All My Little Words

An Interesting Counterfactual

Posted in Uncategorized by nickchristian on January 16, 2009

from Stephen Walt:

Imagine that Egypt, Jordan, and Syria had won the Six Day War, leading to a massive exodus of Jews from the territory of Israel. Imagine that the victorious Arab states had eventually decided to permit the Palestinians to establish a state of their own on the territory of the former Jewish state. (That’s unlikely, of course, but this is a thought experiment). Imagine that a million or so Jews had ended up as stateless refugees confined to that narrow enclave known as the Gaza Strip. Then imagine that a group of hardline Orthodox Jews took over control of that territory and organized a resistance movement. They also steadfastly refused to recognize the new Palestinian state, arguing that its creation was illegal and that their expulsion from Israel was unjust. Imagine that they obtained backing from sympathizers around the world and that they began to smuggle weapons into the territory. Then imagine that they started firing at Palestinian towns and villages and refused to stop despite continued reprisals and civilian casualties.

Here’s the question: would the United States be denouncing those Jews in Gaza as “terrorists” and encouraging the Palestinian state to use overwhelming force against them?

Here’s another: would the United States have even allowed such a situation to arise and persist in the first place?

The latter question, in my opinion, almost renders the former irrelevant. In 1967 the US was so entrenched in Vietnam that it would not have had the means to prevent an Israeli defeat, even if it had the will. Following Vietnam however the US would, I am sure, have continued to provide political and material support to the hardline ‘freedom fighters’ Walt mentions and would have acted as it did in South America in the 60s and 70s. In order to destabilise any Palestinian regime trade embargoes would have been introduced – IF the US even assented to recognize Palestine as a state – while provided the Jewish militants with weaponry and special ops training. Full access to the upper echelons of government would have been accorded and freedom to fundraise in the United States would have been allowed. While it might be argued that the Palestinians would have received similar support from the neighbouring Arab states, I think this is a flimsy position to hold. There has been little evidence to indicate that either Lebanon, Syria or Egypt have ever been all that bothered about the Palestinian refugees and could easily have been co-opted by a few juicy American carrots or the odd pointy stick.

I’d guess that any Palestinian state would have been overrun within a decade. Simply put, this situation simply could not have happened in reverse.

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