Peace talks can achieve nothing at this time, so why not consider other options?
by Moshe Dann
Insisting that the Palestinian Authority engage in negotiations rather than appeal to the United Nations for recognition is based on the belief that an agreement that will end the conflict is possible. However, both sides know that Israel cannot offer anything that will satisfy Palestinian demands and that the Palestinians refuse to agree to minimal Israeli requests.
Why then pretend they will? If the emperor has no clothes, why call for a fashion designer?
The idea that creating a second Arab Palestinian state will solve the problem not only defies reality, it prevents other options and undermines Israel's legitimate claims.
Why not consider other options? Because anything less than a Palestinian state and full sovereignty negates the Arab resistance movement that has sought Israel's destruction for the last 63 years.
Variations of a "two-state solution" – "land for peace,” which produced the Oslo Accords and fueled Palestinian demands for statehood - assumed the conflict was over territory ("the occupation"), not Israel's existence. And both Israeli and Arab negotiators at the time were careful to avoid core issues, which would have blocked an agreement and since then have remained to haunt and destroy.
After Israel broke the terrorist infrastructure, allowing modest cooperation, despite ongoing terrorism - and with Arafat no longer around - there seemed to be hope. But Hamas’ rise, a massive campaign of de-legitimization financed by Arabs and many European countries, a hostile US Administration, and spreading unrest throughout the Arab world have radically shifted the balance against Israel. Nothing can be taken for granted any more - even solemn peace treaties and international agreements.
The lid is off and the pot is boiling over.
The belief that Palestinian Arabs deserve a state is a powerful idea; if so, why not give it to them? And if negotiations will not lead to that state, why engage in them? For Israel, the illusion of negotiations buys time in the hope for recognition and acceptance; for the Arabs, negotiations only postpone their goal – Palestinian statehood and Israel’s elimination.
Alternative to 2-state plan
The problem is what constitutes that state; what are its permanent borders, can it be stable and will it end claims against Israel and end the conflict? Arab leaders have refused to commit to any answers - leaving the problems open, and the possibility of future violence a clear and present danger.
The only way Israel can rescue itself from this self-defeating position and avoid another policy failure is by offering an alternative to the "two-state" plan for another Palestinian state. This assumes that Israel must act in its self interest, independent of what Palestinian Arabs do, or don't do. It removes decision-making from the prison of false promises and addictive hopes to doing what is necessary to ensure Jewish survival.
Policy makers need to confront what is, not what they would like. That means understanding what Arab and Palestinian leaders really want, and how they try to get it.
For Arabs, it is about recognition and legitimacy for Hamas as a negotiating partner; it is about "the Nakba" of 1948 – the establishment of Israel and "the occupations" of 1949, and 1967. It is about core issues: "the Palestinian Right of Return," "al Quds" (Jerusalem), and complete Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria – for starters.
Since the Oslo Accords, Israeli diplomats, led by Shimon Peres, made a Palestinian state the cornerstone of Israeli policy. That has been a proven mistake. It led directly to the Palestinian bid for international recognition. Instead of reducing Palestinian Arab demands, it inflated them. Instead of moving towards accommodation, it led to conflict. Rather than promote reality, it encouraged the fantasy of Israel's demise.
As visions of a new Middle East sink into quicksand swamps of revolutions and counter revolutions throughout the Arab world, those concerned about Israel's survival must focus not only on the dangers of a Palestinian state, but Israel's needs.
Israeli policy can remain committed to peace without another Palestinian state. This requires a paradigm shift, a bold and imaginative new direction based on Jewish and Israeli – not Palestinian - sovereignty. This policy entails refuting charges of "illegal occupation," "illegitimate settlements," racism, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing. These accusations cannot be avoided by shifting attention to Israeli achievements in technology and science.
Shifting the focus from external form – statehood and symbols – to internal substance – values, purpose and transparency - moves the question to fundamentals: Will a Palestinian state be a force for stability and safety, or a combustible mixture primed to explode?
