The Comprehensive Guide to The Truth about the Peace Process
Since the massive return of the Jewish people to their homeland which started almost 150 years ago, we extended our hand in peace to the local Arab residents. Unfortunately, the response was murder and massacres, such as in Jaffa in 1921, Hebron in 1929 and the Arab wave of terror between the years 1936-1939, as well as interminable Arab and Palestinian terrorism until this very day. The Jewish leadership has always agreed to compromise, agreeing to partition the land and give up land for peace, according to international plans which included the Peel Commission in 1937, Un Resolution 181 in 1947, all the way to the Oslo Accords in 1993. In Camp David in 2000, then Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat almost all the land, including half of Jerusalem, but was turned down. In 2008, Then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made an even better offer to Mahmoud Abbas, but he also refused.
What is the main obstacle standing in the way of peace?
The Palestinians, as well as many others, would claim that Israeli “occupation” is the cause for conflict. This would mean, in essence, that before 1967, there should have been peace between Israel and the Arabs living in Judea and Samaria and in Gaza. In reality, though, the PLO was created in 1964, three years before Israel captured Judea and Samaria or Gaza. The PLO’s goal when it was founded, as it is today, is to eradicate all of Jewish Israel.
Citing the excuse of further building in the West Bank and Jerusalem as a reason not to negotiate with Israel is merely a pretext. When Barak and Olmert offered to remove the settlements, the Palestinians refused those offers. When Netanyahu agreed to freeze settlement building in 2010, Abbas still refused to come to the negotiation table. The settlements are only one of several core issues, and the Palestinians have refused to negotiate on any of these issues. Israel has never set preconditions for negotiations, we want to talk about everything together. Palestinians are the ones who keep seeking preconditions, and then refuse to negotiate anyway.
So if Israeli “occupation” is not the main obstacle, then what is?
The main obstacle for peace is the Palestinian’s stubborn refusal to recognize Israel’s inherent rights to its land, and their historic leadership approach of an “all-or-nothing” zero-sum game. They have refused all compromises since 1937 on, and today, after Israel withdrew from Gaza, they demand the entirety of the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the right for millions of refugees to return to their homes. They also refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, continuing to poison children’s minds by teaching in their schools that the entire land of Israel belongs to them.
Simply put, the Palestinians have a long history of saying no to peace. From turning down the Peel commission in 1937 to turning down UN General Assembly Resolution 181 in 1947, the Arabs attacked Israel relentlessly until Israel captured the Judea and Samaria and Gaza in 1967 in a war of self-defense. The no’s continued in Khartoum, when the Arabs declared that there would be “No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel”.
That’s ancient history! The Palestinians signed the Oslo Accords in 1993, bringing peace closer.
Following Oslo in 1993, when for the first time the Palestinians said “yes” to peace, when there was finally meant to be peace, terror attacks rose, leading to hundreds of deaths. In 1996, Palestinian Premier Yasser Arafat once again openly declared his desire to destroy Israel as a Jewish state. In 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Arafat 93% of the West Bank, and Arafat said no again, and terror increased even more.
All of those were under Arafat. Surely Abbas is a better partner for peace!
In 2005, Israel left Gaza, and once again the Palestinians said no to peace, and as a consequence of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, rocket attacks increased from Gaza into Israel by over 500%. In 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, nearly 100% of all Palestinian demands, and once again, the Palestinians said no.
Ever since the Oslo Accords, Palestinian officials have always taken a position of evading and avoiding responsibility. Israel has taken steps and offered many concessions, and the PA has not only avoided accepting them, but has continued their delegitimization efforts against Israel.
So what is the Palestinian strategy for peace?
The Palestinian strategy is not to negotiate with Israel, it’s to work unilaterally, forcing the world to apply international pressure to Israel.
Abbas and Fayyad name streets after terrorists who have murdered little children, and teach in the schools that Israel has no place in the world. It is actions such as these that show that for all of the Palestinian’s talk, they do not actually desire peace.
The Palestinian’s have always gone for an “all or nothing” approach, from Sheik Amin al-Husseini, who joined forces with Hitler in their shared goal to see the destruction of the Jews in World War II, to Arafat to Abbas. The problem with such an approach is that they are far more likely to get nothing than they are to get everything, especially when everything means the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.
You’re making Israel out to be a saint here, when obviously both sides share equal blame.
Israel is willing to go a long way for peace. We have done so with Egypt and Jordan, we are willing to do it with our other neighbors, especially the Palestinians. However, like was mentioned above, it takes two. We are, and have been, extending our hand, inviting the Palestinians to come to the negotiation table without preconditions. We are willing to make far-reaching concessions, but we cannot and will not give up our security and our future. History proves that long lasting peace is not just a signature on a piece of paper, but based on real reconciliation between the warring sides, and a true culture of education towards peaceful coexistence, acceptance of others, tolerance, and equal cooperation.
The Palestinian refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state, to allow it to keep its defensible borders, their continued incitement against Israel on the international stage, and mostly, the Palestinian refusal to educate their children that Israel is a country in its own right, and that they should not aspire to take it over in the future, would mean the destruction of the state of Israel if a peace treaty was signed without proper steps taken to guarantee that these elements are excised from the Palestinian ethos and agenda.
Why does Israel keep on insisting on negotiations without preconditions? If things are settled before the negotiations begin, this gives the actual negotiations a running start! What is the purpose of negotiations if the results are dictated in advance? The result of any negotiation is always at the end of negotiations, the result of those same negotiations.
Israel’s number one priority is to continue the peace process and bring an end to the bloodshed, maintaining dignity and respect of all parties in the Middle East. We are waiting and still waiting for the Palestinians to come to the negotiation table.
