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 Do the Palestinians hate the Jewish state more than they love their dream of a Palestinian homeland? That is the question amid the latest peace effort by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The fact is, the Palestinians could have had their own state years ago, if they were only willing to accept the Jewish state in return. 

Barbara Tuchman

  "The story and study of the past, both recent and distant, will not reveal the future, but it flashes beacon lights along the way, and it is a useful nostrum against despair." - Barbara Tuchman


 It began with the U.N. Palestine Partition Plan of 1947 that ended the British mandate by dividing the territory into Arab and Jewish states. (The Jews got an estimated 53%, but the lion's share of this was the arid Negev desert that was considered unsuitable for both agricultural and urban development at that time. 43% was allocated to the Arabs – consisting of the Western Galilee, Judea and Samaria, as well as the Gaza Strip). The Jews immediately said 'Yes' to this territorial compromise, but the Arabs not only said 'No' but also declared war on the emerging Jewish state. Azzam Pasha, the General Secretary of the Arab League, made no bones about it: 'Personally, I hope the Jews do not force us into this war because it will be a war of elimination and it will be a dangerous massacre, which history will record similarly to the Mongol massacre and the wars of the Crusades'.

 (At that time, both the Jews and Arabs of 'Palestine' were known as Palestinians). Most of the Arab Palestinians adopted the battle-cry of ‘Drive the Jews into the Sea!' To this very day, at least half of the Palestinian population supports Hamas, which like its former patron Iran, also pledges to 'wipe the Zionist entity off the map'. Perhaps this explains why the two-state solution, one Palestinian and the other Jewish, has been rejected or ignored by the Palestinians for more than six decades.  

... the PLO pressed for a clear resolution - no peace, no recognition and no negotiation with Israel.

 Although vastly outnumbered, the new-born Israel defeated the Arab Palestinian irregulars and the combined armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. The Arabs then turned to terror along Israel's borders and organized an economic boycott of the Jewish state. Seeking to avenge their defeat, Egypt's President, Abdul Nasser, led another full scale Arab war against the Jewish state in 1967. Again, the Arab armies massed on Israel's borders, but this time the IDF preempted and drove the Egyptian Army out of Sinai and the Syrian forces off the Golan Heights from where they had continually fired shells down into the Israeli towns and villages in Galilee. The Arab League then convened in Khartoum, Sudan where the PLO pressed for a clear resolution - no peace, no recognition and no negotiation with Israel. 

Israeli prime minister Begin with Egyptian president Sadat and U.S. president Carter at Camp David in 1978.

 Finally, 26 years after the rejecting the first two state solution at the U.N., and after yet another war against Israel in 1973, Egypt's President Anwar Sadat took the lead. Sadat defied the whole Arab world and became the first Arab leader to make peace with the Jewish state.  It probably cost him his life. Nonetheless, Jordan's King Hussein later followed in Sadat's footsteps - he also recognized and signed a peace treaty with Israel. But Yasser Arafat and the PLO remained adamant in their refusal to recognize or negotiate with Israel. 


 Second major chance for Palestinian state...

Yitzhak Rabin, Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat
It later became abundantly clear that Arafat was utilizing terrorism as an instrument of his negotiating policy.

 The Palestinian breakthrough had to wait until 1993: the Oslo Accords that were signed on the White House lawn by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Chairman Yasser Arafat, under the aegis of President Bill Clinton.  In effect, after five years of good neighbor relations it held out the vision of a Palestinian state living peacefully alongside the Jewish state. A clear majority of Israelis backed Rabin on the two-state solution, but Arafat adopted a two-track policy of terror and negotiation. It amounted to eking out Israeli concessions while giving a green light to the terrorists. At least one terrorist kingpin later revealed that he had only to see Arafat's 'wink' to know it was time for a new attack. It later became abundantly clear that Arafat was utilizing terrorism as an instrument of his negotiating policy. But at the time, Rabin gave Arafat the benefit of the doubt by telling the people of Israel: 'We will negotiate peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism in the absence of peace!' 

 Strike three! ...

 After Rabin's assassination in 1995, Shimon Peres entered the PM's office; super dove Shimon Peres who was eager to go down in history as the man who forged an historic peace accord with the Palestinians - what better Israeli peace maker could the Palestinians have hoped for? But the Palestinians greeted Peres with the bloodiest wave of suicide bombers ever - they literally bombed Peres out of the PM's office in the ensuing election on May 29, 1996.  For the third time the Palestinians had struck out on the two-state solution.  

 Ehud Barak follows Rabin & Peres...

Barak, Clinton, and Arafat during peace negotiations. Photo credit: PD-USGOV
Arafat did not say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, he just packed his bags and flew back to the West Bank from where he subsequently launched the Second Palestinian intifada.

