Over the weekend, while I was seriously enjoying a long weekend without Internet access, David Horovitz, editor of the Jerusalem Post, published a long editorial about Salam Fayad's intention to declare unilateral independence in the summer of 2011. Horovitz sees this as a threatening development, and wonders why Israel's government isn't preparing itself adequately. Robin Shepherd, one of the clearest voices out there, agrees with Horovitz.
I also agree that if the Palestinians try it, they'll most likely succeed. I'd take it further: they'll undoubtedly succeed. I also recognize that such a unilateral declaration - and achievement - of independence will cause no small measure of chaos.
Once it's over, however, I don't see why it would necessarily be a bad thing. Israel might well be forced to evacuate its presence beyond the barrier, which most Israelis don't support anyway.The IDF would have to figure out how to live with the new situation. Beyond that, however, it seems to me the advantages to Israel are considerable:
1. The occupation would be over. It would be hard to damn Israel for occupying the Palestinians and preventing their independence when they're recognized as being independent. Since the Israeli occupation of them has proven to be their most potent weapon against us by far, having them lose it would be great.
2. There would be an ongoing Palestinian demand for the slivers of land between the barrier and the Green Line, which the Palestinians would claim as their own. Israel would be called upon to evacuate these territories, but given the large numbers of Israelis in them, and the small numbers of Palestinians, it would be clear that this demand would have to be negotiated, with Israel holding the physical cards, meaning that the Palestinians would be expected to pay something. That's what negotiations are for, and declaring independence won't change that.
3. The two most important issues on which the Palestinians and Israelis cannot agree at the moment are the right of return, and Jerusalem. The right of return demand will lose much of its potency if there are two sovereign nations living side be side: who ever heard of a demand by a country that millions of people from third countries must move into a second country? As for Jerusalem, I've been clear for years that the city can't be divided. The Palestinians will demand it, but they will no longer be able to demand it as part of the terms of their independence - since they'll already be independent, and the occupation will be over.
Will there be a peace treaty? Probably not anytime soon. Will there be effective peace between two neighbor states? Possibly. And if so, why complain?