A year before 9/11, Israel made Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat an offer he couldn’t refuse. In an attempt to secure lasting peace, Israel agreed to demolish 60+ settlements, withdraw from Gaza, withdraw from 92 percent of the West Bank, and give the Palestinians a capital in East Jerusalem. To many observers, this was it. After decades of violence and strife, we were going to get peace in the Middle East.
It was not to be. Arafat rejected the offer without cause and without proposing a counter. Instead, he sat idly by (some sources insist he actively authorized it) while the Palestinians rushed into another violent uprising. Over the next five years, more than 4,000 people would die in what came to be known as the Second Intifada. In 2005, new Palestinian leadership agreed to get back on the road to peace and the violence simmered. Nine years later, though, that violence threatens to boil over once again.
World officials were shocked this week when Palestinian shooters launched an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue, killing five Israelis. But more than the murders themselves, it was the Palestinian reaction to them that proved disturbing. Many Palestinians rushed to the streets to dance, celebrate, and wave flags of triumph. Others hurled stones at Israeli police. Hamas praised the attack and urged followers to follow the shooters’ example. Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack, but many – including Benjamin Netanyahu – believe his propaganda is chiefly responsible for the killings in the first place.
We Don’t Negotiate
For as long as any of us have been alive, one of the defining points of U.S. policy can be summed up in one simple sentence: we don’t negotiate with terrorists. However, that is exactly what we’ve been doing in the process of pushing for Palestinian/Israeli peace. It’s not only counter to our philosophy, it’s also counter to common sense. There is no good reason to think that a two-state solution can work. Not with the present borders, not with the 1967 borders, not ever, not in any way. Palestinians will not accept a Jewish state, and until there is a dramatic shift in ideological and religious thought, they never will.
This conflict is only partly about “evil occupiers.” If this was a simple disagreement over land, it would have been solved a long time ago. Palestinians want more than their land back, though. And they certainly want more of it than anyone is proposing to give them. They want the destruction of Israel. Islamic culture has thrived on antisemitism for too long. It boggles the mind how anyone with any sense of history can propose that Palestine and Israel can co-exist, side by side, without war.
As we speak, an Islamic army threatens to take over Iraq and Syria in the most bloodthirsty way possible. They have made no secret of the fact that their ultimate aims include striking Israel and the United States. Obama and the West can try to separate ISIS from Islam as they do every terrorist group, but this army – 200,000 strong by some estimates – is part of the same twisted ideology that supports Hamas. They don’t want peace, and neither do the Palestinians. Why can’t world leaders see what’s in front of their eyes?