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What the Palestinians want, in practical terms

By Alexander Maistrovoy,

“In a war of ideas, it is people who get killed”. (Stanislaw Jerzy Lec)

History knows many proofs of the famous proverb: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. High-minded dreams of some result in sweat, tears and blood for others.


Palestinian boys play soccer in the Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem.     Reuters/Ammar Awad
Not long ago Libya was a prospering country. Medicine, education and electricity were free for all citizens. There was a supermarket chain with symbolic prices of basic products for large families. There was no rent. A liter of gasoline was cheaper than a liter of water, and the state paid $ 7 000 for every newborn. Today, thanks to the efforts of the European powers, Libya is a ruined, miserable country taken to pieces by local clans, gangs and agents of influence, including “Al Qaida” and Iran.

Kosovo is another example. Recognized by the West, it remains “a black hole” of the world community and the main transit point for drugs and sex slavers trafficking.

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Supporting the Palestinian state is a modern tendency. The problem is that nobody has asked Palestinians themselves what they wanted. It is clear that any inhabitant of Jenin or Nablus would without a hitch tell the BBC or CNN correspondents that he longs for a free Palestine. Any other reaction is impossible in a patriarchal or totalitarian society.

When foreigners asked a “Homo Soveticus” about his vital values, he immediately recollected his “Love for Motherland”. It didn’t stop him from savoring jokes about communist leaders, and having a yen for American tape recorders and jeans.

The recent (May) poll of the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (PCPO) has revealed that 35 percent of East Jerusalem Arabs would prefer Israeli citizenship, and the same number refrained from answering the question. In case of dividing Jerusalem 40 percent said they would try to get over to Israel.

According to a similar poll by Pechter Middle East Polls Institute conducted in January in 19 Arab quarters of East Jerusalem, 54 percent of Palestinians prefer to remain under Israeli jurisdiction; 39 percent were sure that their neighbors were eager to get Israeli passports.

Another PCPO poll was conducted in June after the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. It showed that Palestinians wanted independence but their major concerns were corruption, unemployment and poverty (36 percent). Only 30 percent thought that their most serious problems were Israeli occupation and settlement activity.

This is hardly a sensation. When in 2000 in Camp — David Ehud Barak, the former Israeli Prime Minister expressed readiness to transfer significant parts of East Jerusalem to Arafat, Arab inhabitants of Shuafat and Beit Hanina villages in the North of Jerusalem started buying dwelling in the village of Beit Safafa in South Jerusalem which would anyway remain in the borders of Israel.

During many years Arabs of the West Bank have tried to move to East Jerusalem and obtain Israeli citizenship. Today Arabian speech can be heard in many Jewish quarters of the city. Arabs, both Christians and Muslims, buy apartments here. However they don’t hesitate to speak in favor of an independent Palestinian state.

These are the realities of the Middle East that are incomprehensible to a Western person. However, the phenomenon of “split consciousness” has a simple explanation. On the one hand, Palestinians cherish the dream of their own state and destruction of Israel. But on the other hand, they want to exist normally here and are putting off their expectations for an uncertain future.

They don’t have any sympathies either for Jews, or for their state. But they can get a job in Israel, and moreover the citizens of East Jerusalem have numerous advantages: medical and social insurance, good job possibilities, government protection from extortion, corruption and gangster bands. They are also protected from HAMAS that in the event of assuming power could impose on them its way of life as it happened in Gaza.

According to official Palestinian data a couple of years ago about 12,000 Palestinians worked on settlement construction in the West Bank. It was their main and sometimes the only source of income which they lost after the Palestinian Authority had prohibited that kind of job.

But the PA itself is not able to provide any reasonable alternative. From their own contractors Palestinians receive 100 to 150 shekels per day, from the Israeli ones — 350-450 shekels per day. Palestinians hope that the houses constructed by their own hands will one day become their property. But today they desperately need money for existence and look sadly at Romanians and Thais replacing them on construction sites in Israel.

The enlightened world exulted over Israel leaving the Gaza strip. However the people of Khan Younis hardly shared the enthusiasm, because they once earned in hothouses of Gush-Katif more per month than they receive now per year in the form of humanitarian help or doing odd jobs.

It is not difficult to foresee what will happen when the world recognizes the Palestinian state unilaterally. Existing economic ties between Israel and the PA will break, the West Bank will be cut off from Israel, the political atmosphere will make it impossible for Arabs working in Israel, and the Palestinian economy that has hardly recovered after long years of crisis will again be plunged into chaos.

According to a PCPO poll, today 26 percent of Palestinians are ready to leave the West Bank. It is anyone’s guess how this number will increase in case of sharp deterioration in the economic situation of the new state.

The Palestinian state will probably be proclaimed. But will it help Palestinians?


In the case Palestinian state is established, Palestinians won't worry about the economy and chaos. They know very well that naive Americans and Europeans will send them truckloads of dollars and euros for free.

Elfin      6:33 p.m. / Wednesday, July 20, 2011

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