(photo credit: REUTERS)
Where do we go from here? That is the question Israelis and Palestinians who
yearn for peace are asking themselves after the showdown at the UN this weekend.
And the answer to that question is hardly encouraging, judging from Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech.
In outlining the causes for
the recent stalemate in peace negotiations, Abbas placed the blame squarely on
Israel’s shoulders while ignoring the Netanyahu government’s unprecedented
10-month building freeze during 2010 in Judea and Samaria.
Abbas went on
to portray Yasser Arafat as a man of peace, without mentioning the deceased PA
president’s rejection of the 2000 Camp David initiative backed by former US
president Bill Clinton and former prime minister Ehud Barak.
Abbas mention Arafat’s collaboration, shortly after his rejection of Camp David,
with Hamas and other anti-Semitic terrorist groups in the launching of the
suicide bombings, shootings and other assorted lethal violence directed at
Israelis that became known as the second intifada.
Finally, the PA
president neglected to explain why he has to this day refrained from responding
to a peace offer made during negotiations in 2008 with former prime minister
Ehud Olmert, which, like Camp David, offered the Palestinians the equivalent of
close to 100 percent of the West Bank, after land swaps, and the sharing of
Jerusalem as the capital of both a Jewish and Palestinian state.
disconcerting – though not particularly surprising, based on PA-sponsored
propaganda in the past – was Abbas’s omission during his speech of the Jewish
people’s connection with the land of Israel.
Perhaps Abbas cannot be
expected to see the building of settlements in Judea and Samaria as the return
of the Jewish people, after nearly two millennia of exile and prayerful waiting,
to a land resonant with historical, religious and cultural meaning. But at the
very the least, he could have mentioned that the Holy Land, in addition to being
“the land of Palestine, the land of divine messages, ascension of the Prophet
Muhammed, the birthplace of Jesus Christ,” had meaning for Jews as well. But he
During his speech, Abbas also rejected the request put forward
by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that Israel be recognized as the homeland
of the Jewish people. Disingenuously, he argued that meeting this demand
would “transform the raging conflict in our inflamed region into a religious
conflict,” as if it weren’t already.
And though Israel strives, and
generally succeeds far better than many countries in the region, including the
PA, to protect the rights of minorities, Abbas claimed that recognizing Israel
as the homeland of the Jewish people would threaten “the future of a
million-and-half Muslim and Christian Palestinians, citizens of
Abbas is apparently unperturbed by the double standard inherent
in his rejection of recognizing Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people,
while at the same time defending the Palestinian demand that any future
Palestinian state must, of necessity, be Judenrein.
And Abbas also
continues to demand the “right of return,” which, if implemented, would flood
pre-1967 Israel with millions of Palestinian refugees from Lebanon, Syria,
Jordan and elsewhere in the Palestinian Diaspora, effectively upsetting Israel’s
These elements in Abbas’s speech, which taken
collectively make up the “Palestinian narrative,” present an insurmountable
obstacle to reaching a peace agreement.
Palestinian leadership must begin
preparing its people for peace with Israel by acknowledging that the Jewish
people’s connection to the land of Israel is profound on historical, religious
and cultural levels.
Only then will Palestinians bring themselves to
recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace as a homeland for the Jewish people,
alongside a sovereign Palestinian state. Willingness to compromise on
issues, such as the right of return, will follow.
It is, after all, only
fair that Palestinian refugees be resettled in Palestine, which would be the
22nd Arab state, and not in Israel, the world’s only Jewish state.
and the rest of the Palestinian leadership might believe that submitting to the
Security Council an application for the admission of Palestine as a full member
of the UN brings the Palestinian people one step closer to
Unfortunately, elements of his speech reveal the extent of the
chasm that must still be bridged before peace is finally achieved between
Israelis and Palestinians.