OPINION

Controlled ... Gaza City.

Controlled ... Gaza City. Photo: AFP

It was Oscar Wilde who said ''Illusion is the first of all pleasures'', and it seems so many are basking in the pleasure of the illusion that has been created around the Palestinian Authority's bid for observer state status at the UN.

It is an illusion due to the fact that we are not dealing with the issue of whether there should be a Palestinian state. There is no disagreement on this subject.

Israel has long been committed to a two-state resolution of its conflict with the Palestinians. The disagreement is about how to reach this very expedient reality.

International law lays down at least four criteria to determine whether a functioning state exists. The Palestinians' own top lawyers, including Guy Goodwin-Gill from Oxford University, admit that these criteria are not met by the Palestinian Authority.

One criterion is the existence of a government capable of asserting its authority over the territory of ''Palestine''. The West Bank and Gaza are controlled by different entities. The authority only controls part of the West Bank and, by agreement, only under the overall control of Israel. Gaza is nominally under the control of Hamas. There are six other armed groups operating independently in Gaza. Despite regular proclamations of unity, these groups continue to fight one another as viciously as they fight Israel. ''Palestine'' therefore presently lacks a functioning central government, one of the essential conditions of statehood.

Another condition is a capacity to deliver on international agreements. For the same reasons - a multiplicity of governments in the West Bank and Gaza - this condition is also not fulfilled. While different factions hold sway over the Gaza area, there is no Palestinian figure or body with the authority to conclude a peace deal with Israel who would be capable of delivering Palestine's part of the agreement. That is the true reason why the authority has done everything it can to avoid a return to negotiations.

Meanwhile, nothing will have changed on the ground. Expectations among Palestinians will be raised and cruelly dashed.

Upgraded status in the UN will do nothing to discourage Hamas and other extreme Islamist factions from persisting with their outright rejection of Israel's right to exist. The Hamas Charter calls explicitly for Israel's violent destruction in overtly racist terms. There is no diplomatic pressure on Hamas and the other factions to turn away from their genocidal path.

How can Israelis be convinced to make a deal with the Palestinians when the Palestinians are not complying with existing agreements? The UN is not a venue through which to declare statehood; the only way is through direct and bilateral negotiations.

The Palestinian leadership has been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state if it means accepting a Jewish state alongside it. The conflict has never been about establishing a Palestinian state, but about the existence of a Jewish state.

Yuval Rotem is the Israeli ambassador to Australia.