NEW YORK (JTA) – Though Israelis and Palestinians have been involved in ongoing negotiations since 1993, terrorism has increased and casualties have mounted. Nearly 2,000 Israelis have been killed and more than 10,000 maimed.
So why do some people persist in urging still more negotiations?
It’s because they believe two things: The absence of a Palestinian state is the cause of the continuing conflict, and such negotiations can produce a Palestinian state and therefore peace.
Wrong on both counts. Under prevailing conditions, negotiations will not create a peaceful Palestinian state and in any event, Palestinian statehood is not the issue.
Palestinians were offered statehood in 1937 (the Peel Royal Commission), 1947 (the United Nations Partition Plan) and 2000 (the Clinton-Barak plan). The proposals were rejected.
Rather the issue was, and remains, Palestinian non-acceptance of Israel within any borders. Only this year, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued a new P.A. emblem showing Israel covered with a Palestinian headdress labeled “Palestine” with a Kalashnikov rifle next to it. Abbas has stated publicly that Hamas and others do not have to recognize Israel.
After the Palestinian Authority was established in 1994, Yasser Arafat readied Palestinians for war and confrontation, not peace. After receiving the highest per capita international aid, the Palestinian Authority spent it on building the largest per capita militia in the world and hidden arsenals, not industrial parks and development projects.
Instead of educating Palestinian youth for peace, a cult of suicide bombing and “martyrdom” was inculcated and its practitioners glorified by P.A. leaders. Thousands of their pictures and posters were plastered throughout the Palestinian Authority calling them heroes.
Only recently, Abbas lowered Palestinian flags to half mast and declared three days of mourning when veteran PLO terrorist George Habash died. When Israel released this year perhaps the most vile of terrorists, Samir Kuntar – a man who had crushed the life out of a small girl with a rock after murdering her father before her eyes – Abbas personally sent congratulations to Kuntar’s family and later met him on a visit to Beirut.
In the P.A.-controlled media, mosques, schools and youth camps, incitement to hatred and murder of Jews and glorification of terrorism as a religious and national duty is routine. To this day, P.A. maps and atlases pretend Israel does not exist; P.A.-salaried clerics call for murdering “the sons of monkeys and pigs”; TV and radio, popular songs and poetry extol the glories of suicide attacks; textbooks teach that Israel is a Nazi-like state; and streets, sports teams and schools are named in honor of suicide bombers.
In short, more than their own state, Palestinians want victory in the form of Israel’s demise.
Nor is this only a matter of the Palestinian leadership, whether Fatah or Hamas, both of which call in their respective charters for the elimination of Israel and the use of terrorism. Rather this goal is something that is reflected repeatedly in Palestinian opinion.
A poll by An-Najah National University in May showed a clear majority of Palestinians rejecting statehood alongside Israel. Two months earlier, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 84 percent of Palestinians supported the terrorist attack on the Jerusalem yeshiva that killed eight Jewish students. The same poll showed that 64 percent of Palestinians support missile attacks on Israel.
Despite this evidence, many prefer to believe that Israeli occupation is the core issue and that creating a Palestinian state will produce peace by ending it. This, too, makes no sense. It is simply a flat-earth statement to describe Judea, Samaria and Gaza as occupied.
Article 6 of the Fourth Geneva Convention defines foreign power as “occupier” “to the extent that such Power exercises the functions of government in such territory.” Yet since 1993, Israel relinquished to the Palestinian Authority all of Gaza and about half of Judea and Samaria, along with administrative functions and 98 percent of the Palestinian population.
These territories are now ruled by Palestinian regimes, Israel’s writ no longer runs there, nor does it any longer maintain law and order in the territories in question. By no stretch of the imagination can these territories be described as occupied. Such Israeli military incursions within them occur as a function of continuing terrorism and would end if the terrorism ended.
In short, occupation is not the issue and Palestinian statehood has never been the answer. Only when Palestinians demonstrate acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state will negotiations produce peace, not bloodshed.
(Morton Klein is the national president of the Zionist Organization of America.)