Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Arab-Israeli Conflict, Part II: Why the Middle East is on a Path to War

The previous post in the series demonstrated how instead of trying to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, and address the legitimate grievances of the Palestinian people, Arab leaders have been focused on one goal: the destruction of the Jewish State.

It showed how the demand for the “Right of Return” of Palestinian refugees into Israel is an Arab attempt to distort history, and unjustly shift the entire responsibility for the Arab-Israeli conflict to Israel. It also showed how the Arab demand for a “Right of Return” for Palestinian refugees into Israel is synonymous with the destruction of the Jewish State.

And it concluded that according to Arab leaders, the only “just resolution” to the Arab-Israeli conflict that would bring “peace” to the region would be the destruction of the Jewish State. Thus, for Arab leaders “peace” negotiations with Israel are merely the continuation of war by other means.

Certainly, Arab leaders in distant capitals – untroubled by the daily hardships of Palestinians under occupation – may adopt extreme views for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (ie. the destruction of Israel). But what about Palestinian leaders?

Palestinian leaders are more attuned with the reality on the ground. Shouldn’t they be more willing to reconcile their differences with Israel for the sake of national independence and peace? Can there still be hope for an Israeli-Palestinian peace?

Unfortunately, reality proves otherwise.

Since 1967, the basis for Arab-Israeli negotiations has been UN Security Council Resolution 242, which calls for the implementation of the “land for peace” formula – calling for Israeli withdrawal from territories it had occupied in 1967 in exchange for peace with its neighbors.

For 20 years, the Palestinian leadership has managed to delude much of the Western world into thinking that its objective is to establish a Palestinian state and bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In reality, the objective of the Palestinians has been the destruction of the Jewish State; establishing a Palestinian state is merely a means to continue the conflict – not end it!

What evidence is there that this is indeed the case? “Moderate” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas himself demonstrated that this is the case.

In his May 2011 Op-Ed in the New York Times, Palestinian President Abbas tried to justify his decision to bypass negotiations with Israel, and ask for recognition of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders from the United Nations this coming September.

Instead of negotiating with Israel for an Israeli withdrawal from territories it had occupied in 1967 in exchange for peace, Abbas wants to coerce Israel to withdraw from territories in exchange for the continuation of conflict.

One of the steps that needs to be taken to achieve peace is reconciliation of grievances. But instead of trying to reconcile grievances with Israel, Abbas unjustly shifts the entire responsibility for the conflict to Israel. He writes:

“It is important to note that the last time the question of Palestinian statehood took center stage at the General Assembly, the question posed to the international community was whether our homeland should be partitioned into two states. In November 1947, the General Assembly made its recommendation and answered in the affirmative. Shortly thereafter, Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel, and Arab armies intervened. War and further expulsions ensued… …Minutes after the State of Israel was established on May 14, 1948, the United States granted it recognition. Our Palestinian state, however, remains a promise unfulfilled.”

Here President Abbas rewrites history in an attempt to justify the fraudulent Arab demand for a “Right of Return.”

Unlike Abbas’ claims a Palestinian state was not a “promise unfulfilled” by the international community – it was a plan rejected by Palestinian and Arab leaders.

And unlike what Abbas implies, the ensuing conflict was not instigated by “Zionist forces” – it was the direct result of Arab attacks on Jewish communities. The violence that broke out throughout Palestine became more and more prevalent until it escalated into a civil war. The Zionist counter-attacks and offensives precipitated a mass departure of hundreds of thousands of Arabs.

Hours after Israel declared independence the armies of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Jordan, backed by Saudi Arabian and Yemenite contingents, invaded Israel. The Arab League Secretary, Azzam Pasha, declared: “This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.” In response, the Israeli army launched a series of offensives into areas allocated to the proposed Arab state.

During the 1948 war, between 650,000 and 730,000 Palestinian Arabs were expelled or fled from the area that became Israel, and became refugees. On the other hand, around 10,000 Jews were forced to leave their homes in Palestine. By the end of the war territory under Israeli control encompassed approximately three-quarters of Mandate Palestine. The West Bank and Gaza Strip were under Jordanian and Egyptian occupation.

The Palestinian leader tries to portray the Arab side as victims of Zionist aggression. But in reality, Palestinian leaders and Arab states bear much of the responsibility for the 1948 war, and for the predicament of the Palestinian people.

Abbas’ unwillingness to acknowledge any Arab responsibility for the conflict indicates that he’s not interested in reconciling grievances with Israel, or ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Abbas writes:

“Once admitted to the United Nations, our state stands ready to negotiate all core issues of the conflict with Israel.”

What are the core issues of the conflict Palestinian are concerned about? The issues to be negotiated in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process are:

- Borders of future Palestinian state
- Israeli settlements in the West Bank
- Status of Jerusalem
- “Right of return” of Palestinian refugees

If a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders is admitted to the UN by bypassing negotiations the first three issues become irrelevant, since they are no longer subject for negotiations. Thus, the only issue for “negotiation” would be the “Right of return” (which is synonymous with the “right” to destroy the Jewish State). Abbas continues:

“Only if the international community keeps the promise it made to us six decades ago, and ensures that a just resolution for Palestinian refugees is put into effect, can there be a future of hope and dignity for our people.”