 Three years later, Prime Minister Ehud Barak made his pitch to Arafat for the founding of a Palestinian state. In the summer of 2000 Barak, Arafat, and Clinton convened at Camp David. Barak agreed to pull back on the West Bank more or less to the 1967 borders with border modifications. The Palestinians would be compensated by negotiated land swaps. The Israeli leader even agreed to partition Jerusalem, Israel's ancient capital. Arafat did not say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, he just packed his bags and flew back to the West Bank from where he subsequently launched the Second Palestinian intifada. Back home in Israel, the Right-wing hauled the Prime Minister over the coals for 'giving away the kitchen sink' while even his Left-wing colleagues lambasted Barak for upsetting the apple-cart by shocking Arafat with so many sweeping concessions!  For his part, Barak contended that he had 'removed Arafat's mask of a peace - maker'. Whatever the explanation, the fact remains that the Palestinians again failed the test and turning down the opportunity to negotiate a Palestinian homeland, if it meant recognizing the Jewish state. Arafat was not ready to step up to the plate.  

 Palestinians reject Roadmap to Palestinian state... 

 In 2003 U.S. President George W. Bush got into the two- state business by presenting Prime Minister Arik Sharon with a fait accompli - an international plan called the ‘Roadmap for a Palestinian State’. Sharon was not enamored with the proposal and tried to tack on his own fourteen reservations that everyone else ignored. The Roadmap was a detailed and sequential program based on one condition: the Palestinians had to halt all terrorism against the Jewish state. This was apparently asking too much, and again the Palestinians turned thumbs down.  

 Sharon's Gaza pullout sparks greater rocketing... 

Palestinian Terrorists in the Gaza Strip
... the Palestinians made a farce of the mantra 'territory for peace' by exploiting Sharon's withdrawal for greater rocketing of Israeli civilians.

 In the face of the mounting terror attacks on IDF forces and Israeli settlements inside the Gaza Strip, Sharon ordered a unilateral withdrawal from the area in 2005. Just imagine if President Mahmoud Abbas had responded by declaring, “Great, terrific! In response, we the Palestinians will halt all terror attacks on Israel from both Gaza and the West Bank. After a three month trial period we then demand direct negotiations with Israel for a similar withdrawal from the West Bank and the founding of a Palestinian state.” Now if the Palestinians had adopted this course of action, even Sharon would have had to accept a Palestinian state. But on the contrary, rather than exploiting the Israeli pullback for advancing to their own state, the Palestinians made a farce of the mantra 'territory for peace' by exploiting Sharon's withdrawal for greater rocketing of  Israeli civilians.

 Olmert improves on Barak's version...

Abbas, Olmert and Mubarak in Sharm el-Sheik

 The saga continues with the entry of Ehud Olmert into the PM's office. Sure enough, Olmert offers Abbas an improved model of Barak's peace package. Again, it is essentially a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with the settlement blocs of Maale Adumim, Gush Etzion, and Ariel remaining inside Israel in return for land swaps, the partition of Jerusalem, a return of a limited number of Palestinian refugees, demilitarization of the West Bank, and an end to all future Palestinian claims. Again, Abbas failed to accept the deal for a Palestinian state. So after missing four or five golden opportunities for a Palestinian state, just what is the Palestinian leadership waiting for? Could it be that after indoctrinating the Palestinians they will all go back to what is now the Jewish state, the Palestinian leadership cannot accept anything less? It has been taught for decades in Palestinian schools. Moreover, although Abbas abhors terror and his security forces on the West Bank actively suppress it, the Palestinian leader is counting more on rallying diplomatic pressure on the Jewish state at the UN. Last Nov 29th, Abbas succeeded in persuading the UN General Assembly to approve a resolution recognizing Palestine as a non-member state. The feeling in Jerusalem is that Abbas, even if he negotiates, will blame Netanyahu for an impasse and then prosecute his case back at the UN this fall. There, he will resume his 'diplomatic intifada' with the goal of the Islamic bloc setting the guidelines for an imposed agreement on Israel. But in the interim, an IDF Gen. has warned that a new terror intifada could erupt on the West Bank in the coming months if there is no progress in peace contacts. Abbas must also have his ear to the ground, so is he willing to acquiesce in a new round of bloodshed rather coming to the table? Or like Arafat, will Abbas exploit renewed violence to advance his diplomatic warfare against the Jewish state?  

Mahmoud Abbas (Abu-Mazen)
So after missing four or five golden opportunities for a Palestinian state, just what is the Palestinian leadership waiting for?

But what of that vexing construction of Israeli settlements? (Contrary to popular belief, no new Israeli settlements have been established on the West Bank for years. There has been building inside existing settlements and in the Jerusalem area). When Prime Minister Menachem Begin realized that Egypt's President Anwar Sadat was sincere about making peace, Israel gave up every grain of Sinai including air bases, oil wells, and all the settlements, including the town of Yamit. This was in return for real peace and the demilitarization of Sinai as the guarantee. If Abbas is really ready to negotiate on a Palestinian state and Netanyahu says he is prepared to come to the table without any prior conditions, shouldn't the Palestinian leader do the same? Or will the new battle cry of Dr. Saeb Erekat, a close adviser to President Abbas and a Palestinian moderate, rule the day with his declaration: 'Never in a thousand years will we recognize Israel as a Jewish state!' 

David Essing

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