Palestinian exceptionalism prevents ‘two-state solution’

In 2000, prime minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians control of the Temple Mount, the holiest site of Judaism. Even this proposal was rejected by Arafat.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks following a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks following a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul
(photo credit: REUTERS)
 One rarely, if ever, hears foreign politicians and media questioning why Palestinians do not rise against their own leaders in favor of a peace agreement with Israel. Many foreign “experts” say the Palestinian population wants an independent state that will flourish peacefully next to Israel. That myth is also being spread by the shrunken Israeli Left, some of whom can be considered “national masochists.” 
Many other independence-seeking nations have never been offered a state. Spain, for instance, a member of the democratic European Union, does not want to give Catalonia independence. The Kurds in Southwest Asia number around 30 million and have never been offered an independent state. In contrast, previous Israeli leaders have offered Palestinian leaders a state more than once.
In 2000, prime minister Ehud Barak made at Camp David a far-reaching proposal to Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat. Bill Clinton was US president at the time. He has said that Barak offered the Palestinians control of the Temple Mount, the holiest site of Judaism. Even this proposal was rejected by Arafat.
In 2008, prime minister Ehud Olmert and PA leader Mahmoud Abbas discussed an agreement. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who was present at the negotiations, told PA TV that Olmert accepted all the PA’s demands, even offering Abbas a little more than the full area of the West Bank. Yet Abbas rejected this proposal. Erekat said he told Abbas to accept it.
The question of why Palestinians do not rise up against their leaders in favor of peace with Israel is particularly relevant at this time. In various countries people march against their rulers and risk prison and sometimes their lives for greater democracy. One major current example is Russia. Despite brutality by the security services, peaceful protesters keep marching mainly in Moscow against the banning of opposition candidates. Hong Kong is yet another example.
The claim that rising against leaders for more democracy is un-Arab has become obsolete in this century. In 2010, Tunisian fruit vendor Muhammad Bouazizi set himself on fire in his hometown of Sidi Bouzid. The protests against the Tunisian government started there and spread into several other Arab countries. Those uprisings became known as the Arab spring.
One of the standard pro-Palestinian answers to the above question is that the Palestinian population is afraid. That is a largely misleading answer for a number of reasons. There are Palestinians who are willing to risk their lives for a cause. That purpose is to murder Israelis, including civilians.
The PA has made that risk also financially rewarding. It pays murderers substantial money if Israel jails them. If they do not survive their attack, the money goes to their family members.
ONE EXAMPLE is the 2001 terrorist attack at the Jerusalem Sbarro pizzeria in which 15 Israelis were murdered. The murderers or their families have so far received more than $900,000 from the PA.
Among the murdered were five members of the Dutch immigrant Schijveschuurder family. Two other family members were wounded. The payments to the murderers were indirectly also made possible by the Dutch government, which continues to subsidize the PA. That money props up the Palestinian budget.
There is further proof that the Palestinian population is not very keen on independence. In the only Palestinian parliamentarian election in 2006, Hamas obtained an absolute majority. This movement promotes genocide against Jews. According to the Carter Center of former US president Jimmy Carter, the elections were “open and honest.”
Thanks to the Dutch historian and journalist Els van Diggele, we know much about dissent in the Palestinian territories. She lived for a year in the Palestinian territories, interviewing extensively both on the West Bank and in Gaza. Her 2017 book, We Hate Each Other More Than the Jews” is only available in Dutch. She concludes that there are Palestinians who disagree with the PA and Hamas and have even paid for that disagreement by being jailed. None, however, have risked jail for pushing for acceptance of Israeli offers of a Palestinian state. From her book, one can deduce that peace with Israel apparently is not something worth taking personal risks for.
In an interview authorized by her, Van Diggele said, “Looking through history’s lens at Palestinian society, I concluded that there was a century of stagnation, destruction and a power battle which was fought on the back of common Palestinians. Nobody asked them anything. This attitude runs as a common thread through Palestinian society. A strong example is the forced exit of former prime minister Salam Fayyad. I spoke with this moderate man and also with Hamas executives. The moderate voice cannot succeed in Palestinian society.”
She added, “Fayyad wanted to create an orderly state by working together with Israel. He said, ‘A state is not only our right but also our duty. We need law and order, disarmament and a fight against corruption.’ The Palestinians did not want this. They preferred resistance. Abbas pushed Fayyad out.” 
There is only one rational conclusion from this: Creating a second Palestinian state in addition to Jordan on what was once British mandate territory – and perhaps with Gaza separate, a third one – would most probably not lead to peace. The most probable result would be to establish a stronger platform for Israel’s Palestinian enemies to spread hatred and violence.
The writer is emeritus chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He was given the lifetime achievement award by the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, and the international leadership award by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.