(Bloomberg) — The Palestinian national liberation movement has arguably been the least successful such movement of the past 100 years. The Arabs have tried on many occasions to defeat Israel militarily, and to break it through terrorism and boycotts, and have failed each time.
Even so, independence was within reach of the Palestinians at many different points in their history. The Jews in Palestine, early in the arc of political Zionism, sought simply to live as an autonomous minority within an Arab entity. The Arabs rejected the idea — some violently — and the Jews abandoned the notion.
The United Nations offered statehood to the Arabs in Palestine in 1947. The Arabs chose the path of war, and threatened the Jews with annihilation. Then they lost the war. Arab states controlled the West Bank and Gaza until 1967, but did nothing at all to advance the cause of Palestinian rights. After the Six Day War in June of that year, many Israelis hoped that Arab leaders would offer peace in exchange for occupied territory. That idea was rejected.
At Camp David, in 2000, Bill Clinton came closer than anyone to engineering the creation of a Palestinian state. Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, turned his back on Clinton without even making a counteroffer. More recently, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert offered Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, a similar deal. Abbas rejected it.