The Real Obstacle to Middle East Peace? Let's Check the Record

Long before the Six Day War in 1967, beginning in the aftermath of Israel’s War of Independence in 1949, Israel called on the Arab world to make peace. Not only did the Arab world reject Israel’s pleas, but the Arab League imposed an economic boycott of Israel -- which is still in effect. Arab leaders and diplomats would walk out on any forum where Israelis participated. And in November 1967, in response to Israel’s call for peace and its willingness to negotiate the land it captured for a true peace, the Arab summit in Khartoum declared the famous "three nos": no to peace with Israel, no to negotiation with Israel, and no to recognition of Israel.

Arafat declined Barak and Clinton’s generous offer in July 2000 because he would not know what do in the context of peace. As a typical Arab dictator, he wouldn’t get involved in such “inglorious tasks” as providing housing for the refugees, creating a functioning and transparent economy, and dealing with opposition parties. Arafat enjoyed the glory of the revolutionary fighter and being the “rais” -- the boss. In the context of peace, Arafat and then Abbas demonstrated their apathy for the miserable conditions of most Palestinians. The tedious, day-to-day job of nation-building and addressing social and economic problems was not the line of work either Arafat or Abbas chose for themselves.

Arab dictatorships from Egypt to Syria do not strive for peace because they are not ready to tackle the problems that democratic governments must handle. These dictators seek absolute power over their people. Peace with Israel would mean that the single external scapegoat the Arab dictators have used since 1948 would be gone, and now they would have to deliver a better life for their people or be gone as well. Mubarak, Assad, Arafat, and Abbas are or were ready for that. Moreover, for Arafat and Abbas, the goal has not been to rule over a tiny state, but to destroy the Jewish state and reclaim it as Palestine.

To any honest observer untainted by anti-Semitic prejudice, a review of the facts makes it quite apparent which party in the Middle East conflict has made sacrifices for peace. Israel returned territory to Egypt for a cold non-belligerency -- hardly a peace. Israel ceded territory to Arafat and Abbas, receiving nothing in return except terror, violence, incitement, and hate. Israel has withdrawn from southern Lebanon, only to be attacked by Hezbollah’s rockets.

Israel is a thriving democracy with a developed economy and a vibrant society. In short, Israel is a success story. Conversely, the Palestinian Authority and the Arab countries are failed states -- civil and human rights do not exist, religious freedom exists only for Muslims, and economic transparency is a distant dream.

It is less than genuine for President Obama to declare that “Jewish settlements” are obstacles to peace, when Abbas would not even make a goodwill gesture of recognizing Israel as the Jewish state. The only obstacle to peace in the Middle East is the nature of Arab and Palestinian regimes. Only the installation of democracy, human rights, religious freedom, and economic transparency in the Arab (Palestinian) sphere can deliver a lasting peace, and Obama is clearly not pursuing such a goal.