Surmounting Palestinian rejectionism

Published in The Jerusalem Post, August 28, 2020; and in Israel Hayom, August 30, 2020.

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For European and other diplomats to continue to scurry about the region without pressing inevitable truths on the Palestinians is mischievous, at best. To be overly solicitous of the Palestinians, a long-time mistake of professional peace processors, is similarly unhelpful. Dishing out some tough love and dialing down Palestinian expectations would be much more constructive.

Cartoon: Roni Gordon, Israel Hayom.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab showed up in Jerusalem this week to pressure Israel and the Palestinians (“both sides”) to renew negotiations towards a two-state solution “based on international parameters.”

Translation: Raab was here to pressure Israel to yield to a stale formula based on maximal Palestinian demands alongside minimal regard for Israeli security needs and national-historic claims; a discredited formula involving the uprooting of settlements, withdrawals from most of Judea and Samaria, and a division of Jerusalem.

Raab’s mission was blast from the irrelevant past. As if Palestinian rejectionism and Iranian-backed jihadism of the past decade had not made such proposals passé. As if the Trump administration’s wiser peace initiative had not been launched. As if the UAE had not recently announced its intention to develop full diplomatic relations with Israel; an obvious dismissal of the Palestinian Authority’s strategy of boycotting and criminalizing Israel. As if Israel needed to be prodded to engage in serious and realistic negotiations with the Palestinians.

Raab showed no inclination to take advantage of recent developments to put pressure where it belongs: on the side that began the conflict and that can end it. On the Palestinians.

Remember: It was Palestinian Authority dictator Mahmoud Abbas walked away from negotiations with Prime Minister Olmert in 2008; Abbas who refused peace talks with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu even after Netanyahu froze settlement construction in 2009; and Abbas who left US Secretary of State John Kerry out in the cold in 2014. Earlier this year, Abbas declared “one thousand no’s” to the new American peace plan.

Now the PA ferociously has rejected the historic agreement between Israel and the UAE, which Abbas and his spokesman have called “a knife in the back of Palestine and treason against Jerusalem.” The PA’s Grand Mufti issued a fatwa forbidding Muslims who come via the UAE to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Abbas has called for popular resistance, a code word for violence, in coordination with the Iranian-backed Hamas movement, which does not hide its genocidal plans for Israel. Other senior Palestinian leaders talk about “a return to armed struggle,” meaning orchestrated suicide bombings and other naked terrorism. (Israel must act determinedly to deter Abbas from making such a gargantuan mistake).

And all along, Abbas swears that he will “never” forgo the so-called right of return to Israel of Palestinian refugees, “never” accept Israeli security control of Jordan Valley, “never” allow Jews to live in Judea, “never” accept Israeli sovereignty in any part of the Old City of Jerusalem, and “never” recognize Israel as the national state of the Jewish People.

At the same time, Abbas’ vitriol has spiked. He calls Israel “brutal” and “colonial”; accuses it of “ethnic cleansing,” and “extrajudicial executions”; rages wildly about “racist gangs of settlers”; libels Israel as possessing “a culture of racism, incitement and hatred”; and rants dangerously about non-existent Israeli “aggression and provocations against the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque and Christian sanctuaries in Jerusalem.”

He leaves no room for real negotiation when he engages in wholesale denial of Jewish national rights in the Holy Land, including the repeated introduction of international resolutions that explicitly dismiss Jewish history in Jerusalem and Zion.

PA-controlled newspapers and social media accounts regularly sermonize about transience and permanence, calling Israelis abiroun (transient) and Palestinians bakoun (those who remain). The PA pay stipends to murderers and their families on a scale which rewards the most heinous acts of terrorism. The message is clear: Eventually, Israel will be broken.

Indeed, Abbas is obstructionist in every way, leading to his marginalization. He has cornered himself into a situation where he has zero credibility in Israel, and zero leverage with the US and even Sunni Arab states.

He has betrayed everyone: Palestinians, who were supposed to enjoy democratic self-rule and good governance; Israel, which was supposed to get a peace partner; and the Arab world, which was to be freed of debilitating conflict with Israel in favor of mutually-beneficial cooperation in security, economic and humanitarian matters.

The question is: How far can Abbas go in opposing negotiation and compromise, encouraging violence, venerating terrorists, spewing hatred, and pushing the boycott and criminalization of Israel (and jailing and torturing his domestic critics) – while still being considered a partner for peace by European community?

IT IS HIGH-TIME that Palestinian leadership be showered with the “tough love” once reserved uniquely for Israel.

To this end, the Trump administration’s hard-nosed approach to the Palestinians, including its cut-off of aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), is useful. As Einat Wilf and Adi Schwartz write in their important new book, The War of Return: How Western Indulgence of the Palestinian Dream has Obstructed the Path to Peace (St. Martin’s Press), the real killer of the two-state solution is the Palestinian claim to a “right” of return.

This innocuous sounding Palestinian demand – that millions of Palestinians descended from those who fled or were expelled in the 1948 war be recognized as possessing a “right” to settle inside the State of Israel – is meant to overwhelm and transform Israel into an Arab state.

This is the root problem with UNRWA. It perpetuates the Palestinian dream of return to homes in Jaffa and Haifa, ultimately destroying the Jewish state. “When 70 percent of people who live in Gaza believe that they are refugees, and are stamped by the UN as such, you cannot fault them for thinking that their ‘right’ of return is internationally sanctioned,” Wilf explains.

The world literally has no problem telling Israel that it cannot have it all. Look how global diplomats went into overdrive to warn Prime Minister Netanyahu against applying sovereignty to part of Judea and Samaria! Why not tell the Palestinians to grow-up, too? Why continue to fund a UN agency with more than a billion dollars every year, feeding the delusion of return?

After all, a key purpose of the American peace initiative is to nudge Palestinians towards replacement of their rejectionist leadership with men and women who seek peace and prosperity for their people, in partnership with Israel. It treats Palestinians as responsible adults who must learn to compromise, with no free pass regarding the type of state they might establish. And it seeks to unleash a regional dynamic whereby Arab states can move towards open partnership with Israel; something that might encourage Palestinians to do the same.

For European and other diplomats to continue to scurry about the region without pressing such inevitable truths on the Palestinians is mischievous, at best. To be overly solicitous of the Palestinians, a long-time mistake of professional peace processors, is similarly unhelpful. Dishing out some tough love and dialing down Palestinian expectations would be much more constructive.

David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

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