BY HARRIS DEVOR AND ASAF ROMIROWSKY, JEWISH EXPONENT—
As almost everyone knows by now, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is planning to march into the United Nations this month and demand statehood for the Palestinians by way of a Unilateral Declaration of Independence.
Such a state would be in lands east of the 1949 armistice lines, established after Israel’s War of Independence, as well as in the Gaza Strip, captured by Israel in 1967 in a defensive war fought against three Arab countries that amassed their troops on all of Israel’s borders to finish what it failed to do some 19 years earlier — annihilate the Jewish state.
Isn’t the two-state solution what we have strived for these last 20 years or so since Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin shook hands on the White House lawn? So what’s the beef?
Let’s start with the fact that the Palestinians have now been offered a state so many times, we’ve lost track of the exact count. In 1947, the world, in the form of a United Nations Partition Plan, offered the two-state solution, a Jewish one and an Arab one. Even though that Jewish state would have been relegated to an indefensible sliver of land, the Jews accepted the plan while the Arabs did not. Similarly, after the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel offered to give back practically every inch of the land it had won, in exchange for peace; the Arabs again rejected it.
In 2001, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered in excess of 90 percent of such lands to Arafat, with land swaps in exchange for the rest. He also offered a sharing/division of Jerusalem in exchange for peace. Once again, the Palestinians rejected the offer, and started a war. The same rejection occurred some seven years later when former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered a similar deal.
The problem has never really been the refusal of Israel to live next to a Palestinian state, but instead the unwillingness of the Palestinians to live in peace next to a Jewish one.
Today, the Palestinians simply refuse to negotiate with Israel, to avoid the prospect of having to recognize Israel as a Jewish state next door to it.
That in a nutshell is why they are going to the United Nations, so that the annihilation of the Jewish state can be left on the back burner to be resumed afterwards. Based on their behavior the last 63 years, it is clear that they simply will not end the conflict until their goal of one Palestinian state in the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is accomplished.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered to sit down with Abbas to negotiate a deal; Abbas has refused. Netanyahu even agreed last year, to the anger of his coalition, to a 10-month moratorium on new construction in the territories.
But rather than jump at that opportunity to negotiate, Abbas waited nine months to come to the table, and then wanted to talk only about the need for Israel to extend the moratorium.
In recent days, Abbas has sworn that he will never, even if granted his own state, recognize the right of the Jews to their own state, and give up the so-called “right of return” of refugees, not to the new Palestinian state, but to the Jewish one, which would then, of course, quickly become a second Palestinian state.
He also sat idly by last month as his governing partner, Hamas, targeted and killed Israeli civilians on a bus on their way to a vacation at the beach in Eilat. He refused to condemn the attack. He has stood idly by as more than 1 million Israelis have sought shelter from Palestinian rockets launched from Gaza. And he has enabled yet another terrorist attack on young adults at a nightclub in Tel Aviv, this one emanating from the very territory he resides in and rules.
Does this sound like the Palestinians are ready to live in peace in the family of nations? Not to us either.
Harris Devor, an accountant involved in local and national pro-Israel activism, is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. Asaf Romirowsky is an adjunct scholar at the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum.