Charles Krauthammer, the Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist and political commentator, believes Israel has “given away” its claim to the West Bank and may also be 'losing' what he called the “battle to hang on to Jerusalem.”
“Israel's diplomacy, unfortunately, tragically, catastrophically ... has given away the legitimacy of its claim on the West Bank,” Krauthammer told “Inside Israel's” Mordechai Twersky in a wide-ranging phone interview, April 12. “Now you have to face reality; now you live in a new world, and you have to accept it.”
In a highly controversial column last September titled, “Your Move, Mr. Abbas,” Krauthammer wrote of Israel: “No serious player believes it can hang on forever to the West Bank.”
A week later, in her column for the Jerusalem Post
, Senior Contributing Editor Caroline Glick assailed Krauthammer for his remarks. “Given Krauthammer’s tremendous influence in shaping public opinion and policy in the US, his arrogant and false portrayal of reality is debilitating,” Glick wrote.
But in his interview with Twersky, Krauthammer removed himself from the equation.
“Once Israel conceded the Palestinian narrative in Oslo – this is Israeli concessions, this is not me,” said Krauthammer. “This is Israel as a nation. It conceded the legitimacy of the Palestinian revolution; it sort of accepted the Palestinian narrative, denigrated its own narrative of 1948-49. It got the world to accept Palestinian nationalism, nationhood – that's what Oslo did.” he said.
Recent events in the Middle East have not changed Krauthammer's view that Israel will have to relinquish parts of the West Bank.
“No, I think that nothing has changed in that respect,” said Krauthammer, who also cited the issue of Arab demographics as a key reason.
“There's no way there can be a unified Israel-West Bank in the long run when there will be an Arab majority within that area, in time,” he said. “That makes it, from the Israeli point of view, impossible.”
In citing his opposition to the Oslo Accords – which he called a “mistake” and a “catastrophe” – Krauthammer said Israel was “deceived, and allowed itself to be deceived into accepting the promises of the Palestinians in return for conceding statehood, essentially.”
But Israel, he said, in acting “as a nation,” signed the Accords.
Krauthammer recalled a speech he delivered one month after the Accords were signed in September 1993.
“I said the battle for the West Bank is already lost; all that's left is the battle to hang on to Jerusalem—which the Israelis may also be losing as well,” he said.
“Once Israel broke the taboo, it opened the floodgates,” Krauthammer continued. “It legitimized the Palestinian state. That was Israel's work, not mine. At this point the entire world expects, and will settle for nothing less, than a Palestinian state on the West Bank. The only question to me that remains is where the borders will be.”
As to the status of Jerusalem, Krauthammer called the talks at Camp David in 2000 between President Clinton, Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PA Chairman Yasser Arafat, a turning point.
“Even the division of Jerusalem was something that came, not from me,
not from the United States, not from anybody in the West,” said
Krauthammer. “It came from Israel at Camp David 2000. An Israeli Prime
Minister offers to divide Jerusalem, and he broke the taboo. He was the
one. After that there was no way the United States could be for a united
Jerusalem. You couldn't be more Catholic than the Pope. If the Israelis
had given up in an offer to the Palestinians half of Jerusalem, it was a
done deal. The rest of the world has now accepted that.”
Twersky asked Krauthammer whether Israel – in the face of Palestinian
acts of terrorism and clear violations of existing peace accords – is
within its right to consider those agreements as non-binding.
“Israel has every right to say that Oslo is completely broken, betrayed
by the Palestinians,” Krauthammer said. “There's no question about that.
In fact, the Second Intifada was a tearing up of Oslo.”
But Krauthammer said Israel cannot take on the world.
“You're dealing with a world that has already changed its mind, sort of
accepted it as a given that there will be a Palestinian state,” he said.
“I think Israel has the right to say Oslo is torn up and let's go back
to 1992, but you cannot have that in history. That's just not how the
world works. If Israel was a great power it could probably enforce that
over the world. Israel is a tiny state. It can't enforce it over
anyone. And the world will not accept that. They came under Israel's
tutelage in 1993 to accept these claims.”
When Twersky suggested that Arab demographic arguments were based upon
figures not universally accepted, Krauthammer responded: “Let's say that
I would accept your numbers, what would you have? A bi-national state,
with 53-55 percent Israelis and the other Arabs who don't believe in a
Jewish state...you want to govern that for the rest of eternity?”
“The world is not going to allow it, number one,” Krauthammer continued.
“And secondly, it's infinitely more desirable to cut yourself off, to do
what a Ben-Gurion would have done, to live in a state that is
overwhelmingly Jewish, and to live the way Israel was intended to be.
History is going to leave you no choice, anyway. But even if it did, I
think it would be the unwise choice.”
Ask to impart a message for Passover, which begins April 18 at
sundown, Dr. Krauthammer said: “I could say it in two words: V'hi
Sheomda,” invoking the Passover Seder prayer acknowledging God's
deliverance of the Jews from destruction in “every generation.”
“And let's hope that remains true forever,” he said.