When Will the Palestinians Make 'Painful Concessions' for Peace?

During her visit to Israel on July 16, at meetings held with Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton pushed Israel to make gestures to strengthen the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, according to Israeli press reports.  Once again, the Obama administration is expecting Israel to make concessions that would entice the Palestinian president to return to the negotiating table, but what about parity?  What concessions, painful or otherwise, have the Palestinians been pushed to make?

Should Abbas be bribed monetarily by the Obama administration and its western allies to return to “peace” negotiations?  Will he be willing to compromise on the Palestinian right of return, or on recognizing Israel as the Jewish homeland?  The answer is no.

Addressing a joint session of the U.S. Congress on May 24, 2011, Benjamin Netanyahu declared that “We must… find a way to forge a lasting peace with the Palestinians, and that will mean painful concessions on Israel’s part that include ceding some places that are part of the Jewish homelands.”  The Palestinian response came fast and furious from Nabil Shaath, a top aide to Mahmoud Abbas.  Shaath told the Associated Press that the outlines of the peace deal described by Netanyahu constituted a “declaration of war.”

What exactly did Netanyahu propose that constituted, according to Shaath, a “declaration of war”? Netanyahu said that “Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel.” Netanyahu also alluded to President Obama’s statement that “Israel’s borders after any peace agreement will be different than they were before the 1967 war.”  Netanyahu proceeded to explain that the reason a peace agreement hasn’t been struck between Israel and the Palestinians is that the other side is “unwilling to accept a Palestinian state if it meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it.”  Netanyahu added: “It is time for the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to stand before his people and say ‘I will accept a Jewish state.’”

According to the AP, Shaath said that Netanyahu’s proposal ignores the Israeli-Arab borders that existed before the 1967 war — lines that Shaath alleged President Obama delineated in May 2011.

One principle features of a two-state solution is the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Another is providing Israel with secure, i.e., strategic, if not historical, boundaries.  That was the spirit and essence of UNSC Resolution 242, which premised “territories (not all) for peace.” However, it was an agreement directed at the Arab states and Israel, as the Palestinians were not even a party to it. Nowhere did UNSC Resolution 242 compel Israel to return to the June 4, 1967, borders; moreover, it conditioned Israeli withdrawal from captured territories on an Arab peace agreement and recognition of Israel.  Both Egypt and Jordan made peace with Israel and received all the captured territories.  It is interesting to note that in 1988, Jordan turned responsibility for negotiating the future of the West Bank over to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).

The Oslo Accords, which were signed at the White House lawn in 1993, specified a gradual return of Israeli-held territory to the PLO with Area A (Palestinian cities and towns) under full Palestinian control, Area B (rural areas) under Palestinian civil control and Israeli military control, and Area C (Israeli settlements with 350,000 Jews, and a sparsely populated area with less than 50,000 Palestinians) under full Israeli control. It further conditioned gradual Israeli withdrawal on the Palestinian Authority ceasing its murderous incitement against Israel and Jews in the mosques, media, and educational system.  The Accords also called for mutual recognition and the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. And it demanded that the PA eradicate the terrorist infrastructure and maintain a police force not an army.

Nearly 20 years have passed since the Oslo Accords were signed and the hateful Palestinian incitement, which manifests itself in brutal acts of violence, including the murder of five members of the Fogel family in the West Bank, continues unabated. The terrorist infrastructure in Hamas-controlled Gaza is stronger than ever, with the Islamic Republic of Iran providing Hamas with lethal weapons, training, and cash.

On a tour of Arab capitals, Mahmoud Abbas refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Ha’aretz reported on December 1, 2007. “Historically, there are two states — Israel and Palestinian. Israel has Jews and other people, and this we are ready to recognize, but nothing else,” the Israel radio quoted Abbas as saying shortly after he landed in Saudi Arabia after brief stops in Egypt and Jordan. On October 12, 2010, Ha’aretz quoted a Palestinian official as stating the “PA will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state.” PM Netanyahu proposed an Israeli freeze on settlements in exchange for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, to which Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said, Netanyahu’s demand “could never be accepted.”

To bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table, Israel has to make advance concessions such as a freeze on construction in Jerusalem and the Judea and Samaria Jewish communities.  Moreover, Israel has offered to release Palestinian prisoners convicted of terrorist attacks. The Times of Israel reported on July 10 that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered to release more than 100 Palestinian security prisoners in order to restart peace talks, but President Mahmoud Abbas partially rejected the offer. Part of the package Netanyahu offered Abbas would have provided the Palestinian security services with new weapons. Abbas demanded that the prisoners be released at once.

The U.S., Europeans, and the UN have pampered the Palestinians for years now, and it seems inconceivable that these “pillars of power” have ever considered asking what “painful concessions” the Palestinians should be offering for peace. Mahmoud Abbas, in an interview with the Jerusalem based Al-Quds Arab newspaper (September 2010), stated that he rejects Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that he recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He said the issue is “a ploy by Netanyahu to deny Arabs the right of return to their former homes in Israel.” To put it plainly, Abbas seeks to deny Israel its identity as a Jewish state while insisting on the Palestinian right of return, which is a formula for Israel’s destruction by demography.

In his book The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege, Kenneth Levin compares the Israeli political leadership to the “abused child” syndrome. The abused child believes that he is responsible for his parents’ abuse and that the only way to solve the problem is for him to behave nicely — thus providing him with the illusion that he is in control of the situation.  Similarly, Israel is under the illusion that by making unilateral concessions, peace with the Arab Palestinians will become a reality.  The political elites in Israel have dreamed up the notion that if only Israel withdraws from Gaza or Judea and Samaria, peace will reign.  The lessons of the failed Gaza withdrawal and the continued abuse of the Oslo Accords may be recognized by the Israelis, but have not been learned. The road to peace will be more solidly paved when Israel and the West demand that the Palestinians make “painful concessions” for peace.