Only if Israel gives a bit more...

Only if Israel conceded more to the Palestinians was there a chance of salvaging the peace process.

August 1, 2013 21:10
Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)


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Two decades ago they told us that only if Israel agrees to talk directly to the PLO could peace become a possibility, despite that organization’s monstrous terrorist record. Then we were informed that only if we allow the creation of the first self-governing authority in Palestinian history, in Gaza and Jericho, could peace ensue.

And we said fine – we’ve had enough of the conflict; we will live with this, for the sake of peace.

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But the Palestinian Authority could sustain itself, we were then told, only if Yasser Arafat got himself a police force with tens of thousands of rifles and other military equipment. Even when this “police” force and other PA security forces mushroomed far beyond the numbers permitted by accords with Israel, and even when these “police” fired on IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians, we said fine – somehow we will live with this. Peace requires us to look the other way.

It was further explained to us that only if we turn a blind eye to PA human rights abuses and virulent anti-Semitic propaganda could the peace process continue. And we reluctantly swallowed our bile and said fine – we will live with this.

Next, it was imperative to give Arafat more land in Judea and Samaria. Only if Israel gives him more territory could he “solidify his regime,” we were told. So Israel signed the Oslo II accord, handing over more than 30 percent of the West Bank, despite the fact that the PA had failed to live up to its original Oslo treaty obligations.

And again we sighed and said fine – we will live with this.

Unfortunately, the PA’s commitment to fighting terror proved spotty and sporadic.

Pot-shot shootings at Israeli passenger cars and roadside bombing attempts became so routine that these ceased to make headlines.

Nevertheless, the “only ifs” continued to pile up. Only if Israel continued the process of handing over land to the PA could things improve, we were told.

So the Wye River accord was signed, committing Israel to three more staged withdrawals: first an additional 13% of territory, then another 9%. This put 98% of the Palestinian population of the territories under Arafat’s control, along with about 45% of the land and some important mountain aquifer resources. Some Jewish towns became isolated pockets within Palestinian-controlled territory. The city of our Patriarchs was handed over to the PA, too, with minimalist security arrangements in place for the protection of Hebron Jewish residents. Arafat again promised to live up to his original treaty obligations.

And sheepishly we said fine – we will live with this, in the hope that peace will yet come.

That wasn’t enough. Only if Palestinian prisoners were released could the peace process prevail, we were told. So as a gesture of our goodwill, we began freeing from jail Palestinian security offenders “without blood on their hands.” Then we released Palestinian murderers who had Palestinian blood on their hands. Then we freed terrorists whose hands had “indirectly” spilled Jewish blood. Then we freed a few terrorists whose hands were indeed smeared with Jewish blood. We gritted our teeth and muttered under our breath that we have no choice but to live with this.

Keeping the so-called peace process alive also meant turning a blind eye to the creeping but clear PA takeover of Jerusalem, Israel’s “united capital.” Only if we did so, could the process continue. So we stood by haplessly as the PA built a “parliament” building on the borders of Jerusalem; as PA security men became the real enforcers in the Old City; and as the Wakf undertook massive illegal construction on the Temple Mount, along with purposeful destruction of Jewish relics and layers of archaeological history going back to Temple times.

It was hard, but we stomached the insult because peace requires compromise.

In the summer of 2000, Arafat started to huff and puff and threaten Israel, talking about renewed armed conflict and a unilateral declaration of statehood. Again, we were supposed to stifle our indignation for the sake of peace. But our forbearance began to wear thin.

We suffered more than two years of terrorist violence and suicide bombings before launching Operation Defensive Shield and then beginning to build the security fence.

Israel had been pushed too far, and people began to question and protest the peace process.

But the “only if” syndrome still held sway. Only if Israel conceded more to the Palestinians was there a chance of salvaging the peace process.

So at Camp David in 2000, Taba in 2001, and 2008 in Jerusalem, Israeli leaders presented offers of statehood that would have given the Palestinians a state in virtually all of the West Bank, Gaza and eastern Jerusalem. But PA rejected these offers, arguing that only if we gave them 100% of everything they were demanding might they be willing to continue talking to us.

In 2009, the Palestinians set impossible and outrageous preconditions for entering any peace talks with Israel. Only if Israel conceded every point of contention such as borders and settlements in advance of the talks: a state on all of the pre-1967 territories with only “possible minor and mutually agreed upon land swaps of equal size and value”: the “right of return to Israel for refugees as specified in the Arab Peace Initiative,”; and so forth and so on – could talks resume.

In 2012, Mahmoud Abbas sought to turn the established framework for peace upsidedown; to get his statehood “declared” by the international community without having to compromise with Israel; to claim the end result of the “peace process” without having to engage in any process.

Abbas went before the UN General Assembly and called upon the international community to “compel the government of Israel to respect the Geneva Conventions” and “impose a solution” (a Palestinian state) on Israel. He accused Israel of numerous crimes, including ethnic cleansing, terrorism, racism, inciting religious conflict, apartheid, house demolitions, dispossession, imprisoning “soldiers of freedom,” and settlement colonization.

He threatened to “criminalize and penalize Israel’s presence as an occupying power in all of the occupied Palestinian territory” through the International Criminal Court.

The UN then “recognized” some sort of virtual PA state, against Israel’s objections.

Abbas, of course, stuck by his refusal to enter direct and unconditional peace talks with Israel.

Yet the international community insisted that it was incumbent on Israel to keep the hopes of peace alive. Only if Israel transferred hundreds of millions of shekels to prop up the Palestinian economy, initiated and encouraged international development projects in the PA, backed PA requests for mega-loans and grants from the IMF and other donor countries, and more, would peace be possible. So Israel did all these things. And the world? It continued to demand additional Israeli gestures and concessions and withdrawals to prop up the PA and the “process.”

This year, US President Obama arrived to lecture Israel on “justice” for the Palestinians and the need for Israelis to “demand” that their leaders push harder for peace.

Only if Israel “ends the occupation,” Obama said, would our future be secure.

And what about renewed peace talks? Well, only if Israel implements a de facto (although undeclared) freeze on settlement expansion, agrees to discuss borders that essentially begin from the Green Line (while weakly denying this to be the case), and authorizes in advance a massive release of hardcore Palestinian terrorists from Israeli jail – only then could talks commence. So Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to these Palestinian preconditions and American dictates, for the sake of peace.

What happened then? Well, last night I had a dream. And in this dream, this is what happened. An Israeli backlash developed.

The People of Israel awoke from its slumber and said: Enough! One million Israelis turned out for a mass rally in Tel Aviv to declare that no amount of Palestinian threats or violence, nor any degree of international pressure, would succeed in pushing us beyond our security red lines or strip us of our national and religious treasures.

We’ll settle with the Palestinians, Israelis overwhelmingly declared, only if there will be no return to the 1967 borders or anything resembling them; only if an accord protects most Israeli cities in Judea and Samaria; only if the PA renounces its demand to flood Israel with refugees; only if Israel maintains sovereignty in Jerusalem; only if Hamas is neutered, and both Gaza and the West Bank are demilitarized; and only if peace education replaces anti-Semitic incitement in the PA. Only if the Palestinians truly show they want to live in peace with Israel.

And faced with a determined Israeli consensus, the PA sued for peace on reasonable terms, and quiet reigned in the Land of Israel.

If only this were true....

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