By JONATHAN S. TOBIN, Commentary Magazine—
What if the supposed cause of terrorism against Israel were based on a lie? That’s the awful fact that was exposed yesterday by none other than Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. In an interview with Israel’s Channel 10, Abbas admitted that in 2008 he flatly rejected an offer of statehood from Israel that would have given him control of almost all the West Bank and a share of Jerusalem as well as Gaza. While fascinating, the revelation — this is the first time he has owned up to the truth about what happened during the negotiations that took place during the last months of the Bush administration — is of more than historical interest. It also undermines the premise of the case against Israel used by critics that claim its policies are the obstacle to peace in the Middle East. Moreover, the timing of the admission, coming as it did as a surge in Palestinian terrorism escalates, makes the true motive for the killing painfully obvious.
With each passing day, the toll of horrifying violence perpetrated by Palestinians against Israelis grows. Today there were two separate attacks. One took place in the Gush Etzion bloc of the West Bank. There (in an area that was settled by Jews before 1948) a Palestinian opened fire with a submachine gun on a group of people at a road junction killing an American Jewish teenage tourist, an Israeli man, and a Palestinian passerby as well as wounding several others. Meanwhile in Tel Aviv, a Palestinian killed two Jews and wounded at least two others with a knife at the entrance to a synagogue. The total of five fatalities is the highest since the current surge of terror began two months ago. One can only pray that’s a record that won’t be broken. Given the support for terror among Palestinians (as a comprehensive survey of Palestinian public opinion has proved), there’s no reason for optimism as what is being called a third intifada continues.
We know the slaughter will be cheered on Hamas TV. The Palestinian Authority will also honor those who committed these crimes. But even some Westerners who will condemn the terror will add that it is merely the result of Israel’s own wicked policies that oppress Palestinians. We’re constantly told, both by voices in the mainstream media and the Obama administration, that if only Israel would offer the Palestinians a state of their own and end the occupation, then none of this would be happening. As I noted earlier, European political leaders have echoed this theme blaming Israel not only for the attacks on its people but also for ISIS terror directed at non-Jewish Europeans. That kind of scapegoating is reminiscent of traditional anti-Semitic attitudes in which Jews are blamed for all of society’s ills rather than being focused solely on prejudice against Israel.
But what if Israel had already offered the Palestinians the state their apologists say would be the solution to all of the region’s problems? Well, actually they have. Several times.
Throughout the last century of conflict, the refusal of Palestinian Arabs to accept any compromise or partition including the 1947 United Nations partition resolution that would have created a separate Arab state alongside the new Jewish one. Nor did the Arab states or Palestinian groups react to Israel’s Six Day War triumph by offering the peace they had refused it until then. Israel was met with the famous “three no’s” — no negotiations, no recognition and no peace — from a unanimous Arab world.
But that’s ancient history, right? In 1993, Israel signed the Oslo Accords that gave the PA autonomous control over the West Bank and Gaza and put them on the road to statehood. In 2000, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Yasir Arafat the state he had wanted in exchange for peace. Arafat said no and responded with a terrorist war of attrition known as the second intifada. He said no again when Barak sweetened the proposed deal in 2001.
That’s where the Abbas story comes in. In 2005, the supposedly more moderate Abbas succeeded Arafat. In 2008, he came to Annapolis, Maryland for peace talks sponsored by the George W. Bush administration and got Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s offer of statehood which gave the Palestinians even more land than Barak had put on the table. For years, the Palestinians claimed there had been no real peace offer in 2008. Left-wing apologists for Abbas said he had merely left the talks rather than answering no. But after seven years of prevaricating about the incident, Abbas finally owned up to his refusal.
Abbas justifies his no because he says he wasn’t offered a second look at the map Olmert gave him for a state. This is nonsense since if he had pursued the offer he would have gotten all the time he wanted to look at it and to try and better the deal. He also says that since Olmert was leaving office soon under a cloud of scandal (he’s since been given a jail sentence for his convictions on charges of official corruption) there was no point in continuing the negotiations. This is also absurd since Olmert had months to go before the next election would put a new prime minister in his place leaving plenty of time for the peace to become a fait accompli if the Palestinians had wished.
But they didn’t. Abbas knew that he could not sign any document that would recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders would be drawn. Nor did he have the power or the will to end the conflict for all time since he and the rest of the Palestinian leadership would view such a decision as a betrayal of Palestinian identity.
Which brings us back to the current outbreak of terror. The attacks have been incited in no small measure by Abbas in order to compete with his Hamas rivals. In doing so, he has stopped to using the language of holy war against Jews and stirred up hatred based on lies about non-existent Israeli plans to destroy the Temple Mount mosques. That means the attacks really have nothing to do with Jewish settlements or Palestinian statehood even though many in the West persist in believing that is the case.
But the main point here is that if the lack of a state was the problem, Abbas saying yes could have solved it in 2008. It’s just as important to note that the supposedly intransigent Benjamin Netanyahu that succeeded Olmert has also accepted the two-state solution and offered Abbas most of the West Bank in 2010. But the killing continues, not because the Israelis haven’t tried, but because the Palestinians don’t want peace. Just like Hamas, Abbas thinks all of Israel, not just the West Bank and Jerusalem, are occupied territory. That’s what Abbas’s admission means.
It would be nice if this would be taken into account when Western media and the Obama administration blame Israel for the situation. But those who are interested in the truth can no longer claim there is any doubt about who rejected peace. If the killing continues, it is because that’s what Palestinians want. Don’t take my word for it, just read Abbas’s confession.