Arabs, rather than Jews, have proved the biggest obstacle to Palestinian statehood. Jordan looked forward to annexing the West Bank, Egypt wanted the Negev, Lebanon had designs on the Galilee, and Syria wanted everything. Nobody cared about Palestinian Arabs. Jordan, seeking to annex the West Bank, even banned the word “Palestinian.” Later, Jordanian (the Black September), Syrian (1976), and Lebanese (1973) armies fought the brotherly Arab PLO. There was not a single instance of cooperation between the Arab League and the Palestinian Arab Higher Committee on Palestinian self-determination. Other Arabs used the Palestinian issue to settle their own scores: Syria tried to invade Jordan in 1960, ostensibly to save the PLO from being butchered by the disenchanted Jordanians, but actually to annex a part of Jordan. Likewise in Lebanon—but there Syria fought the PLO and even expelled Arafat from Damascus. Egypt enjoyed using Gaza as a trash can for its own radicals, and channeled the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities into Gaza. Jordan used the PLO to destabilize the West Bank, expecting to annex it. When the annexation appeared unworkable, Jordan switched to confederacy with the West Bank Palestinian state (the latest such agreement was signed in 1985). Lebanese Christians and Muslims alike were only too happy to slaughter the troublesome Palestinians: a single massacre in Tel al Zaatar refugee camp left about 3,000 Palestinians dead, six times the toll of the famed Sabra and Shatila debacle. No country has consistently supported the PLO. Nasser did for a few years only, and Jordan also did for a short time. Kuwait hosted the PLO organizations and charged a 5 percent tax to fund the PLO until the war with Iraq. The Russians intermittently aided the PLO, but less so after the PLO in conjunction with Israel crushed the Palestinian National Front, a communist outfit.

Palestinians themselves weren’t serious about statehood: only from 4,000 to 12,000 of them took up arms against the Jews in the Israeli War of Independence. Other Arabs didn’t take the Palestinian issue seriously until the late 1970s, when the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement ended the possibility of a large-scale Arab-Israeli war for a while. Palestinian statehood thus moved forward as the only credible pretext for refusing normalization of relations with Israel, and the only theater of military operations against the Jewish state. Other Arabs made the Palestinian cause prominent after the Camp David peace treaty with Egypt made war with Israel impossible; Palestinian guerrillas took the Egyptian army’s place in the avant-garde of Arab forces against Israel. The very word “Palestinian” to denote a “nation” became common at that time. Foreign Arabs continually inflamed Palestinian expectations and dissuaded Palestinian leaders from reaching a settlement with Israel.

Israeli Arabs did not revolt in any war between Israel and foreign Arabs. Being dispersed throughout the country, the revolting Arabs would have considerably impeded Israel’s military effort. A common explanation, that they were frightened, cannot explain the total absence of hostile activities: at least some would not be frightened at the prospect of Israeli retaliation. Neither, of course, were the Arabs loyal. Rather, they did not associate themselves with the invading Arabs, who were more hostile and brutal to the Palestinians than Israel. And so, as recently as during the 2006 war, Israeli Arabs didn’t aid Hezbollah, even though there was no fear of expulsion: the same Arabs routinely riot in Israel during peaceful times. They cheered the rockets flying at Haifa, but that’s it. Palestinians feel no attachment to Israel, and very little to other Arabs. Polls indicate that pan-Arab identification peaks after terrorist attacks on Israel, but that’s merely the human tendency to identify with my enemy’s enemy.

Israeli Palestinians are fairly content with nominal Jewish rule, just as they were content with Jordanian rule. But there is a difference. Jordan heavy-handedly pursued assimilation of the West Bankers, while Israel’s policy toward Arabs moved from the original isolation to multiculturalism and affirmative action. Arabs would be content with harsh Israeli rule, as they were content with the rule of the Ottomans or Jordan. But Israeli policy, which gives the Arabs a hope of national identity, is a time bomb. Foreign aid makes life in Palestine tolerable, and thus perpetuates the conflict; if the situation were unbearable to Palestinian Arabs, they would have accepted Israeli offers.