Yet again the world is pressuring the Palestinians and the Israelis to negotiate to create a lasting peace. But the very reason why talks continue to fail is because the world simply does not understand what type of climate must exist before legitimate talks can take place.
For example, Egypt’s foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said September 6th that recognizing Israel as a “Jewish state” is a cause for concern. This is coming from a “moderate,” predominantly Muslim nation in the Middle East that signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.
If “moderate” Muslim nations don’t even recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, what kind of Israel do these “moderate” Muslim nations envision? Is living side-by-side with a new Palestinian state smart for Israel given the history of past aggression by the Palestinians?
It has been the Palestinians and neighboring Arab nations that have been the obstacles to peace, not Israel. After the State of Israel was established in 1948, Egypt, Syria and Jordan launched an attack on Israel. On June 5th, 1967, the same countries launched another attack on Israel. Israel offered to give back all of the land it conquered. Clearly that wasn’t enough since in 1973, on the Day of Atonement, Egypt and Syria started another war. Finally, a peace deal was signed with Egypt that has held true to today, at least militarily.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) launched repeated attacks on Israel, killing thousands of innocent Israelis. At the time, they were considered the “moderates.” But even as Yasser Arafat was standing in front of the world and recognizing Israel, he was ordering more terrorist attacks on Israeli citizens and giving thousands of dollars to the families of suicide bombers.
The PLO’s replacement, the Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas, has yet to recognize Israel’s right to exist. It does nothing to counter or balance the growing threats of groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, which are now stronger than ever.
In 2005 Israel gave up Gaza, hoping that giving up some land would bring some peace and tranquility to its citizens. Instead, Palestinians fired rockets into Israel and kidnapped Israeli soldiers. The Palestinian Authority was supposed to control the territory, prevent Hamas from winning Gaza’s first elections, and be a moderate government to Israel’s west. Instead, Hezbollah won the elections. If any peace deal is made in the immediate future, it is likely that Hamas will overrun the Palestinian Authority. It is naïve to think any promises of security that Abbas may offer are in any way legitimate.
In examining the climate for talks, it is important to examine where the Palestinian Authority and Abbas stand on the issues. Abbas recently attended a funeral and named a new public square after Amin Al-Hindi, a terrorist who had taken hostage and killed eleven Israelis during the Munich Olympics and murdered over 35 Israeli civilians who were on their daily commute on a local bus. The Palestinian Authority newspaper said he was “one of the starts … who sparkled at the sports stadium in Munich.” On August 29th, the Palestinian state-run TV channel had a program for children that said Haifa, Jaffa, Lod, Ramle and Acre are “occupied cities.” On August 20th in front of Abbas, Palestinian Authority Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud Al-Habbas said, “Unless the issue of Jerusalem is solved, so that it returns to its owners; unless Jerusalem will be Palestinian … the capital of the Palestinian state … the place which is the object of heartfelt longing and which all Muslims aspire to reach; unless Jerusalem is like that way, there is no peace.”