Mahmoud Abbas was elected as President of the Palestinian Authority in 2005 under the terms of the Oslo Agreement. Mahmoud Abbas was elected as President of the Palestinian Authority in 2005 under the terms of the Oslo Agreement. His term expired in 2009...
Photo: AP
On Saturday my parliamentary colleague Maria Vamvakinou wrote a piece in The Age urging that Labor in government should recognise Palestinian statehood.

I agree with her and hope the next Labor government will be able to recognise a Palestinian state, living in peace alongside the state of Israel, with a secure and mutually agreed border between them.
But much to my regret, I doubt that will be possible. It's certainly not possible now.

At the moment there is no Palestinian state, either in law or in fact. There is a Palestinian people, but they have no state.

A state is an area of land with defined borders, under the authority of a sovereign and independent government. No such Palestinian entity exists at present, nor has one existed in the past.

What we have at present are those parts of the former British Mandate Territory of Palestine which are outside the 1949 ceasefire lines. These territories, which consist of the West Bank and Gaza, were designated as the Palestinian Territories under the Oslo agreements of 1993.

The Oslo Agreements created a Palestinian Authority (PA) to administer these areas, pending a final peace agreement with Israel, which would have included the negotiation of agreed borders. That final agreement has never taken place, so the current arrangements continue.

The PA administers about 40 per cent of the West Bank areas where most of the Palestinian population lives. Israel controls the remaining 60 per cent, which is thinly populated. Gaza is controlled by Hamas, an Islamist terrorist organisation which seized control in 2007, after Israel's withdrawal.

So Palestine at present is no more than an idea. It is not a state. It has no borders, no sovereign government, no armed forces, no national economy, no currency. Mahmoud Abbas now calls himself "President of Palestine" but he has no right to do so. In 2005 he was elected as President of the PA under the terms of the Oslo Agreement. His term expired in 2009 and there have been no further elections.

He is the fantasy president of a fantasy state.

I strongly support the creation of a real state for the 11 million Palestinian people, who have never had a state of their own. There is only one way a Palestinian state can be achieved, and that is through direct negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israeli government. That has been obvious for the past 20 years and more.

There is no mystery about the general terms that a peace settlement must follow:
  • The Palestinians should abandon their campaign to destroy Israel, and should recognise the legitimate and permanent existence of the state of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people. This must also entail abandoning the so-called "right of return" for the descendants of the 1948 refugees.
  • In exchange, Israel should withdraw from the great majority of the West Bank, and allow the creation of a Palestinian state. The border between the two states should be negotiated between the two sides.
  • There should be a compensation and resettlement plan funded by the international community for the Palestinians now living in UN refugee camps.
  • Those were broadly the terms that Israel offered to Yasser Arafat in 2000. They were offered again to Mahmoud Abbas in 2008. Both times the Palestinians rejected these terms rather than accept the legitimate existence of a Jewish state in the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people. And each time the Palestinians have been left worse off than they were before.
It's clear that Abbas knows that this step must be taken, but he frankly lacks the courage to do it. He prefers to keep the Palestinian people in their current state of delusion rather than tell them the truth. His current tactic of trying to gain international recognition for a non-existent "state of Palestine" is part of the same delusory pattern.

I'm sure those who argue that Labor should adopt a policy of recognising a state of Palestine before one actually exists are motivated by a sincere desire to help the Palestinian people escape their present wretched situation. I share that desire. But the Palestinians will not be helped by empty symbolism of this kind.

The Palestinians have been trying for more than 70 years to destroy Israel, through war, terrorism, intifada and boycotts, and they have only succeeded in making their own situation worse. The only solution to the Palestinian issue is a negotiated settlement with Israel. There is no pathway to a Palestinian state through resolutions at the UN or any other diplomatic manoeuvre. Australian friends of the Palestinians should tell them so, and not encourage them in further self-defeating delusions.