It seems as though every single peace process must begin and end with Israel. At least that is the position of the Obama administration, the EU and the UN. But this narrative is why the peace process has failed after more than seven wars and countless peace agreements and UN resolutions. The idea that Israel has all of the cards and that it is up to Israel to deliver peace shows that the international community and the US still fundamentally do not understand the roots of the conflict and why peace can only be achieved under specific circumstances.
Critics argue that a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority can be achieved, since agreements were reached between Israel and Egypt and Israel and Jordan. In fact, President Obama marked the 25th anniversary of peace between Israel and Jordan by saying, “As we honor this historic event, we remember that peace is always possible despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles.” But those two peace deals were signed under very different circumstances. Israeli’s peace agreement with Egypt was only achieved after Egypt failed to make any progress during the Yom Kippur War and elected a moderate leader, Anwar Sadat. Egypt also despised the Muslim Brotherhood, which later developed into the PLO and had roots in the Hamas terrorist organization. Jordan also severed its ties with the PLO in 1986. More importantly, in both of these instances, Israel made peace with governments that were able to guarantee Israel peaceful relations.
Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the international community has been trying to force Israel to agree to make peace with the Palestinians. But this approach is the wrong way to achieve a lasting peace. Israel cannot negotiate or create peace with an entity that has no power or structure to survive on its own. The Palestinian Authority is riddled with corruption and has limited influence because of the growth of Hamas within its government. Some argue that a peace deal is just what is needed to contain Hamas and Hezbollah, but it is naïve to think this is possible. In the wake of the Hariri investigation, the head of Hezbollah, Hasran Nasrallah, has threatened to topple the Lebanese government. This doesn’t come as a surprise since his organization basically controls the Lebanese government already. Soon, Hamas will likewise control the PA government.
There is an underlying reason why the Palestinians and the Arab League have continuously rejected peace deals, from the 1948 UN partition plan (Arab League responded with an all-out invasion of the State of Israel) to the more recent offers made during the Camp David summit and Ehud Olmert’s time as prime minister. They still fundamentally reject the State of Israel.
In my Middle East class we saw the photo of Yasser Arafat shaking hands with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Photos are great for publicity but mean nothing when the head of the PLO is directly funding suicide bombers to go into Israel to kill Jews. He launched the first and second intifadas and has the blood of thousands of innocent Israelis on his hands. Actions speak louder than words. Therefore that bright, sunny day with President Clinton overseeing a handshake is meaningless. The new head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, still hasn’t recognized the State of Israel.
More importantly, the Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. If they do not recognize Israel’s historic ties to its land and its religious identity, why should Israel do the same for the Palestinians? Yet, Israel has repeatedly done so, supporting the idea of a two-state solution and recognizing the PLO and Palestinian Authority. Israel has already offered to give up land for peace, and each time Israel has done so, the Palestinian Authority has had no success in preventing Hamas from using the new land to launch rockets at Israeli civilians. They haven’t even publically condemned Hamas; instead, they try to act like they are a separate entity from Hamas.
If the PA actually wanted peace, they wouldn’t be currently pursuing statehood through the UN as reported this past week. They would be working on uniting their fragmented government, building and establishing economic opportunity in parts of the West Bank and, most importantly, working hard to dismantle Hamas, whose influence is growing. Establishing a state with a weak government is a recipe for disaster, especially while ever-more powerful groups like Hamas and Hezbollah continue to have free reign courtesy of Iran and Syria. The Obama administration just announced that it is giving an additional $150 million to just keep the PA at the table. A Reuters story on November 10 explained, “The United States will give an additional $150 million to the Palestinian Authority as Washington seeks to boost the fledgling government amid an impasse in peace talks with Israel, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday.”
Some say that the polls show that Palestinians want peace. In fact, a November 12th Jerusalem Post article reported that 66% of Palestinians support peace negotiations. But what exactly does that mean? According to the same poll, “85% replied that they would be unsupportive of a peace deal in which compromises were made on key Palestinian issues such as the right of return, Jerusalem, borders and settlements.” So what do the Palestinians expect Abbas and Netanyahu to talk about when they negotiate if the Palestinians are unwilling to actually negotiate and compromise?
Most Israelis believe that an undivided Jerusalem must be their capital. Jerusalem is the most important city in Judaism, while it is third behind Mecca and Medina in Islam. Israelis (Jews and Christians alike) saw how their sacred sites were treated under Jordanian rule (from 1948 to 1967), as well as how the Palestinians have tried to undermine the Jews’ historic ties to parts of Jerusalem, as well as Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs. This past week, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared that two historical Jewish sites in Jerusalem belong to the Palestinians, even though Jewish, Christian and Muslim texts prove that those sites have belonged to the Jews for 2,000 years.
This is not the time for peace. A lasting peace with a two-state solution cannot survive so long as the goal of the Palestinians, the Arab world and the world community is to eventually bring about a one-state solution by pushing all of the Jews into the sea.
David Milstein is a political science major and sophomore at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, where he is also president of the College Republicans. David has worked for more than six federal and state political campaigns, including Bob McDonnell for Governor. He previously interned at the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington, D.C.