Post-UN blues

Israelis and Palestinians who yearn for peace are asking themselves after the showdown at the UN this weekend: Where do we go from here?

General Assembly (photo credit: REUTERS)
General Assembly
(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.
Nor did 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.
No less 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 did not.
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 Israel.”
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 Jewish majority.
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.
Abbas 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 statehood.
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.