The Palestinian leadership, abetted by many Western governments, has now torn up
every agreement it made with Israel. Once the efforts of two decades of
negotiations – including irrevocable Israeli compromises in giving the
Palestinian Authority control over territory, its own armed forces, dismantling
settlements and permitting billions of dollars of foreign aid to the
Palestinians – were destroyed, the world decided to focus the blame on Israel
for approving the construction of 3,000 apartments.
In 1993, Israel
signed an agreement with the PLO to make peace in the Israel-Palestinian
conflict. The accord, known as the Oslo agreement, included the following
passage in Article 31: “Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will
change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the
permanent status negotiations.”
By essentially unilaterally declaring the
existence of an Arab Palestine, the world has abrogated that
What is shocking is not just that this has happened, but that
it was many of the same countries that hitherto supported this agreement that,
without discussion or hesitation, now agreed to destroy it.
study of the history of this agreement shows clearly that the Palestinian side
prevented the accord from succeeding, most obviously by permitting and carrying
out continuing terrorism and rejecting Israeli offers for a Palestinian state
with its capital in east Jerusalem both in the 2000 Camp David summit and in the
ensuing offer conveyed by president Bill Clinton at the end of that
Now, the current move has certain implications. I am completely
aware that virtually no one in a position of power in the Western world cares
about these implications, but it is necessary to remind them, and others, of
just what they have done. And at least the Western public should know how this
all looks from an Israeli perspective, information often denied it altogether or
distorted by the mass media.
• They have rewarded the party that refused
to make peace.
• They have rewarded the side that rejected the offer of a
state and pursued violence instead, cheering the murder of Israeli
• They have removed the framework on the basis of which Israel
made numerous risky concessions including letting hundreds of thousands of
Palestinians enter the West Bank and Gaza Strip; establish a government; obtain
billions of dollars; create military organizations that have been used to attack
Israel; establish schools and other institutions which teach and call for
Israel’s destruction; and a long list of other things.
As a result of
these concessions, terrorists were able to strike into Israel. Today, Hamas and
its allies can fire thousands of rockets into Israel. Israel has paid for the
1993 deal; the Palestinian Authority has only taken what it wanted.
Zaki, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, was one of many who stated that
the Oslo Accords have now ceased to exist. What then governs the situation and
Israel-Palestinian (Palestine?) relations? Nothing.
There is, for
example, no standing for any claim that the Palestinian side has recognized –
much less accepted – Israel’s existence. Indeed, a “one-state solution” is daily
advocated by Palestinian leaders.
Yet the world’s outrage is reserved for
Israel’s announcement that 3,000 apartments will be constructed on land claimed
by Israel on the West Bank, all built in settlements whose existence until a
bilateral agreement was reached was accepted by the PLO and the Palestinian
Authority. Incidentally, decisions by Israeli zoning boards that permit
construction in future repeatedly provoke global hysteria about the bulldozers
moving in next week. Perhaps if the Palestinian Authority would make peace,
those buildings would never get built.
Whether or not the announcement of
this construction was a good idea, the fact is that it is hardly the biggest
outrage in what has just happened. The decision is a signal that if the
Palestinian side, or indeed the world, isn’t going to recognize what was in
effect a treaty – contrary to international practice – and instead chooses to
favor of the side that violated the treaty – even more contrary to international
practice – Israel is not going to be bound by those that tore it up’s
interpretation of that document.
Again, what’s important here is not to
complain about the unfairness of international life, the hypocrisy of those
involved, and the double standards applied against Israel.
important is to do what’s necessary to preserve Israel’s national security and
to ignore to the greatest possible extent anything that subverts it.
has experience taught us? Simply this: The Palestinian leadership’s priority is
not getting a state of their own – they have missed many opportunities to do so
– but to gain total victory. Taking a state is only acceptable if it serves to
promote that goal. Even if moderation provides material rewards, they prefer
militancy. But after all, suffering - even if self-inflicted – brings massive
political gains for them.
What has the world’s behavior taught us? Simply
this: Nothing we can do will suffice. If Israel were to accept unconditionally a
Palestinian state along the 1967 borders with its capital in east Jerusalem, the
Palestinian Authority would then demand that all Palestinians who so wished to
do so and had an ancestor living there before 1948 must be admitted to Israel
with full voting and all other rights. And then what would the UN do? What has
diplomacy taught us? That the other side will not keep commitments and those
guaranteeing those commitments will not keep their word to do so. Not only that,
but when they break their word, they will complain that Israel doesn’t take
enough risks and make enough concessions, and defends itself too
Well, that’s the way things are, and in some ways they’ve
been like that for decades; from a Jewish standpoint, for centuries. So what
else is new? Of course, all the proper statements will be made and diplomatic
options pursued by Israel. It will not make any difference to the rhetorical
dynamics, but the point is to limit the material effects.
That is not a
pessimistic assessment at all. Basically, this process has now been going on for
about 40 years. It will continue to go on, partly because the West has been and
will continue to be content with purely symbolic anti- Israel measures so it can
reap some public relations benefits without any costs.
several surveys have just been published which pertain to Israel’s achievements
in the face of such obstacles as small size, lack of resources, international
hostility, and war waged against it by neighbors.
In its November 21,
2012, issue, The Economist Intelligence Unit, a respected research group which
is part of The Economist (which has been bitterly anti-Israel in recent years)
published a study – “The lottery of life: Where to be born in 2013” – of the
best places for a baby to be born in 2013 and subsequently live its life. Israel
was rated at number 20, just behind the United States (20, incidentally down
from being number one in the 1980s!) and ahead of Italy (21), France (26) and
In the World Happiness Report, Israel rated 14th and in
health it was in the 6th position, ahead of the United States, Germany, Britain
and France. Living well, as the saying goes, is the best
Meanwhile, Israel’s neighbors don’t get criticized by the UN –
many of them get elected to the Human Rights Council despite their records – but
are sinking into violence, disaster, and new dictatorships.
So which fate
is preferable? To win the wars forced on you, to develop high living standards,
to enjoy real democratic life, or to writhe under the torture of dictators,
terrorists and totalitarian ideologies? Israel’s fate includes to be slandered,
its actions and society so often distorted by those responsible for conveying
accurate information to their own societies. And that also means to be attacked
violently by its neighbors, though it can minimize the effectiveness of that
violence. Like our ancestors, we have to deal with this bizarre situation, this
mistreatment that others don’t even understand still exists.
cannot let this nonsensical excuse for reality drive us mad, or make us
There are only three ways, which must be combined, to survive: to
believe truthful things, do constructive things, and laugh at the absurdity of
For such a set of alternatives to exist – the fictional
world of hypocritical and misinformed Israel-bashing or the real world – is
ridiculous, empowered by the behavior of the world and especially by the West.
But that’s what exists in this early 21st-century era. Truly, as the Israeli
saying puts it and as the story of the Oslo agreement so vividly proves, en
breira – there’s no choice. Fortunately, the real-life alternative available is
a good one.
The writer is director of the Global Research in
International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, and
editor of The Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) journal. His
latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for
Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The
Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan).