In practically two post-Oslo decades, Ramallah’s negotiators haven’t budged a fraction of a millimeter from their initial positions. In that span of unfortunate time, Israel had continually slipped back and now accedes to what would have been unthinkable for our mainstream in 1993.
The current two-state sine qua non – an ostensibly indispensable and unquestionable ingredient of any just Mideast deal – would have been a clear non-starter in Israeli public discourse pre-Oslo. But recurrent concerted assaults – both from overseas and from our domestic left wing – on the very cornerstones of what were Israel’s self-evident truths, left us shaken and demoralized.
As a result, the traumatized citizenry began rationalizing the deviations from our fundamental postulates as feasible moves toward a doable peace. Israel’s Left pulled our entire political arena fitfully ever farther leftward. The more its predictions crashed against the hard wall of reality, the more the fantasy-merchants insisted that their premise wasn’t wrong but that we just didn’t give in enough.
Due to leftist dominance in the media, academia and judiciary, this became conventional wisdom. Not only did the Likud’s own Binyamin Netanyahu have to declaim allegiance to the two-state notion, but he internalized the principle that Israel must always buy off even a modicum of the Palestinian authority’s cooperation, whereas the PA need do no more than appear reluctantly semi-mollified for the short haul – until it ups the ante.
Israel was obliged to release some of the most heinous terrorist murderers – all duly convicted – to pay for Ramallah’s participation in the apparent restart of negotiations. Down the line, we’ll doubtless have to fork more out lest Mahmoud Abbas and his honchos walk out in a huff and blame us for it. One concession leads to another in an endless chain of extortion.
Behind a façade of enlightened sympathy for the Arab side, the international community and our Left in essence treat Arabs as an immature, petulant aggregate of primitives who cannot be counted upon to behave sensibly but must be conciliated with endless gifts.
The trouble is that it doesn’t work.
In a lengthy September 14, 2001, interview in Haaretz, ex-premier Ehud Barak’s ultra-dovish foreign minister Shlomo Ben- Ami ruminated on the desperate peacedrive of 2000-2001 that began in Stockholm, continued in Camp David and expired ignominiously in Taba. It failed miserably despite Barak’s egregious territorial generosity.
Ben-Ami concluded that the Palestinians aren’t interested in a two-state solution, that this becomes “a mega-camouflage to exert pressure on Israel... More than Palestinians desire their own state, they seek to delegitimize our state.... The Left mustn’t ignore what we discovered – the very rejection of our right to exist.”
Adding insult to injury, Abbas doesn’t even try to disguise this. Yet our Left still continues to assiduously overlook whatever accentuates its folly. A case in point is Abbas’s announcement in Cairo last week that not a single Israeli would be allowed to remain in a Palestinian state after a deal will have – maybe – been struck.
That’s his vision for the future. It’s not a slip of the tongue, braggadocio geared to impress a newly friendly Egyptian audience or just meaninglessly mouthing off. Anyone who had bothered to follow Abbas’s pronouncements, rather than hail him as the perpetual icon of moderation, won’t fail to recognize his very familiar and oft-repeated refrain.
Nonetheless, cynical statesmen and diplomats prefer to largely ignore Abbas’s declarations and sweep them conveniently under the rug of whatever negotiating venue is chosen to excruciatingly force Israel into existentially risky concessions. The indulgence shown Abbas is in itself unconscionable and underscores the hypocrisy and double standards toward not only Abbas but all he represents.
Imagine, if you will, what would have happened had Netanyahu exclaimed that “from now on we won’t allow the presence of one Arab in our independent Israel with Jerusalem as its capital.”
The cacophony of condemnation from abroad, we can safely assume, would instantly surge into hysterical pandemonium. Livid politicos, opinion-molders and the press would seethe and fume as if nothing more racist is utterable. Inside Israel the righteous ruckus would be no less frenzied and deafening.
But we can heave a sigh of relief. Luckily these words could never conceivably cross Netanyahu’s lips. This unkind sentiment, however, is Abbas’s unchanging mantra.
Examples abound. In 2011, addressing Arab League foreign ministers in Doha, Abbas unabashedly declared that “when an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital is established, we won’t allow the presence of one Israeli in it.”
Not to put too fine a point on it, Abbas enunciated the Arabic version of the German- minted judenrein (“Clean of Jews”) or its semantic evil twin judenfrei
(“Freed of Jews”). Yet no Arab diplomat was in the slightest discomfited, much less appalled. Abbas consistently reiterates the same sentence with only trivial verbal variations. In December, 2010, for instance, he put us on notice that “I will never allow a single Israeli to live among us on Palestinian land.”
He was most specific on July 28, 2010, when, in an uber-compromising mood, he intoned: “I’m willing to agree to a third party that would supervise the [possible future Israeli-Palestinian] agreement, such as NATO forces, but I would not agree to having Jews among the NATO forces, or that there will live among us even a single Israeli on Palestinian land.”
Presumably, in the spirit of broadminded pluralism, Abbas would subject all prospective peacekeepers to the toughest of scrutinies to make sure that not even a disguised part-Jew manages to sneak in and contaminate Palestine’s legitimately judenfrei jurisdiction. Such understandable precautions would plausibly comprise the sort of progressivism which the Western world countenances.
Clearly, the international community relishes reviling ultra-liberal Israel, while it discounts and even justifies crude Arab racism. But there’s more here than glaring hypocrisy.
The fact that Abbas never neglects to emphasize that Israelis (which really means Jews) would be strictly banned from his state should signify how impossible any practicable and sincere peace is. Abbas, the world’s pampered darling, harbors no qualms about denying Israel any quid pro quo for what he demands of it.
Thus Abbas upbraids Netanyahu for “demanding recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. We have rejected, and will reject, this demand. We know what his intention is. He wants to undermine the Palestinian- Arab presence inside Israel and prevent the return of refugees.” In other words, rather than be accepted rightfully as a Jewish state, Israel is tolerated at most as a multinational temporary entity and candidate for impending Arabization. It wouldn’t be left in peace unless it submits meekly to said Arabization and the eradication of its Jewishness.
It’s fair and proper for Israel to contain a large Arab minority, and to be further overrun by millions of hostile Arabs, but it’s entirely out of the question for any Jews to remain in Judea.
That such racist stipulations are fine and dandy with the dysfunctional family of nations constitutes the single most gigantic obstacle on the path of peace.
Nothing for which Abbas agitates – no matter how unfair or perverse – is likely to get shot down. Not unexpectedly, his apparent outright impunity whets his appetite and emboldens him to press for ever more and more. The sky’s the limit. Foreign mediators are sure to pander to his every whim.
This renders any peace agreement improbable. Both excessively amenable Ehuds – Barak and Olmert – got nowhere despite their mind-blowing largesse. In the end everything hinged on whether or not Israel would commit suicide. Even the appeasement-minded Ehuds couldn’t quite bring themselves to slit our collective throat.
There’s no getting away from the fact that whatever pipedreams are promoted in our midst, they entail the most complex of arrangements, because this land is so tiny and the communities so intricately intertwined. No clear divisions are possible. Therefore, the indispensable prerequisites for any sort of compromise are goodwill, mutual respect and plain honesty.
The practical minutiae of hypothetical understandings – all technically cumbersome – would be hopelessly difficult even were the best of intentions prevalent. As is, only terminally naïve delusionists can take for granted that the cooperative spirit would descend upon us from Cloud Nine and color our existence a blissful pink.
Infantile faith in vague idyllic harmony is hardly a reliable policy guideline. In this context experience is far more instructive.
We already attempted to implement deals that called for coordination and teamwork. These were hardly as complex as would be mandated, say on Jerusalem’s streets. Yet even these relatively straightforward arrangements ended up highlighting the palpable paucity of honorable intentions.
The Oslo concoction created an infrastructure of joint patrols. One such covered the slender strip between Arab Kalkilya and Israeli Kfar Saba. Things seemed to proceed without a hitch on September 29, 2000 – until, out of the blue, an Israeli Border Police officer, Ch.-Insp. Yosef Tabaja, 27, was murdered by the Arab partners with whom he had just shared a midmorning snack. After they ate, bantered and had a laugh together, the Palestinian patrolmen knelt to pray. Then they rose, approached the Israelis with drawn weapons and fired, screaming “Allahu ahbar.”
Tabaja was shot in the head. Another Israeli, Shalom Malul, was wounded but managed to drive off. Official Israel expressed surprise because the joint patrols were regarded as a feather in the cap of peace. “Things were going so well until now,” quipped then-PM Barak in disbelief. The second intifada was about to erupt.
Can greater goodwill be dependably predicted for future joint patrols? Can mutual respect be rationally anticipated when the PA unremittingly repeats that no Jew may reside east of the Green Line but that everything west of the Green Line is envisioned as space to be inundated with vengeful Arabs?
By no objective criteria can this credibly augur well for coexistence – particularly given the conspicuous absence of condemnation abroad for Abbas’s blatant racism. No change is likely until censure for Arab hate surges globally into hysterical pandemonium; until livid foreign politicos and opinion-molders seethe and fume; until a frenzied and deafening righteous ruckus arises from within Palestinian society.
But we better not hold our breath.Sarah Honig’s book of selected Jerusalem Post columns,
Debunking the Bull, was published this year by Gefen.