Laden, a response that is sadly lacking in wisdom and insight into the human heart. 

Veteran Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery (right) understands this. He addressed the response in his weekly Gush Shalom column:

“Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth, / Lest the Lord see [it], and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.”.

This is one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible (Proverbs 24:17-18), and indeed in the Hebrew language. It is beautiful in other languages , too, though no translation comes close to the beauty of the original.

Of course, it is natural to be glad when one’s enemy is defeated, and the thirst for revenge is a human trait. But gloating – schadenfreude – is something different altogether. An ugly thing.

Ancient Hebrew legend has it that God got very angry when the Children of Israel rejoiced as their Egyptian pursuers drowned in the Red Sea. “My creatures are drowning in the sea,” God admonished them, “And you are singing?”

These thoughts crossed my mind when I saw the TV shots of jubilant crowds of young Americans shouting and dancing in the street. Natural, but unseemly.

The contorted faces and the aggressive body language were no different from those of crowds in Sudan or Somalia. The ugly sides of human nature seem to be the same everywhere.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall writings.me, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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12 Responses to “If You Build It, the (Palestinian) State Will Come”

  1. judy neunuebel says:

    Thank you, Mr. Wall, for reminding us there is still hope for justice and peace in the Middle East, maybe more now than there has been for a long time. It’s also good to be reminded of Mr. Freeman’s continuing efforts to bring this about.

  2. Terrell E. Arnold says:

    Sooner or later it will sink in with at least part of Israeli leadership that the Fatah-Hamas accord is good for Israel. Netanyahu and the hard rightists take the opposite view because their pet scheme, Greater Israel, would be ended by a Palestinian state that occupies any of the territory west of the Jordan. However, an Israel with defined borders that give the Palestinians at least a significant part of their homeland is the only Israel that will ever know any peace. By any rule other than brute force, the Zionists are not entitled to any of Palestine.

    The proposal put forward by the Arab League and accepted by Hamas as well as Fatah actually makes a gift of confiscated land west of the Green Line to Israel and with it goes an offer of peace. We can hope that there are enough Israelis with good sense–as well as some sense of fairness–to take it from there.

  3. Kathy Matsushima says:

    Beautifully laid out and explained, Jm, with commentary in so many different directions coming together this week. Let us all remain in prayer for peaceful movement forward. Surely God would want to see justice “roll in” now!

  4. Sam Jones says:

    Hopefully, the recent agreement between Fatah and Hamas will also, in part, reverse the trends towards “police states” in both Gaza and the West Bank. Despite PM Fayyad’s notable successes concerning infrastructure, services, and economic stimulation, they were accompanied by ever-increasing numbers of arrests, crackdowns on peaceful marches, torture, and other human rights violations and were not accompanied by significant judicial reform. Gaza, meanwhile experienced similar types of thuggery, perpetrated by Hamas (including more symbolic gestures like the denial of 30 children who graduated from the UNDP’s human rights program coming to the US). I hope that reconciliation between the parties does not only bode well for elections and unified negotiations (or protest movements) but also for the respect of human rights and broader participatory governance.

  5. wallwritings says:

    Realistic response, Sam.

    I once complained to a leading Palestinian official about the way the PA treated its prisoners . He had an interesting response. He told me that young Palestinians know no way to deal with prisoners other than what they had experienced from the Israelis.

    He did not justify the conduct. He just explained it. This is the abused child syndrome, the child becomes a parent and repeats the abuse. The road ahead for a new Palestinian state will not be easy.


  6. Fred Wayland says:

    Who in the administration carries this side of the discussion on recognition to the President and who in Congress is willing to stand up and call for recognition of Palestine statehood. It will take a lot of courage to change current policy.

  7. John Kettelle says:

    I myself am a member of a group (called Christians) whose interest in Palestine (and particularlyJerusalem) rivals that of both the Isrealis and the Palestinians. Jews are smart. (After all, they have to learn Hebrew by the time they are twelve.) World-wide (and in Isreal itself), I have to believe they are very embarrassed by the current Israeli regime’s selfish behavior with respect to the Palestinians. Let;s hope they can overcome one’s disinclination to differ with one’s clergy.

  8. Rich Littleton says:

    Jim Wall, an excellent man in so many ways, is erroneously selling out the Palestinians. I am devastated. (He makes me think of the saying, “With friends like that, who needs enemies”?)

    The separate Palestinian state (the “two state solution”) is an 85% victory for Zionist Israelis. Israel, while not getting 100% of the pie, will get the best part. Israel will still control contiguous land, while forcing the Palestinians to accept the fragmented remainder. Israel will still control the coast and the water resources. The obliterated Palestinian villages — and the related right of return — will be finally and permanently removed from Human history. The Palestinians inside of Israel will still be second-class citizens living in an apartheid state.

    Why is Jim Wall content with giving final approval from the U.N. and the international community to a religious/cultural fascist state where Palestine once stood? Does Jim share the Judeo/Christian inclination that God really is a real estate agent and really wants an Israeli run dominant state where the prophets once walked?

    Has no one told Jim about the evolution of Human society which NOW rejects religious or cultural apartheid? Would Jim be as comfortable with giving Utah to the Mormons if they demanded it? (They are not; but I make that point to illustrate the true nature of giving those who believe that either God, or their own culture demands that they get to take over a territory and permanently displace the Palestinians.)

