Insistent intransigence

Israelis are desperate for peace and willing to take risks for its achievement, but only if they are given reason to believe in a genuine accommodation.

PA President Abbas with Hamas PM Haniyeh 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)
PA President Abbas with Hamas PM Haniyeh 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)
Palestinian reactions to US President Barack Obama’s State Department and AIPAC speeches indicate that the president’s admirable goal of encouraging another attempt at Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation has a very slim prospect of success.
As was expected, Obama’s demand that Hamas recognize Israel was rejected outright. The terrorist organization’s spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, told the Ma’an news agency that the US “will fail” in convincing Hamas “to recognize occupation.” Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has insisted on maintaining the unity deal with Hamas. Over the weekend Abbas’s official spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, dismissed US and Israeli opposition to the Egyptian-brokered reconciliation accord between Fatah and Hamas, saying this was an internal Palestinian affair.
In parallel, there are worrying signs that Palestinians are organizing for a third intifada, purportedly out of a despair over the stalled peace process. On the 44th anniversary of the Six Day War, known to Palestinians as an-Naksah – the “recurrence of disease” – Palestinian “refugees” living in the West Bank, Lebanon and Syria are planning a replay of the rioting and the attempts at mass infiltration of Israel’s borders that took place on “Nakba Day.” On a Facebook page titled “The Third Intifada,” Palestinian activists are calling to commemorate this June 7, “the day [44 years ago] that Jerusalem was stolen by the Zionists,” according to Palestinian Media Watch. Undoubtedly, they are planning the same rock-throwing, firebombs and attempted forced infiltration of Israel’s borders.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II, meanwhile, warned in an interview broadcast Sunday on ABC TV of another war between Israel and the Palestinians. “If you look to the past 10 years, every two to two-and-a-half years there is either the intifada or a war or a conflict. So looking back over the past 12 years, my experience shows me that if we ignore the Israeli-Palestinian issue, something will burst.”
TALK OF a third intifada should be a profound cause for concern in light of a survey released last week by the Pew Research Center revealing high levels of support for violence and extremism among Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. Perhaps the most astonishing finding made by the survey, conducted in March and April with a 4 percent margin of error, was that a full 68% of Palestinian Muslims said that suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilian targets can often or sometimes be justified in order to protect Islam from its enemies. Large majorities hold this view in Gaza (70%) and the West Bank (66%). No other Muslim country surveyed came close to the level of Palestinian support for violent terrorism.
There is nothing new about Palestinian support for suicide bombings and other forms of terror. Surveys conducted in 2007 and 2009 found similar levels of support.
Palestinians were also ranked highest of all Muslim populations surveyed in their support for al-Qaida (28%) and Hezbollah (61%), though support for Hamas declined to 42% from 44% in 2009 and 62% in 2007.
Palestinians’ radicalism and their endorsement of violent terrorism and terrorist groups raise the most serious questions about their intentions. Are they truly interested in political self-determination and a viable accommodation or is their push for statehood nothing more than another stage in an ongoing attempt to eradicate the Jewish state? These are questions that go to the heart of the diplomatic deadlock and cannot be bypassed no matter how urgent Israel’s desire for peace or how flexible Israel’s positions; we cannot find an accommodation without a partner genuinely prepared for reconciliation.
As long as Hamas, a terrorist organization bent on the destruction of Israel, remains a key partner in the official Palestinian political leadership, resolution of the conflict will be impossible. As long as that leadership does not impress upon its people that the Jewish state has sovereign legitimacy, resolution of the conflict will be impossible.
MOST ISRAELIS share Obama’s sense that the status quo is not in Israel’s interest, in part because of the demographics between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Many Israelis believe the current government could be more pro-active in setting out Israel’s two-state vision.
But Palestinian commitment to peace is central to changing that status quo, for the good of their people and ours.
In a climate where Palestinians persist in their hostility, refuse to recognize Israel’s legitimacy and support violent terror, most Israelis feel they dare not support painful concessions – whether territorial or declarative – that will inevitably fuel internal strife and infighting and will only be exploited by the Palestinians. Israelis are desperate for peace and willing to take risks for its achievement, but only if they are given reason to believe in a genuine accommodation.