In private talks held in Oslo and other places, Palestinians were promised an independent state, but were told by the Israelis that they could actually use these words in the agreement. They were told that the five-year transitional period, which began in 1994, was meant to convince the Israeli public to accept this eventuality.
The person promising a sovereign state, Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated by his own people and Palestinians had to start all over again with a right-wing leader who had no interest in talking to them.
Now imagine that in the past 15 years, Palestinians had been allowed all the trappings of a state. Since 1996 they have been allowed to field an Olympic team that actually participated in the Atlanta games and all games since. That they have an elected parliament and an elected president. That they have a functioning government, a functioning police, a nascent army.
Imagine that their parliament debates and votes on laws which the president signs and the police enforce.
Imagine that they have an independent legal system, with judges making rulings, and smartly dressed policemen executing these decisions if asked to.
Imagine traffic being regulated by policemen and policewomen smartly dressed in navy blue uniforms that have a tiny national flag on their arms.
Imagine that for the last 15 years they have had their national radio and television station. Whenever their president wants to travel, he is escorted by a convoy and well-dressed and lightly armed security men.
Imagine that their president is received on the red carpet, with a 21-gun salute, in most countries of the world. Imagine that their national anthem is played alongside all the world’s national anthems.
Imagine that their president and his government hold bilateral talks with all these governments. They sit at tables across from each other with small flags representing their states.
And when the talks are over, the two leaders step onto a hall adorned with much larger flags and give press conferences.
Imagine that their children go to schools in which all the text books are reviewed and issued with the approval of the ministry of education. Imagine that their high school matriculation examinations are recognised the world over.
Imagine that a separatist group in Gaza that tried to come up with an alternative Tawjihi was quickly rebuffed and had to come back and deal with the ministry of education because the world only recognises those certificates.
Imagine that the country’s finances are regulated by an internationally recognised monetary authority which deals with all local and international banks and financial institutions. The country’s national budget is published on line as a sign of transparency. Of course the website has a national .ps code.
Imagine that their government can award a telecommunications licence for a wireless and landline company, and allowed by the International Telecommunications Institute the international dialing code 970.
All these trappings of a state are part of an internationally recognised agreement signed on the White House lawn in 1993.
Imagine that the leaders of the free world, including the US president, publicly state that an independent Palestinian state is in their own national interest.
Imagine then the leader of the government that signed that and all consequent agreements stand in front of the television cameras 15 years later and offer a non-sovereign state that will come after uncountable conditions and international guarantees that the state will be forever demilitarised.
If you had all these elements and promises of an independent state, but were missing full sovereignty, it is hard to see why the latest offer were anything to get excited about.