Why shouldn't Jews live in a future Palestinian state???
Afterall 20% of Israel is muslim....
At the Aspen Institute's Ideas Festival this past July, Salam Fayyad, acting prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, spoke enthusiastically about the rule of law in a future Palestine. I asked him whether the same rights would be available to Jewish citizens of a Palestinian state that are available to the over one million Arab citizens of Israel. Could they enjoy freedom of religion and speech, and be able to vote for real representatives in a real legislature? Most importantly, would they be able to sleep at night without worrying that someone might kick down the door and kill them?
Mr. Fayyad responded: "I'm not someone who will say that they would or should be treated differently than Israeli Arabs are treated in Israel. In fact, the kind of state that we want to have, that we aspire to have, is one that would definitely espouse high values of tolerance, coexistence, mutual respect and deference to all cultures, religions. No discrimination whatsoever, on any basis whatsoever. Jews, to the extent they choose to stay and live in the state of Palestine, will enjoy those rights and certainly will not enjoy any less rights than Israeli Arabs enjoy now in the state of Israel."
Such a policy would mark a substantial change from the Palestinian Authority's first law adopted in 1994: the death penalty for any Palestinian who sells land to Jews. Over 100 Palestinians have died, under sentence or extrajudicially, for such sales in the last 15 years, including one last May. The Fatah (Mr. Fayyad's party) charter foresees a Palestine that is free of Jews. And recently Fatah demanded that Israel give up all of Jerusalem before it would begin negotiations on a two-state solution.
But suppose Mr. Fayyad's statement marks a tentative turn away from these positions?
The Obama administration seems determined to discourage any such shift. It remains committed to stopping growth of any kind in all Jewish settlements in the West Bank. This policy implies acquiescence in the banning of Jews from a future Palestinian state.
Why? The administration's fixation on preventing even minor construction internal to a settlement assumes that Jewish settlers are on the verge of taking over the entire West Bank. This is fanciful: There are about 200,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank, and 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. The settlers live on about 1.5% of the West Bank, and the very substantial majority are in four major settlement blocs around Jerusalem.
In the two previous administrations, the U.S. had accepted that in any reasonable peace agreement these four blocs would remain under Israeli control, and that some Israeli land would be transferred to the new Palestinian state. This was the assumption in the parameters that President Clinton proposed to Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat in January 2001.
The Obama administration, on the other hand, seems quite opposed to any such small land adjustments. The president said on Sept. 23 at the U.N. that "America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements" and that our goal was to end "the occupation that began in 1967."
It's still unclear why the administration has a problem with Jews living in the West Bank. Even if every settlement and its residents were transferred to Palestinian sovereignty, Jews would still comprise under 10% of the population of the new Palestinian state. Arabs, overwhelmingly Muslim, would continue to comprise nearly 20% of Israel's population. Why should such a Jewish minority be forbidden in Mr. Fayyad's Palestine?