October 3, 2003

Palestinian priorities must change

In negotiating and peace-making, compromise is necessary. In history, there has been no successful or sustainable peace agreement in which one side was forced to give up nothing and yet received everything it requested. That said, anyone who claims to want peace in the current situation between Israelis and the Palestinians must also be willing to compromise on his or her demands.

The majority of the Israelis agree that for a trustworthy guarantee of peace from the Palestinians, they would be willing to accept a withdrawal of Israeli military and settlers from the West Bank and Gaza. In addition, they go one further. Most Israelis also agree they would support the establishment of a Palestinian state, provided it was democratic and not a sponsor of terror in any way. The prospect of trusting such a guarantee of peace from the current Palestinian leadership is extremely far off, but nonetheless, Israel has shown it is willing to compromise. Israel's acceptance of the U.N. Partition Plan in 1947 (which would have recognized a Palestinian state had the Palestinians accepted) and its offers at Camp David and Oslo (which also would have established and recognized a Palestinian state) demonstrate that these statements are not empty.

The subtext of the above account about the Israeli population shows that in general, Israel accepts the idea of a two-state solution. Namely, they believe that in the end, a lasting solution will come from the existence of two states—one Jewish and one Palestinian—that will live in peace with secure borders, side by side.

So do the Palestinians also endorse the two-state solution? It is obvious that most of the Palestinian terrorist groups do not; statements such as "Palestine will be free from the river to the sea" make that quite obvious. The "river" and "sea" in the quotation are the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, thus declaring that Palestine will exist on the entire land of Israel, destroying Israel in the process.

What about the Palestinian leadership, now back in the hands of Yassir Arafat it seems, or the Palestinian people and their supporters around the world? Would they support the existence of two states? The answer is, unfortunately, no. Historical evidence is easy to find; a few of the specifics have already been mentioned in this article. If the establishment of a Palestinian state were truly a primary goal of the Palestinian people and leadership, it would already be so.

The Palestinian defense against my last point consists mostly of claiming that the deals offered were not in the interest of the Palestinians. This is a debatable assertion, but would most likely be found false. The deal that then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered in 2000 held at least elements of everything that the Palestinians had asked for—a withdrawal of Israeli troops and settlers from the majority of the West Bank and Gaza, a recognized Palestinian state in those areas, and a capital in East Jerusalem. However, the fact that the terms were not exactly what the Palestinians had asked for is almost irrelevant in my mind. It goes back to the concept of compromise. If the Palestinians legitimately want peace, as their leadership occasionally claims, they should have been willing to compromise. In fact what happened is that instead of proposing a counter offer or using the original offer as a starting point, Arafat rejected it flat out and started an intifada quite soon afterwards. This does not show compromise, nor does it convince me that the number one priority of the Palestinians is to get a state.

If all of this evidence is not enough, there is always the issue of the Palestinian "right of return." This is the declared right of all Palestinians and their descendants to return to their former land within Israel's borders. The problem with such a right is that if exercised, with 6 million Jews in Israel and 8 million Palestinians in the world (most born outside Israel proper) claiming their right of return, Israel would cease to have a Jewish majority and to be a Jewish state. If such a right were granted and such an immigration took place, Israel's democracy would provide for the destruction of the state. Endorsement of the right of return is endorsement of a one-state solution—a Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel. Anyone supporting the Palestinian right of return has yet to recognize that compromise is necessary.

As long as the Palestinians and their supporters continue their refusal to compromise, peace cannot be achieved. Israel has done more than its share, and will continue to cooperate, but the ball is in the court of the Palestinians. If the Palestinians continue to endorse a philosophy ending in the destruction of Israel there will be no solution, because the only things Israel will never compromise on are its security and existence. As long as the number one priority of the Palestinians is the destruction of Israel, there can be no peace. Israel will not negotiate its existence.