    Has no international lawyer explained to Jim that, once the two-state solution is established, there will no longer be any legal right by any Palestinians to any land or right of return inside of what we now call Israel?

    Has no one explained to Jim the horrible 1948n step taken by the U.N. — dominated by the guilt-ridden-yet-still-anti-Jewish West — when the General Assembly gave away Palestine? (The Security Council never voted on the give-away.) I hear the weak response: “But the Palestinians themselves are asking for the two-state solution.”

    Balderdash!! The governmental authorities pushing for the “Palestinian State” have a history of fragmentation, autocracy, corruption, and uncertainty about the Palestinian people’s future.

    This current push for a Palestinian State has been the only option on the table (other than total capitulation) due to the overwhelming pressure of the United States. This push for the 1967-border-Palestine is simply the dying gasp attempting to get a small, moldy piece of the loaf, because that is the only option offered them by their supposed allies. (Reminds one of Martin Luther King’s complaint about the “supportive” white liberals who caused huge damage to attaining full rights, because the whites wanted Blacks to settle for calm acceptance of a second-class society.)

    What is needed — and what is being ignored by Jim Wall and others — is a strong push for a one-state solution following the modern democratic social patterns currently existing in most Western democracies. Even in the U.S., with its own history of genocide and apartheid, finally the laws — since the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision — fully reject the concept of “separate but equal” as being anything but equal.

    But now, Jim Wall and others, want to tell themselves, and the world, that an apartheid Israel which dominates the natural resources and the air space of Palestine, and (as the flotillas so openly demonstrate) the control of the high seas off of Palestine, should get a legally sanctioned reward for genocide and apartheid.

    In the U.S., and in Western Europe, and in other democratic societies, there is no talk of giving over land and domination to one culture or religion. All modern societies agree that the right to travel, the right to choose a dwelling place, the right to an equal opportunity for employment, the right to cultural identity for all, the right to equal protection of the societies’ laws — all of these are basic to a democracy.

    But no one has told Jim Wall. He is now being “realistic” and those rights don’t apply to Palestinians who should now be encouraged to accept a Palestinian “Bantustan” as their due.

    This is not complicated. Human rights demand that an apartheid Israel receive no support. These rights also demand that people of good faith not agree to a plan putting Palestinians into a “reservation” called “(Shrunken) Palestine.”

    If the Palestinians truly want to give up the right of return, access to resources, an equal voice in the control of what was once theirs, permanent second-class status INSIDE of Israel, and the rest, then, of course they may do so. However, it is blatantly dishonest for weak-kneed by-standers to pretend that the two-state solution is anything but the surrender to Zionism. Because so few have supported a democratic one-state solution, and continue to trumpet the dysfunctional two-state models, the Palestinians have no choice.

    After, a true option for full rights within all of Palestine-Israel is championed by those who CLAIM to support Palestinians and Human Rights, THEN the Palestinians can freely give away as much of their land and heritage and rights as they wish. But, since the “fatal support” of those who like a Bantustan Palestine has been so oriented toward second-class status for Palestine ever since 1948, the Palestinians have never had a equal choice in their own land.

    When the gold rusts, what happens to the iron. Jim Wall, gold for so many years, is showing the signs of rust. He is not alone. The international support for Palestine has always been feeble at best. Well organized Zionism and manipulated U.S. foreign policy have prevented truly democratic choices for Palestinians.

    Now, the Palestinian People are being told, not that equality is possible, but that they should “take what they can get” and shut up. What will the descendants of today’s Palestinians think of the world community decades from now when the dust has settled and they realize how they were sold out by the world?

    Rich Littleton, Seattle, Washington

  9. I substantially agree with Rich Littleton in theory. At least ideologically, and on practical matters…if the people can get there.

    As it is, the ideological barriers are simply too steep, I fear. For one thing, Israeli Jews want a Jewish majority, which they have within their own internationally recognized borders by a 3 to 1 ratio. It would take a major change of heart among all peoples to accept this.

    Rich, how do we get to a one state solution?

  10. Rich Littleton says:

    Thank you, Mr. Allen Johnson for asking “Rich, how do we get to a one state solution?”

    In answer,
    1. We simply stop giving credence to the two-state versions. We say (to the U.S. government) that the democratic framework (one-state) is the only acceptable route. (That is the sadness of Jim Wall’s acceptance of a segregated Palestine/Israel.)

    2. Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions [BDS] (as was done to pressure South Africa) with or without approval of governments.

    3. There is no need to wait for agreement from Israeli segregationists, no more than the U.S. waited for White segregationists in the Deep South to agree, and no more than the world waited for the White Afrikaners in South Africa to agree.


    Rich Littleton

  11. Harris Fawell says:

    I agree with all that your column states but I wonder if Hamas and its hard line toward Israel will be sucessfuly used by Natenyahu to still derail peace. Will Hamas be able to change its attitude toward peace with Israel? I would hope so. Harris

  12. Dan Feiner says:

    In response to Mr. Littleton’s proposal, it seems to be a recipe for endless war. The Israelis will never accept a single state out of fear that, if outnumbered, they would be persecuted or even voted out of the country. There is no support for Mr. Littleton’s proposal among the majority of elected officials in the United States or internationally. Whether or not you agree with Mr. Littleton’s proposal, realistically it is not going to fly. Only a solution that is backed by the international community and allows both peoples the opportunity to self govern will lead to any kind of end to this conflict. If peace were achieved, this could be one of the most prosperous areas of the world.

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