william hague and mahmoud abbas_311 reuters.
(photo credit: POOL New / Reuters)
In private conversations in recent days with visiting European statesmen, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said that the Palestinians are being treated by some EU member-states as a “spoiled child.” He first used this phrase on Sunday in a meeting with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov and he repeated it during a meeting on Wednesday with Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez. Netanyahu’s intention was to point out that many European countries are habituating the Palestinians to believe that they can gain concessions without giving anything in return.
This was precisely the message coming out of Europe this week as Mideast Quartet – US, EU, Russia and UN – envoys prepared to meet in Brussels. As one senior Israeli official put it, the EU hopes to avert a Palestinian statehood bid at the UN in September by “giving something” significant to the Palestinians. And the party expected to appease the “spoiled child” is Israel.
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The hope among Europeans, according to this senior official, is that Israel will be pressured into agreeing to adopt US President Barack Obama’s formula of restarting negotiations using the 1949 Armistice lines as a baseline.
But the Palestinians will not be required to make any concessions to Israel – not even an elaboration of what sorts of security arrangement they are prepared to consent to under any future accord with Israel, let alone putting an end to incitement against Israel, recognizing Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, or abandoning the demand for a “right of return.”
In other words, the Palestinians would be rewarded for their protracted
intransigence – including their refusal to so much as come to the
negotiating table with Israel – and for their stubborn insistence on
seeking unilateral support for statehood at the UN (in the face of
opposition from the Obama administration and from many EU states,
including Germany and Italy, all of which are significant donors to the
Palestinian Authority). And Israel, which has consistently sought to
hold direct negotiations with the Palestinians without preconditions,
would be pressured into recognition of a Palestinian state along the
1949 Armistice lines before negotiations even begin.
In the absence of the required Israeli willingness for flexibility,
argue the Europeans, it will be difficult for some EU member states to
resist a Palestinian demand for support at the UN for a unilateral
declaration of statehood. If he were just given something, this argument
continues, PA head Mahmoud Abbas would be willing to drop this
The European approach seems deeply wrong-headed.
Experience has shown that efforts to appease the Palestinians –
including the US-led demand for the 10-month settlement freeze accepted
by the Netanyahu government last year – are liable to encourage not
fresh readiness to compromise but, rather, still more intransigence, in
order to secure yet more Israeli concessions. Rather than “spoiling”
them, the best thing the international community could give the
Palestinians is intelligent advice against seeking unilateral measures
in the UN and in favor of genuine reconciliation with Israel.
If some European countries are warning that they may be compelled to
vote in favor of a unilateral Palestinian state at the UN, let their
bluff be called. Do they truly believe that a non-binding vote on a
state, achieved without a comprehensive peace agreement reached through
negotiations and dialogue with Israel, will advance Palestinian
independence, meet Israel’s legitimate security needs and bring more
stability to the region? To Israel’s dismay, but also to the abiding
detriment of their own aspirations for viable statehood, the
Palestinians’ own leadership has yet to demonstrate that it is
reconciled to Israel as the legitimate homeland of the Jewish people. It
has not prepared its people for peace with Israel.
Incitement against Israel’s very legitimacy has gone on unabated. And
too many Palestinians, indulged by the international community, still
harbor hopes that millions of refugee descendants will one day be
allowed to overwhelm Israel demographically.
“Moderate” Fatah continues to negotiate the creation of a unity
government with Hamas, an anti-Semitic terrorist group bent on the
destruction of Israel. And there is a genuine danger that the same Hamas
will someday repeat its Gaza takeover in the West Bank.
Would it be wise under these circumstances, when instability and
Islamist fervor is sweeping the region, to create a 22nd Arab state that
would likely only add to this instability? Instead of spoiling the
Palestinians at the expense of Israel, the Europeans should demand that
they fulfill the most minimum requirement for dialogue – recognition of
the Jewish state’s right to exist peacefully and thrive here.
It is the self-same requirement that those who spoke for the
Palestinians 63 years ago refused to meet. Had it been acknowledged
then, the Palestinians would have had their state decades ago. If they
acknowledge it today, the path to their statehood would be wide open.