Participants run past Israeli barrier during Palestine Marathon in the West Bank town of Bethlehem..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In 2014, at the height of the Obama administration’s attempts to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Mahmoud Abbas scuttled any remaining hopes for progress by proclaiming his complete and utter rejection of recognizing Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people at a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo.
While many will see Abbas’s refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish state as a relatively minor issue, to the Palestinians it is actually the baseline that has informed the conflict for more than 100 years.
Some still cling to the belief that the Israel-Palestinian conflict is purely or overwhelmingly a territorial issue that can eventually be concluded by marked lines on a map. However, a recent attempt by the Palestinian Authority to sue the British government over the Balfour Declaration demonstrates how seriously their rejection of any form of Jewish self-determination stands at the root of their position vis-à-vis Israel.
Abbas and his predecessors have repeatedly rejected any form of a Jewish state regardless of its borders. They rejected the Peel Commission recommendations of 1937 which would have given the Jews a tiny sliver of land, the United Nations Partition Plan of 1947 that actually created two states for two peoples that the Arabs rejected, and several generous offers of statehood by former US president Bill Clinton in 2000 and prime ministers Ehud Barak in 2001 and Ehud Olmert in 2008.
Each of these and other offers or international attempts to give the Palestinians a state were rebuffed, not because of the generosity of the terms, but because the tradeoff would have meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it.
Palestinian rejectionism of Israel as the Jewish state, reaffirmed almost every day through their political, religious, education and media systems, remains the greatest obstacle to peace.
As US President Donald Trump’s team develops a new peace initiative, it is imperative that they study the failure of previous efforts. If they do, they will discern that the roots of the conflict are ideological and not territorial, and for the conflict to finally end, a prerequisite to any negotiations has to be the end of the rejection of the Jews’ right to self-determination.
The Palestinians must accept defeat in their decades-long battle against the Jewish people’s national rights and cease their terrorism and their diplomatic, political and ideological war. This is being fought in many arenas, including on the streets of Israel, in international institutions and on campuses in the US.
It should thus be clear that Palestinian defeat and subsequent Israeli victory is the only path to peace. This win-lose paradigm, by which the Palestinians finally accept the Jewish people’s right to statehood, is only the first step before achieving a win-win paradigm, where Israelis and Palestinians can finally live in peace, security and prosperity.
An acceptance of Israel by the Palestinian leadership would mean that their people can finally be free of the rejectionist cycle of violence that Palestinian leaders from Haj Amin al-Husseini through Yasser Arafat to Mahmoud Abbas have kept them in for a century.
Once they stop spending their funds and resources on the destruction of Israel, terrorist attacks, payments to terrorists, and institutional incitement, they can instead focus their resources and energies on stabilizing the Palestinian polity, democratic institutions and social issues and create a win-win for the region and its people.
As we enter the 25th year since the launch of the Oslo Accords, it is time that we try something different.
The accords were meant to bring peace and end the conflict, but a fatal flaw meant that they were doomed to failure.
The fatal flaw was that they did not address the type of conflict resolution needed to arrive at peace. They did not demand of the Palestinians that the conflict end as a precondition, and for the last 24-plus years have acted as if they actually had a hope of victory on their part.
This has merely incentivized Palestinian annihilationist rhetoric and why the Palestinian embassy in Colombia feels emboldened enough to state recently that “Our goal is the end of Israel, and there can be no compromises or mediations…. We don’t want peace. We want WAR and victory.”
Palestinian rejectionism, as Israelis have learned the hard way, is no mere rhetorical instrument and manifests itself in bloodshed, hatred and intransigence. This must be ended or there is no hope for a peaceful future.
If the Trump administration is serious about achieving “the ultimate deal” then its first act of business must be to demand an end to Palestinian rejectionism once and for all, and to insist that the Palestinian Authority recognize the Jewish people’s inalienable rights to sovereignty in its ancestral and indigenous national homeland.
The writer is a member of Knesset for the Likud Party and chairs the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs.