Trump peace plan upon us as Arab-Zionist violence turns 100

Middle Israel: The "deal of the century" is an American move and an Israeli gain, but above all it is a Palestinian fiasco

PALESTINIAN PRESIDENT Mahmoud Abbas reacts to the Mideast peace plan Wednesday in Ramallah – ‘A thousand no’s’.  (photo credit: RANEEN SAWAFTA/ REUTERS)
PALESTINIAN PRESIDENT Mahmoud Abbas reacts to the Mideast peace plan Wednesday in Ramallah – ‘A thousand no’s’.
By sheer coincidence, the Trump peace plan is upon us just as Arab-Zionist violence turns 100.
True, the first extended Arab-Jewish violence happened in summer 1929, when Arab rioters struck in multiple locations, killing 133 Jews.
The violence of 1920-1921 took far fewer lives and did not spread countrywide, so when it ended most Zionist leaders denied Arab hostility’s intensity and reach, a delusion that ended in 1929.
Even so, what happened in 1920 is instructive because of its relationship with the incitement that the Trump plan urges Palestinian leaders to shed.
SURVEYING FROM a balcony by Jaffa Gate the multitude that crowded for April 1920’s Nabi Musa holiday, Jerusalem mayor Musa Kazim al-Husayni urged his audience “to spill their blood for Palestine” (paraphrased in Benny Morris, Righteous Victims, Hebrew edition p. 97).
Another speaker, journalist (and future mayor of Jordanian Jerusalem) Aref el-Aref, said: “If we won’t use force against the Zionists and the Jews, we will never get rid of them.”
The mob responded in kind, chanting “We will drink the Jews’ blood,” and then proceeded to rampage, first up Jaffa Road, then back in the Old City, ultimately leaving six Jews dead.
Designed to make Palestine part of Syria, that riot’s role as a milestone in the Palestinian-Zionist conflict is debatable. There is no debating it was a promo of incitement’s centrality in the budding conflict.
Incitement’s damage was twofold: it made the mob kill, and it stranded its orators on the tall trees it made them climb.
What began with Husayni’s call to kill quickly proceeded to his relative Haj Amin al-Husseini’s claims that the Jews are God’s enemies, conspirators against humanity, and murderers of children.
Such demonizing inspired an attitude of “I am always just, you are always evil” and one continuous “no” to any compromise proposal.
Over the past century, Palestinian leaders have said “no” as habitually as Trump tweets “sad.” The reflexive “no” with which they responded to his plan – even before he formally unveiled it – was but a link in a chain harking back more than 80 years.
The first rejection came in 1937, when Britain introduced the idea of partition. The second “no” came in 1947, in response to the UN’s version of the same idea.
A third rejection came in 1967, when Israel introduced the idea of land for peace, and the UN adopted Resolution 242. Both initiatives were met by the Khartoum Conference’s famous three no’s – no to peace with, no to recognition of, and no to talks with, Israel.
The fourth rejection came after the 1978 Camp David Accords, in which Israel agreed to create a Palestinian autonomy. The fifth “no” was Yasser Arafat’s to Bill Clinton’s proposal at the same Camp David, in summer 2000.
The sixth “no” was Mahmoud Abbas’s to Ehud Olmert in 2008. The seventh was the same man’s to Benjamin Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech in 2009, in which Likud’s leader agreed to discuss Palestinian statehood. This week’s, then, was the eighth link in this chain.
THERE IS a culture of rejection lurking behind all this, and it is fed by the inciter’s inability to part with his own myths, and from the doctrinaire’s refusal to admit mistakes.
That is why when the PLO recognized Israel in 1993, Middle Israelis rejoiced. For a moment, Palestinian leaders seemed ready to exorcise the inciter’s demons and to part with the doctrinaire’s myths. They weren’t.
Arafat’s insistence in 2000 on the “right of return,” meaning swamping Israel with hostile immigrants; his claim that the Temple Mount never shouldered Jewish temples, and the violence he subsequently unleashed and hailed convinced mainstream Israelis that his recognition of Israel was a sham.
His successor’s antisemitic rhetoric and his regular and institutional payments to terrorists left most Israelis convinced that he, too, never came to terms with the Jewish state; that, like the inciters of the 1920s and 1930, Abbas is stranded on a treetop that compels him to deny the Jews’ nationhood, morality and rightful place in their ancestral land.
The price of this attitude rose with every rejection, including this week’s.
The countless speeches of denial, blame and demonization that made Palestinians believe the Jews were foreigners who conspired to rob, displace and murder them made the Palestinians wage the ongoing war in which they indeed lost land, property, dignity and thousands of lives.
Meanwhile, Palestinian leaders’ repeated no’s resulted in steadily shrinking options.
The state they rejected in 1937 was larger than the one they were offered in 1947, and both offers were made when there was not one Palestinian refugee.
When Israel offered land for peace in 1967, there wasn’t one settlement in the West Bank. When Israel offered to discuss autonomy in 1979, there were hardly two dozen settlements in the West Bank, most in the Jordan Valley. When Arafat said no to Bill Clinton in 2000, there were more than 150 settlements. This week’s “no” may well result in all settlements becoming Israeli territory, annexed jointly by Israel’s two major parties and recognized by the US.
And so the rejections and their prices will continue multiplying, until someday a Palestinian leader will tell his people the truth: that they must compromise; not tactically, but mentally; and not because the Jews have an army, but because they have a case.
It is good that the Trump plan insists that incitement come to an end. Yet a change of heart cannot be contracted, least of all by foreigners. It has to come from within, not as a diplomatic imposition, but as a national choice.
Until that happens, Palestinian leaders will continue to libel, deny, and reject, while blaming everyone, from the king of Saudi Arabia to the president of the United States; everyone, that is, except themselves.
The writer’s best-selling Mitz’ad Ha’ivelet Hayehudi (The Jewish March of Folly, Yediot Sfarim, 2019) is an interpretation of the Jewish people’s political history.