Is Israel willing to bend for peace, and on what issues?
There is a consensus of a Palestinian state being founded. From 1993 until today we have given up physical assets, and helped them found their state following Oslo, leaving the six Palestinian cities. A large part of the West Bank is now under Palestinian control, as well as 100% of Gaza, including the disengagement in 2005. This was meant to be a goodwill gesture towards the Palestinians, to get them to the negotiation table, but we see that unfortunately, not only has terror NOT decreased in Gaza, it has actually increased.
Not only does Israel want peace, but we are so committed to peace that repeatedly we have made concessions in land in order to bring about peace, including in 1947, 1993 and in 2005. We made peace with Egypt and Jordan without a problem. What has changed now is not Israel’s commitment or desire for peace, it is Israel’s partner. We have negotiated with ourselves, changing our positions and giving away our list of concessions while the Palestinians haven’t changed any of their demands, and have even increased their demands.
The Palestinians have also been burned by peace agreements not working, don’t you think it’s conceivable that they are reluctant to negotiate because they don’t want to be burnt again? If that were the case, that could be understood, but we’re not merely dealing with a lack of negotiation, we’re also looking at Palestinian efforts to actively torpedo any future talks as well. Palestinian delegitimization efforts continue, and are an obstacle to peace. Trying to paint Israel into the corner means that there is no incentive for Palestinians to move forward and negotiate.
The Palestinians believe until this very moment that someone else will do the hard jobs for them. Leftists and others are being used by Palestinians to continue this delegitimization. We must find more innovative ways to deliver the message. By defaming Israel, they are pushing Israel further away. If the Palestinians keep saying “No, no, no”, then the burden of proof is on them. We would all like to reach actual peace with the Palestinians, not just the leadership but the peoples as well. If a complete peace can’t be reached right now, that is no reason not to try and achieve at least something.
Abbas has said that he will allow Israel to stay in the Western Wall and Jerusalem neighborhoods, surely that shows his willingness to negotiate and make concessions! It’s not Abbas’ place to “allow” Israel to stay in the Western Wall and the Jerusalem neighborhoods. There is also the issue of the Temple Mount. Twice the Palestinians turned down joint control and international control of the Temple Mount, in 2000 and in 2008. The Palestinians want exclusivity, or in other words, Israel has no place on the Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaism, the yearning for which has kept Israel united as a nation throughout our centuries in exile.
So what do you want Abbas to say to prove that he does want to negotiate?
Abbas doesn’t need to say anything, he needs to do. He needs to come to the table without preconditions. As far as Israel is concerned, Israel has no preconditions to negotiations. We have strong opinions and positions, but everything is negotiable, everything can be discussed.
Israel hasn’t always been willing to talk, either, though. The Arab League initiative from 2002 was never even discussed!
Although it seemed that we were hesitant, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon sent me to investigate the initiative. In reality, the Saudis refused to even meet to discuss this issue. I was in the same room with Saudi diplomats, who refused to discuss anything, even entirely off the record. Not even through reliable third parties acceptable to both sides. The 2002 Arab League initiative was nothing more than a false flag initiative.
Do you see a change in the perception by the Palestinians on the peace process?
If we can’t reach a perfect solution, we should go for something that is good. We could go for a long term interim agreement, whereby Israel maintains its security and the Palestinians enjoy independence in the areas under their control, which in anyway encompass 100% of their population in Gaza, and over 95% of their populace in Judea and Samaria. Difficult issues, such as settlements, refugees, and Jerusalem will continue to be worked on. This view is not a favorable one, and the Palestinians are still sticking to the “all or nothing” approach. The problem with this is that they are much more likely to end up with nothing than with everything.
What role do you see the United States playing in any peace treaty?
The U.S. is an indispensable partner in the peace process, and we wouldn’t have been able to make peace with Egypt or Jordan without American financial, political and military assistance. However, U.S. support cannot replace the actual parties in the negotiations. The Palestinians must step up and agree to come to the table and negotiate in good faith.
Recently the Fatah announced their reconciliation with Hamas. Is this agreement in Israel’s interests and is it better the Palestinians speak in one voice during the negotiations? We prefer a united Palestinian society and a representative government of Palestinians, voted in by Palestinians, preferably a peaceful one that is for coexistence. At the same time, the alliance with Hamas makes a peace treaty seem much less likely, as Hamas is the more aggressive of the two, and their charter openly calls for Israel’s destruction. Hamas have been responsible for a 500% increase in rockets indiscriminately launched from Gaza at Israeli civilian populaces, as well as other attacks on Israeli soldiers and citizens. Hamas continues to perpetrate terror, as seen by the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers.
It’s not our place to meddle in Palestinian domestic affairs. Once an agreement is reached, it is up to the Palestinians to implement it and sort out their own issues amongst themselves.
How do you see negotiations with a fanatic radical Islamist group like Hamas that believes that everything must remain under Islamic rule, and that Israel should be eradicated? Introducing religion to a political conflict makes it almost unsolvable. They say the holy sites were never Jewish and only Muslim. I remember that Bill Clinton told Yasser Arafat he was a devout Christian, and that 2,000 years ago, when Jesus walked the land, he didn’t see even one single mosque.
Let’s not talk history, comparing narratives, because we’ll never get anywhere that way. Instead, let us abandon this looking backwards, away from progress, and talk about looking forward, about the future, working together hand in hand as true partners to bring a true, lasting peace to the region. Hamas can be a legitimate interlocutor only if it accepts Israel’s right to exist, abandoning their charter, renouncing terrorism and abiding by former agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. These are the three principles demanded by the Quartet for recognition of Hamas as a valid partner for peace.