The two-state solution that never was

When we look backward, we see that the Palestinian Arabs have never demonstrated a genuine desire for a state next to our Jewish state.

YASSER ARAFAT during a visit to South Africa in 2000. (photo credit: REUTERS)
YASSER ARAFAT during a visit to South Africa in 2000.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Formulations vary, but to this day the concept of two states for two peoples is promoted in certain quarters as the cornerstone of peace.
It is comforting to look forward with optimism. To assume that people from a vastly different culture will in the end want what we want. To believe that with good will problems can be overcome.  But it is not enough. There is a broad context – historical, cultural and religious – that must be considered. Those who ignore it push Israel into an untenable position.
When we look backward, we see that the Palestinian Arabs have never demonstrated a genuine desire for a state next to our Jewish state.
In 1947, when the UN General Assembly proposed dividing Palestine, the Arab response was fiercely negative: acceptance would have meant acknowledging a Jewish state. Once Israel declared independence, the Arabs immediately launched war.
In 1964, the Arab League established the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). Israel was still within the Green Line; Jordan held Judea and Samaria, and Egypt, Gaza. In its charter the PLO renounced all claims against Jordan and Egypt; the only thing it sought to “liberate” was Israel.
The 1973 Yom Kippur war was a watershed for PLO thinking. It was apparent that Israel could not be eliminated militarily in one fell swoop, and so, while the PLO’s ultimate goal of destroying Israel remained the same, it changed tactics significantly.
The PLO instituted the “Phased Program,” to weaken Israel one step at a time. PA minister Nabil Sha’ath acknowledged this, when he said, “We decided to liberate our homeland step by step.”
The program endorsed giving a semblance of moderation. Diplomatic negotiations were permissible if they weakened Israel and secured concessions.
It is with regard to this tactic that many people – failing to differentiate between a semblance of moderation and the real thing – have gotten caught. Two-state adherents promote territorial concessions in the belief that a real peace will ultimately follow.
While “peace” advocates believe making concessions shows good will that invites reciprocity, the Palestinian Arabs sees concessions as weakness that invites further demands. It is a win-lose mentality; when Israel makes concessions the Palestinian Arabs believe they are winning.
Yasser Arafat, in 1994, clarified PLO intentions toward Israel: days after signing the Oslo Accords, he gave a speech in a South African mosque. Unaware that he was being recorded, he said: “This agreement, I am not considering it more than the agreement which has been signed between our prophet Muhammad and [the] Quraysh.”
This was a peace pact Muhammad made in 628 C.E. with the Quraysh, who held Mecca. Once he garnered sufficient strength, he abrogated the pact, crushed the Quraysh, and took Mecca. Within Islam, this is seen as a model of how to behave with non-Muslims.
Twice we have seen the PLO turn away from solid proposals for a final deal: first in 2000, when Arafat rejected an offer by then-prime minister Ehud Barak, and again in 2008, when Mahmoud Abbas walked away from then-prime minister Ehud Olmert’s even more generous offer.
The PLO will never sign a final agreement with Israel. This is in part because it would mean agreeing to end the conflict. PLO leaders are committed to continuing the battle with Israel until its demise. They fear assassination by their own, quite literally, should they renege on this.
Last year, journalist Khaled Abu Toameh recalled Arafat’s explanation of why he rejected Barak’s offer: “...the Jews wanted me to end the conflict ... who am I, Yasser Arafat, to end the conflict ... if I make such concessions, I will end up drinking tea up there with Anwar Sadat.”
The question that must be asked, then, is why? Why is there such dedication to the goal of eliminating Israel? There is the oft-cited Muslim belief that land once possessed by Muslims is Islamic land forever. Palestine was for many centuries occupied by Muslims, most recently the Ottomans.
The time has come to stop pursuing the impossible. Our responsibility is to seek a realistic and humane solution to the conflict with the Palestinian Arabs, a solution that protects Israel’s security and safeguards Israel’s rights.
The author, an Israeli blogger, investigative journalist and author, co-chairs the Legal Grounds Campaign.