(Alan Stock) – Events surrounding Israeli/Palestinian differences have developed on a rapid basis.
First, the Palestinians said they would approach the United Nations for a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state that roughly encompassed pre-1967 borders. Israel said it would cut off any aid to the Palestinians if they took this unilateral action as opposed to direct negotiations between the two parties.
President Barack Obama, sensing his decrease in popularity among American Jews, gave a speech supporting an independent Palestinian state while decrying the U.N. recognition. Former President Jimmy Carter supported the Palestinian efforts, while former President Bill Clinton placed the blame squarely on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
If your head is swirling amid all of these actions, let’s try to clarify the real facts.
In the fall of 2000, President Clinton met with PLO leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. After a lot of arm-twisting, Barak agreed to every term demanded by Arafat with one exception. Arafat wanted Israel to cease being a Jewish state.
His method to accomplish this goal was the return of all the so-called Palestinian people and their descendants to Israel. This would, in effect, lead to the creation of three Palestinian states: Palestine, Jordan (which is more than 80 percent Palestinian) and Israel (where the overwhelming majority would be Palestinians and their descendants). To this one point, Barak balked and Arafat walked.
It was often said of Arafat that he never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. So when Clinton points the finger at Netanyahu, he should first try to understand the failure of the 2000 talks and try to understand just where the intransigence lies.
In a Sept. 22 roundtable with bloggers, Clinton said, “For reasons that even after all these years I still don’t know for sure, Arafat turned down the deal I put together that Barak accepted. But they also had an Israeli government that was willing to give them East Jerusalem as the capital of the new state of Palestine.”
In Clinton’s own words, the Israelis gave in to everything the Palestinians demanded with the exception of the so-called “right of the return.” One would think the former president would understand the most important deal-breaker.
If Clinton and others do not understand the significance of this blatant deal-breaker, let them digest the words of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas when he spoke before some 200 senior representatives of the Palestinian community in the United States on the same day he petitioned for Palestinian statehood:
“They talk to us about the Jewish state, but I respond to them with a final answer: We shall not recognize a Jewish state.” This, coming from the man who represents himself as being the more moderate of the two Palestinian factions (Hamas campaigns for the outright destruction of the state of Israel).
How do you negotiate a peace with someone who insists that you commit national suicide — that you roll over and play dead?
How do you negotiate peace with someone who says there can be peace, but only if you do not exist?
Benjamin Netanyahu challenged Mahmoud Abbas to meet with him in New York on Sept. 23 while they were both in the city. Abbas responded by saying his group would never recognize a Jewish state.
Is there any prospect for peace between Israel and the Palestinians? Only if both sides recognize that the other has every right to exist.
(Alan Stock is a Las Vegas radio talk show host.)
This article first appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. – Ed.