After continually walking away from the negotiating table and resorting to violence, the Palestinians have come to the point where their bad behavior will not be rewarded.
By Sarah N. Stern, JNS
Sitting in the East Room of the White House last week, I experienced an emotion as close to euphoria as I have ever experienced perhaps in my lifetime. I was finally beginning to witness that moment in history when some rather fatal delusions that the international community has held dear for decades were finally beginning to erode, at least within certain quarters of the United States.
I have been more than a passive player in the history of trying to expose the truth about the real intentions of the Palestinian Authority. I have witnessed their duplicitous game of talking peace in English and in Arabic, inciting their children to hatred and violence.
I have seen the Palestinians “play” the international community to engender world sympathy and receive billions of dollars in donations, simultaneously eroding the community’s belief in the rightness of Israel’s cause, while eroding that belief in some circles within Israel.
I have become close friends with many parents whose children have been lost in suicide-bombings, knife-stabbings and car-rammings, and had been revolted when I heard diplomats from both sides of the Atlantic cavalierly dismiss the profound pain of their losses, calling them, euphemistically, “sacrifices for peace.”
I have always felt that the greatest litmus test of Palestinian intentions is what they teach their children and have seen that their textbooks incite towards violence, demonize Jews and teach them maps with all of Israel, calling it “Palestine.”
I have kept some notes throughout. Just one example:
On July 24, 2000, the day that the Camp David talks between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Palestinian Liberation Organization chairman Arafat and U.S. President Bill Clinton broke up, I was in the audience at a prominent Washington think tank—the Washington Institute for Near East Policy—when Attorney General Elyakim Rubenstein, who had been with the Israeli negotiating team, came to address the group.
“I can look every one of you in the eye,” he told his audience, “and I can assure you, we went as far as any responsible Israeli government could possibly go. In fact,” he continued, “what we offered was so breathtaking that many would argue that we weren’t acting like a responsible government. The terms were simply incredible for Arafat,” mused Rubenstein, almost as though he was still trying to digest the news of the day’s events, trying to make some sort of sense of it.
“What we offered was shared sovereignty of Jerusalem, with the Palestinians maintaining control of the Temple Mount, or the Haram el Sharrif. We would give back 95 percent of the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] and all of Gaza, and offer a land swap within the Negev for the five per cent that would not be returned. We would dismantle all of the Jordan Valley settlements, which have always been our eyes and ears to the east. And finally: We were offering a ‘right of return’ for thousands of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war, and a compensatory package for those who could not be absorbed.
“Many of our delegation are right now, in their limousines, on the way to the airport, crying. We felt that if we just made Chairman Arafat an offer that was so good, he couldn’t refuse it, he wouldn’t.
“In fact, many could argue that this offer was so generous, it wasn’t responsible for us to offer it.
“Well, he didn’t say ‘yes,’ and he didn’t say ‘no.’ He simply walked away from the table.”
That was almost two decades ago.
After that offer came an even more generous one in 2008 from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas. This included giving the Palestinians the entirety of Judea and Samaria, (the West Bank), with eastern Jerusalem, and placing the old city with the Western Wall under international control.
Again, the Palestinian leader walked away from the table. Each time, the response to these exceedingly generous offers was met by a renewed round of violence, resulting in more than 1,000 Israeli fatalities.
The Palestinians have never once accepted the right of the Jewish people to have a sovereign state. They have never once abided by the basic premise that the Oslo Accords were conditioned upon the total abdication of violence and incitement to terrorism
Yet the same, tired, old, stale thinking was recycled. The international community, as well as the United States, under every other president would come back with a more and more generous offer for the Palestinians.
Each time, Israel was denied the chance to have defensible borders—something that is absolutely essential, particularly in the volatile Middle East.
Trump Plan is Different
But this plan is different. It gives Israel, for the very first time, real, defensible borders with the natural topographic boundary of the Jordan Valley—something so important in an age of increasing Iranian hegemony.
It does not erase the Jewish people’s history or claim to the holy sites. It demands that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. It demands that the Palestinians abolish the incitement in the textbooks. It calls for the end of the revolting “pay-for-slay program,” incentivizing terrorism with greater payments for the greater number of Israelis they murder. And it calls for something that the Arab world has found very difficult to do since 1948: accept the reality of Israel as a Jewish state.
It would give the Palestinians 70 percent of the West Bank and $50-plus billion in investment in an economic infrastructure to build institutions of democracy, and for an educational path so their people can climb out of the cycle of poverty and self-imposed victimhood.
This time, Abbas would not even take Trump’s phone call, calling him “a dirty dog,” among other worse epithets.
But this time, the Palestinians will have to learn that the patience of the international community is not infinite. For once, time is not on their side. After continually walking away from the negotiating table and resorting to violence, they have come to the point where their bad behavior will not be rewarded. They will have to learn that Israel is here to stay and cannot be wished away. The Palestinians will have to learn that by refusing to negotiate in real faith, they are losing, both figuratively and literally, the ground that they have been planning to be standing on.
Sarah N. Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy institute in Washington, D.C.