By CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER—
“I honestly believe that if any Israeli parent sat down with those Palestinian kids, they’d say I want these kids to succeed.” Barack Obama, in Jerusalem, March 21
Very true. But how does the other side feel about Israeli kids?
Consider that the most revered parent in Palestinian society is Mariam Farhat of Gaza. Her distinction? Three of her sons died in various stages of trying to kill Israelis — one in a suicide attack, shooting up and hurling grenades in a room full of Jewish students.
She gloried in her “martyr” sons, wishing only that she had 100 boys like her schoolroom suicide attacker to “sacrifice … for the sake of God.” And for that she was venerated as “mother of the struggle,” elected to parliament and widely mourned upon her recent passing.
So much for reciprocity. In the Palestinian territories, streets, public squares, summer camps, high schools, even a kindergarten are named after suicide bombers and other mass murderers.
Israelis have forever wanted nothing more than peace and security for all the children. That’s why they accepted the 1947 U.N. partition of British Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state. The Arabs said no. To this day, the Palestinians have rejected every peace offer that leaves a Jewish state standing.
This is not ancient history. Yasser Arafat said no at Camp David in 2000 and at Taba in 2001. And in 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered a Palestinian state on all of the West Bank (with territorial swaps) with its capital in a shared Jerusalem. Mahmoud Abbas walked away.
In that same speech, Obama blithely called these “missed historic opportunities” that should not prevent peace-seeking now. But these “missed historic opportunities” present an unbroken pattern over seven decades.
So what was the point of Obama’s Jerusalem speech encouraging young Israelis to make peace, a speech the media drooled over? It was a mere sideshow meant to soften the impact on the Arab side of the really important event of Obama’s trip: the major recalibration of his position on the peace process.
Obama knows that peace talks are going nowhere. There is no way Israel can sanely make concessions while its neighborhood is roiling and unstable — the Muslim Brotherhood taking over Egypt, rockets being fired from Gaza, Hezbollah brandishing 50,000 missiles aimed at Israel, civil war raging in Syria with its chemical weapons and rising jihadists and Iran threatening openly to raze Tel Aviv and Haifa.
And peace is going nowhere because Abbas has shown Obama over the last four years that he has no interest in negotiating. Obama’s message to Abbas was blunt: Come to the table without preconditions, i.e., without the excuse of demanding a settlement freeze first.
Obama himself had contributed to this impasse when he imposed that precondition — for the first time ever in the history of Arab-Israeli negotiations — four years ago. Israel responded with an equally unprecedented 10-month settlement freeze, but Abbas walked out on the talks.
In Ramallah, Obama didn’t just address this perennial Palestinian dodge. He demolished the very claim that settlements are the obstacle to peace. Palestinian sovereignty and Israeli security are “the core issue,” he told Abbas. “If we solve those two problems, the settlement problem will be solved.”
Finally. Presidential validation of the screamingly obvious truism: Any peace agreement will produce a Palestinian state with not a single Israeli settlement remaining on its territory. Thus, any peace that reconciles Palestinian statehood with Israeli security automatically resolves the settlement issue.
Exposing settlements as a mere excuse for the Palestinian refusal to negotiate — that was the news, widely overlooked, coming out of Obama’s trip. It was a breakthrough.