A Palestinian man hangs a Palestinian flag atop the ruins of a mosque, during a snow storm in West Bank village of Mufagara.
Last month, the Obama administration took issue with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s criticism of the Palestinian Authority’s policy of establishing a Jew-free Palestinian state.
Mr. Netanyahu had said in a video that “the Palestinian leadership actually demands a Palestinian state with one precondition: No Jews. There’s a phrase for that: It’s called ethnic cleansing. And this demand is outrageous. It’s even more outrageous that the world doesn’t find this outrageous.”
For that piece of commentary, the Obama administration responded – not by agreeing that the PA’s policy of creating a Jew-free state would indeed amount to outrageous ethnic cleansing, but by ignoring it and instead pretending that Mr. Netanyahu had spoken about building homes for Jews in Jewish communities in Judea/Samaria (West Bank).
The State Department’s Elizabeth Trudeau stated, “We obviously strongly disagree with the characterization that those who oppose settlement activity or view it as an obstacle to peace are somehow calling for ethnic cleansing of Jews from the West Bank.”
But Mahmoud Abbas can scarcely be said to agree with that denial: In 2010, he said, “If there is an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we won’t agree to the presence of one Israeli in it.”
He said much the same again in 2013: “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldier – on our lands.”
Other senior Palestinian figures have made similar pronouncements to Arab audiences (PA utterances to Western audiences are often rather different). For example, the widely touted “moderate,” Dr. Sari Nusseibeh, said in Arabic on Al Jazeera TV, “No Jew in the world, now or in the future, as a result of this document, will have the right to return, to live, or to demand to live in Hebron, in east Jerusalem, or anywhere in the Palestinian state.”
The Obama administration has said nothing, let alone something condemnatory, of these Palestinian statements – but immediately criticized Mr. Netanyahu’s condemnation of them. Similarly, illegal Arab construction has never been the subject of rebuke from this administration.
This is odd. A PA policy affirming that no Jews may live in a future Palestinian state is admirably explicit.
It’s not about “settlements.” It’s about Jews living within a Palestinian state. And since the PA officially demands the entirety of the West Bank, or very close to that, this PA policy means the removal of Jews from virtually the whole of the territory. That’s ethnic cleansing, not the related but distinct issue of “opposing settlement activity.”
That being the case, why then did the Obama administration refuse to condemn the PA policy of uprooting of Jews from the West Bank, if, in fact, US policy has nothing to do with ethnic cleansing?
Why the indulgence of the Palestinian Arabs in asserting this policy? Because the Obama administration, while not explicitly supporting the Palestinian policy of ending the Jewish presence in the West Bank, subscribes to the widespread international orthodoxy that a Palestinian state cannot be formed unless Jews are removed from the West Bank.
But, of course, if there were to be a genuine peace agreement, there should be no reason why Jews couldn’t live in a hypothetical Palestinian state, just as 1.6 million Arabs live as citizens in Israel.
Still less so, when Jews in the West Bank live on less than 2% of the territory, the majority of whom would in any case be incorporated into Israel under any conceivable agreement. They also constitute but a fraction of the population and in no way therefore threaten the Palestinian Arab preponderance there.
In practice, however, everyone knows, though few say publicly, that the safety of Jews could scarcely be guaranteed in an actual, as opposed to a theoretically peaceful, Palestinian state. The constant drumfire of incitement to hatred and murder of Jews that has permeated the PA-controlled media, mosques, schools and youth camps ever since the PA was established in 1994 is eloquent and depressing testimony to this fact – as is the perpetual silence of Western leaders on this score.
To admit these realities would be to rain on the peace parade, so they are brushed aside. This shouldn’t surprise: creating a Palestinian state has long replaced creating peace as an international preoccupation.
In short, in their anxiety to ignore grim, underlying realities and in their impatience to produce a settlement and appease wider Arab opinion, Western countries, including the US under President Obama, press for a Palestinian state on Palestinian terms. As this episode shows, they do not appreciate being reminded of the ugly ramifications they would rather not name.
Morton A. Klein is national president of the Zionist Organization of America.
Dr. Daniel Mandel is director of the ZOA’ s Center for Middle East Policy and author of H.V. Evatt and the Establishment of Israel (Routledge, London, 2004).
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