The Palestinians have never controlled territory of their own. The state that refused to allow itself to be established under the 1947 UN partition resolution, and that then lost the subsequent war, was split between Jordanian annexation and Egyptian military rule. The Palestinians received their first opportunity at self-government from the Oslo process. The results were disappointing.
Now, the Palestinians are being given a chance to erase that first impression. This time, the international community is willing to invest not only diplomatic effort, but also aid totaling billions of dollars over the course of several years. There is no lack of weak, needy states in Africa and Asia where the world refrains from investing energy and money. If the Palestinians insist on implementing the darker scenarios, and Gaza becomes “ungoverned territory” or a “failed state,” they will lose an opportunity that will not return.
After mid-September 2005, Gaza will become the Palestinian national laboratory. If management allows the lab to blow up, it will have no hope of success, either in the January elections or in its efforts to persuade the Israeli public that it should support additional withdrawals.