Basu: Despite Netanyahu’s election, there will be a Palestinian state

It might have been the quickest and most self-serving reversal ever of a campaign promise. Two days after winning re-election in Israel by vowing to reject a Palestinian state — which he previously endorsed — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Americans he’d support one again.

It’s clear Netanyahu will say anything to get elected, and also to keep $3.1 billion a year of U.S. aid coming — even if they’re the opposite things.

But something is also clear to three Palestinian women who visited the United States the previous week and talked about the deplorable conditions under which they live: There will be a Palestinian state, no matter how this election turned out. “Shimon Peres once said, ‘We have beaten Palestinians on every level but they refuse to admit they were defeated,’” said Tamara Tamimi, 26, referring to the former Israeli president. “We will continue to say, ‘No,’ until our basic rights are recognized.’”

The three Palestinian women were brought to several American cities by the Quaker American Friends Service Committee as part of a project called Palestinian Youth: Together for Change. Its goal is to connect young Palestinian adults to collaboratively promote policies for change in Israel and the occupied territories.

College-educated, smart and keen students of their history, the three women offered a perspective that needs to be heard even if Netanyahu would prefer their silence.

Tamimi’s living situation epitomizes the fragmentation of Palestinian identity. Her mother is from the West Bank and isn’t allowed to live with Tamimi’s father in Jerusalem. Tamimi and her father have Israeli identity cards because she was born there, but they are not citizens. Tamimi’s elder sister was born in the West Bank and has the same restrictions as their mother. So to be together, the family has to live in an area under Israeli control called Kufr Akab, between the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Tamimi says its residents pay Israeli taxes, but get no services such as garbage pickup or public safety, so it has become a hub for drugs, prostitution and robbery. Tamimi works in Jerusalem, a 25-minute drive that can take an hour because of the security checkpoints.

Another of the women, Ayah Bashir, 26, lives in Gaza. That area has been under siege since 2006, she said; the blockade prevents the movement of people and goods in and out, so livelihoods exporting fish and farming products have evaporated.

Bashir says she has survived three bombing campaigns, most recently over seven weeks last year, which killed 2,300. Croplands were destroyed and now 80 percent of Gazans depend on food aid, she said. She gets six hours of electricity a day and the water is only 5 percent drinkable. Human rights organizations call Gaza “the largest open-air prison,” Bashir says — and young people have little hope for the future.

Israeli Jews have a right to live safely and productively in Israel. But Palestinians also have a right to live free from occupation. Now that Netanyahu has shown he lacks a genuine commitment to a Palestinian homeland, President Barack Obama is right to re-evaluate relations with his government. It’s time to end unconditional aid guarantees, and start demanding concrete steps be taken in exchange for future support.