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Another Empty Victory for the Palestinian Cause

Readers who know the songs of Tom Lehrer will understand what’s happening with the looming United Nations vote on non-member observer status for the Palestinian Authority.

In his song “The Folk Song Army”, Lehrer writes about the Spanish Civil War. The lyrics go:

Remember the war against Franco
That’s the kind where each of us belongs;
Though he may have won all the battles,
We had all the good songs.

That pretty much describes the state of the Palestinian movement at present. Israel wins all the battles, but the Palestinians have better publicity and public relations. Palestinians win symbolic victories at the United Nations and other international forums, and the Israelis continue to entrench themselves on both sides of the 1948 ceasefire line.

Neither side is really happy with this status quo, but neither side seems able to break the impasse. Peace between Israelis and the Palestinians living in the West Bank seems eminently achievable. Throw in Gaza, and the situation becomes much more difficult. West Bank Palestinians can’t abandon Gaza, but the two state solution without a right of return doesn’t work for enough people in Gaza to have much appeal there.

If there were an easy and obvious solution to this problem, it would have been found and implemented long ago. The elevation of the Palestinian Authority’s observer status at the United Nations is not going to change anything for Palestinians on the ground. Wisely, Israel seems to have decided not to retaliate against Abbas for this move.

For now, the most hopeful thing to do seems to be to continue the work being done to transform the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank into an entity that becomes more and more like the real government of a real state. But nobody should think that there is some simple, elegant, and just solution to this knotty problem that the participants are too stupid or lazy to try.

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