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If the Palestinians really want a state, why have they rejected every offer since 1937?
Dear Friend of FLAME:
You've probably heard the news: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is pushing a proposal at the U.N. requesting the Security Council to a) set a one-year deadline for conclusion of peace negotiations with Israel, b) establish borders based on 1967 ceasefire lines, and c) force Israel to withdraw from Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank).
In other words, the negotiations would be predicated on the Palestinians getting everything they want from Israel without giving anything in return---no matter what might be discussed or concluded in the negotiations.
Of course such negotiations would not be negotiations at all, but merely the U.N.'s unilateral imposition of conditions on Israel that do not reflect its security interests, which the Jewish state could never accept.
Fortunately, the Palestinian proposal has only sketchy support outside the Arab bloc of nations and in any case, if it came to a vote, would almost certainly be vetoed by the United States.
All of which brings us back to the nagging question that the Europeans, the New York Times and even President Obama often seem to dodge: Why don't the Palestinians have a state by now?
Back in 1937, the Peel Commission, an investigative inquiry into causes and solutions to Arab unrest in the British-administered Palestinian territories, recommended portioning Palestine into Arab and Jewish lands. The Jews accepted the solution, but the Arabs rejected it, opposing any Jewish settlement in the Holy Land.
The Arabs (still before there were Palestinians) also rejected the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine in 1947. Twenty years later the Arabs rejected Israel's peace offer following the 1967 war, in which invading Arab armies were rebuffed and expelled from the Golan Heights (Syria), the Sinai and Gaza (Egypt) and Judea and Samaria (Jordan).
In this century, the Palestinians also rejected peace offers by Israel---in 2000, 2001 and 2008---which would have given them a state in the West Bank and Gaza, with a capital in Jerusalem.
So what's the problem? The answer to this question is spelled out with tragic clarity in this week's FLAME Hotline featured article, below, by former U.S. delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Jeff Robbins.
I think you'll find Robbins' short, but powerful piece extremely helpful in your conversations with friends, family and colleagues---especially anyone who believes that Israel is preventing the Palestinians from forming a state. Please also pass this issue along to your contacts, and use social media to refer your friends to it.
Thanks for your support of FLAME and of Israel!
A 'very good question' in Mideast conflict
By Jeff Robbins, Boston Globe, December 22, 2014
At a panel on the Mideast conflict two years ago, then-Representative Barney Frank asked the late Leonard Fein, a left-leaning critic of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, why it was that if the Palestinians truly desired a two-state solution, they had continued to reject Israeli offers of a Palestinian state in return for peace. "That," replied Fein, "is a very good question."
With the Palestinians' decision to enlist the United Nations to impose terms on the Israelis despite objections by the United States, the question remains not only a very good one, but the proverbial elephant in the room. Why, indeed, is it that the Palestinians rejected Israel's offer for an independent Palestinian state comprised of virtually all of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and a capital in East Jerusalem in 2000, in 2001, and then again in 2008? After all, acceptance of any of those peace deals would have resulted not just in an end to the settlement construction that the Palestinians assert is the obstacle to peace, but the evacuation of tens of thousands of Israelis from the West Bank. What inference is a reasonable person to draw from that rejection?
In his memoir, former President Bill Clinton described Yasser Arafat's rejection of the Palestinian state offered by the Israelis at the end of his second term as tragic. In her memoir, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice describes the even more favorable offer made by Israel in 2008, and the high hopes that the United States had that, at long last, the Palestinians would accept the state that had been offered them in return for peace. "In the end," Rice writes, "the Palestinians walked away from the negotiations. . . . Had [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] expressed a willingness to accept the extraordinary terms he'd been offered, it might have been a turning point in the history of the intractable conflict."
The answer to the "very good question" posed by Frank, and the reasonable inference to be drawn from the history of Palestinian rejectionism, is not a particularly happy one. It is that Israel's proposals for an independent Palestinian state have come with a condition that the Palestinian leadership has regarded as a deal-breaker: a permanent end of the conflict, and a commitment to accept Israel's existence. By contrast, the Security Council end-game sought by the Palestinians is an end-run around any such condition; it would impose on the Palestinians no obligation to end the dispute.
This is not by chance. As Abbas knows, the Palestinian street opposes any end of conflict with Israel that fails to bring about its disappearance. Even before the summer's war between Israel and Hamas, a public opinion poll showed that fewer than 30 percent of Palestinians supported a two-state solution — a West Bank/Gaza state living in lasting peace with Israel. Almost two-thirds told pollsters that "resistance should continue until all of historic Palestine is liberated." And this past September, 80 percent of Palestinians polled said that Hamas should continue to fire rockets at Israel, with Hamas, recognized by the United States as a terrorist enterprise, receiving an 88 percent approval rating, compared with only 36 percent approving the considerably more moderate Palestinian Authority government led by Abbas.
None of this is new, and none of it comes as a surprise. In May 2009, not long after spurning the "extraordinary terms" described by Rice, Abbas told the Washington Post that he was in no hurry to make peace with the Israelis, and that he refused even to negotiate with them. Rather, Abbas preferred to wait, hoping that international pressure on Israel would force it to capitulate without any corresponding obligation on the Palestinians' part to agree to live in peace. "Until then," Abbas told the Post, "in the West Bank we have a good reality . . . the people are living a normal life."
The Palestinians' argument that UN intervention is necessary because they cannot otherwise obtain a state represents a dearly-held narrative that has been adopted wholesale in certain quarters. Sadly, however, it is a narrative that is tough to square with what has actually occurred.
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