In other words, according to “moderate” President Abbas, there can only be “a future of hope and dignity” for the Palestinian people if the Jewish State is destroyed.

Of course, there is one flaw in the Palestinian scheme to evade peace negotiations; the UN General Assembly can vote to admit a state as a full member only if it receives a recommendation to do so from the UN Security Council. The United States is expected to veto such recommendation in the UN Security Council since it undermines the negotiation process. In that case, a vote in the UN General Assembly would be meaningless.

Meaningless, but not entirely futile; the US veto would likely stir anti-American hostility in the Arab street, while the automatic majority Palestinians receive in the UN General Assembly will likely provoke Arab violence throughout the Palestinian territories and in Israel.

Is the Middle East on a Path to War?

But is there any way to interpret Abbas’ position that would give hope for the peace process? Or is the Middle East on a sure path to war?

In August 2009, the Fatah Conference – President Mahmoud Abbas’ faction – convened for the first time in 20 years. The congress adopted a resolution that all of Jerusalem be returned to the Palestinians and asserted the right of Palestinian refugees to return to homes left before the 1948 war over Israel’s independence. In addition, a Fatah policy statement issued during the conference reserved the right to exercise “resistance” in “all its forms” if future peace negotiations were not successful.”

In other words, Fatah reserves the right to exercise “resistance” in “all its forms” (ie. terrorism) if negotiations with Israel are “not successful.” Yet, according to Fatah, one of the goals of these negotiations is the return of Palestinian refugees into Israel (ie. the destruction of the Jewish state). Since such negotiations are guaranteed to be “not successful” the sure result would be another outbreak of war.

Why then did the Palestinian leaders decide to abandon peace negotiations with Israel and go to the United Nations? Perhaps because they realized that to achieve an independent Palestinian state they would have to compromise on their goal to destroy the Jewish state.

Palestinians Prefer Destruction of Israel over Peace and End of Occupation

In a 2010 poll of the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, Palestinians living in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza were asked the following questions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations:

Do you think that the Palestinians must renounce their right of home return, which Israel will never accept, in exchange for having an independent Palestinian state and the conclusion of a peace deal with Israel?

1. Yes, the Palestinians must do that: 14.0%
2. No, they shouldn’t do that even if the price would be the non-conclusion of a peace deal with Israel: 81.7%
3. I have no opinion: 4.3%

If the Palestinian leadership would waive the right of home return in exchange for a financial compensation, would you accept or refuse that?

1. I would accept that: 13.1%
2. I would refuse that: 81.8%
3. Don’t know: 5.1%

For years we’ve been told that the reason for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is Israeli occupation. We’ve been told that the reason for Palestinian violence and terrorism is that Palestinians are desperate, that they have nothing to lose.

Now it turns out that the vast majority of Palestinians – over 80 percent – prefer not to end the occupation, not to achieve national independence, and not to have peace, if the price they have to pay is the continued existence of the Jewish state.

By going to the United Nations Palestinian leaders are trying to avoid making that choice. They want to have a Palestinian state and continue the conflict with Israel, until the destruction of the Jewish state.

On the other hand, what would happen if Palestinian leaders return to negotiations? If they reach a peace deal with Israel that gives Palestinians almost the entire West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, removes most Israeli settlements (except for the large settlement blocks that take about 1.5% of the West Bank), and generously compensates Palestinian refugees?

First, that already happened – in the 2000 Camp David Summit! The result was that Palestinian President Yasser Arafat rejected the Israeli offer and did not propose any counter-offer. Two months later the Second Intifada broke out and claimed the lives of thousands of Palestinians and Israelis.

Second, any peace deal Palestinian leaders sign with Israel must be approved by a Palestinian referendum. The vast majority of Palestinians (over 80%) will reject any deal that does not include the “right of return” of millions of Palestinian refugees into Israel – something Israel will never agree to.

Thus, for both Palestinian and Arab leaders “peace” negotiations with Israel are merely the continuation of war by other means.

Both Palestinian leaders and the vast majority of the Palestinian public prefer to continue the conflict and to destroy the Jewish state, over achieving an end to the occupation, national independence, and peace.

Given the reality of Arab and Palestinian attitude toward Israel, the Middle East is unfortunately on a path to another war.

How then can the next outbreak of violence be prevented? Only if Arab and Palestinian leaders genuinely decide to end their hostility toward Israel, recognize the right of the Jewish state to exist, and address the legitimate grievances of both sides in the conflict.

Until then, it seems that Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir’s famous quote from 1957 is as true now as it was then:

“Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.”

The next post in the series will explain why there is such deep Arab hatred toward the Jewish state, and if it is justified.

Reading Continued Below:

The Arab-Israeli Conflict, Part I: Why Peace is Impossible

The Arab-Israeli Conflict, Part III: The Core of the Conflict

Geo Politics

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