Advocates for another Palestinian state need to explain why those who are concerned about Israel's survival and regional peace need not be worried. Only then can negotiations become a play instead of a ploy.
The author is a PhD historian, writer and journalist living in Israel
More Quotes About "Palestine"
"There is no such country as Palestine. 'Palestine' is a term the Zionists invented. There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria. 'Palestine' is alien to us. It is the Zionists who introduced it".
- Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, Syrian Arab leader to British Peel Commission, 1937 -
"There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not".
- Professor Philip Hitti, Arab historian, 1946 -
"It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but Southern Syria".
- Representant of Saudi Arabia at the United Nations, 1956 -
Concerning the Holy Land, the chairman of the Syrian Delegation at the Paris Peace Conference in February 1919 stated:
"The only Arab domination since the Conquest in 635 c.e. hardly lasted, as such, 22 years".
"There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent (valley of Jezreel, Galilea); not for thirty miles in either direction... One may ride ten miles hereabouts and not see ten human beings. For the sort of solitude to make one dreary, come to Galilee... Nazareth is forlorn... Jericho lies a mouldering ruin... Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and humiliation... untenanted by any living creature... A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds... a silent, mournful expanse... a desolation... We never saw a human being on the whole route... Hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil had almost deserted the country... Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes... desolate and unlovely...".
- Mark Twain, "The Innocents Abroad", 1867 -
"In 1590 a 'simple English visitor' to Jerusalem wrote: 'Nothing there is to bescene but a little of the old walls, which is yet remayning and all the rest is grasse, mosse and weedes much like to a piece of rank or moist grounde'.".
- Gunner Edward Webbe, Palestine Exploration Fund,
Quarterly Statement, p. 86; de Haas, History, p. 338 -
"The land in Palestine is lacking in people to till its fertile soil".
- British archaeologist Thomas Shaw, mid-1700s -
"Palestine is a ruined and desolate land".
- Count Constantine François Volney, XVIII century French author and historian -
"The Arabs themselves cannot be considered but temporary residents. They pitched their tents in its grazing fields or built their places of refuge in its ruined cities. They created nothing in it. Since they were strangers to the land, they never became its masters. The desert wind that brought them hither could one day carry them away without their leaving behind them any sign of their passage through it".
- Comments by Christians concerning the Arabs in Palestine in the 1800s -
"Then we entered the hill district, and our path lay through the clattering bed of an ancient stream, whose brawling waters have rolled away into the past, along with the fierce and turbulent race who once inhabited these savage hills. There may have been cultivation here two thousand years ago. The mountains, or huge stony mounds environing this rough path, have level ridges all the way up to their summits; on these parallel ledges there is still some verdure and soil: when water flowed here, and the country was thronged with that extraordinary population, which, according to the Sacred Histories, was crowded into the region, these mountain steps may have been gardens and vineyards, such as we see now thriving along the hills of the Rhine. Now the district is quite deserted, and you ride among what seem to be so many petrified waterfalls. We saw no animals moving among the stony brakes; scarcely even a dozen little birds in the whole course of the ride".
- William Thackeray in "From Jaffa To Jerusalem", 1844 -
"The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore its greatest need is of a body of population".
- James Finn, British Consul in 1857 -
"The area was underpopulated and remained economically stagnant until the arrival of the first Zionist pioneers in the 1880's, who came to rebuild the Jewish land. The country had remained "The Holy Land" in the religious and historic consciousness of mankind, which associated it with the Bible and the history of the Jewish people. Jewish development of the country also attracted large numbers of other immigrants - both Jewish and Arab. The road leading from Gaza to the north was only a summer track suitable for transport by camels and carts... Houses were all of mud. No windows were anywhere to be seen... The plows used were of wood... The yields were very poor... The sanitary conditions in the village [Yabna] were horrible... Schools did not exist... The rate of infant mortality was very high... The western part, toward the sea, was almost a desert... The villages in this area were few and thinly populated. Many ruins of villages were scattered over the area, as owing to the prevalence of malaria, many villages were deserted by their inhabitants".
- The report of the British Royal Commission, 1913 -