The Los Angeles Times recently published a piece by PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi, titled: “Does Israel really want peace?” (The title on the Time’s website is the milder “Israeli actions jeopardize two-state solution.”) It’s a pretty typical specimen of its type, revealing the great truth that the “Palestinian narrative” is essentially untruthful.
But Ashrawi is a particularly skillful and subtle propagandist. She creates an aura of plausibility that could mislead the naïve reader. It is therefore worthwhile to carefully analyze her claims and accusations in some detail. The implicit answer to her question is, “no, Israel rejects peace.” But she achieves this conclusion only through misdirection and mistreating the facts.
She begins with: “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has reached a critical stage.” But we’ve heard this song before, many times. The conflict reaches a “critical stage” every couple of years without fail. The “critical stage” comes, then goes, and life totters on in the Middle East. What’s actually remarkable about the Palestinian situation is how stable it’s been. That’s what the Palestinians don’t like: They fear that people will realize that the world will keep spinning despite “the plight of the Palestinians.” What’s happening here is that the Palestinians repeatedly try to create an artificial sense of crisis to panic the U.S. into applying pressure on Israel. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s unrelated to any facts on the ground.
Ashrawi continues that the two-state solution is a two-decade old international consensus, but Israeli settlement construction will soon make this impossible.
Here are the facts. When the UN proposed a two-state solution in its 1947 partition plan, the Jews accepted it while the Palestinians and other Arabs rejected it. In the ensuing war, Jordan occupied the West Bank/Judea and Samaria, while Egypt occupied Gaza. The Arabs prevented the creation of a Palestinian state.
In 1964—when the “Palestinian territories” were in Arab hands—the PLO was created. The PLO was created not to liberate the “Palestinian territories” occupied by Jordan and Egypt, but to destroy Israel.
In 1967, Israel again defeated Arab aggression and seized Gaza and the West Bank/Judea and Samaria, and Sinai, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights for good measure. The government of Israel was willing to negotiate return of most of this acreage in exchange for peace. The Arab response from Khartoum was: No Recognition, No Negotiations, No Peace. Again, the Arabs had no interest in a two-state solution.
In 2000, in the context of the Oslo Accords, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Arafat a Palestinian state. Arafat summarily rejected it and initiated the Second Intifada, perhaps better named the Oslo War.
Thus, Ashrawi’s implication that the Palestinians embrace a two-state solution while the Israelis reject it is false.
Equally false is the assertion that the settlements will prevent a two-state solution from emerging. Israel will remove settlements for peace. Period. It has in the past. Israel evacuated all its Sinai settlements after signing a peace treaty with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, even though then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin had promised to retire to Sinai. In 2005, Israel unilaterally evacuated all the Jewish towns and villages in Gaza, in the hope that the Palestinians would take the opportunity to live peaceably next door. (It didn’t work out that way, thanks to Hamas.)
It is true that there is a hard core of lawless Jewish religious fanatics in the West Bank/Judea and Samaria who would resist evacuation. (This raises the question of the Palestinians’ racist demand that not one single Jew live in the territories they would control.) The Israeli government would have to deal with them firmly. Indeed, it should do so now. But the fanatics are a minority. The majority of Jewish residents in the West Bank/Judea and Samaria would leave in the context of a believable peace accord.
Back to Ashrawi. “There are half a million Israeli settlers living illegally in the West Bank and East Jerusalem . . . .” The idea that (1) the Jewish communities in the West Bank/Judea and Samaria are illegal, (2) because the land is Palestinian, has wide support but little basis.
Here are the facts. There has never been a Palestinian Arab state. The UN offered one to the Palestinians in 1947, but they said, “No, thanks.” On the other hand, in 1922 the League of Nations gave Britain a mandate in all of the country west of the Jordan River in order to create a Jewish homeland. Jordan’s 1948 occupation of part of that land was never recognized by any nations save Britain and Pakistan. Israel ended Jordan’s occupation in the 1967 war of national self-preservation. As between Israel and Jordan, Israel arguably has the better claim. (Despite the self-assurance with which some people bloviate, international law is not clear and straightforward on this point.)
If the claim is that the land is Palestinian because Palestinian Arabs live there, Jews live there too, and have lived there since Roman times. There were no Jews in the West Bank/Judea and Samaria between 1948 and 1967, but only because they were killed and driven out by the Arabs. There is no reason in logic or morality that this ethnic cleansing should be considered the norm or baseline for the West Bank/Judea and Samaria.
There’s much more, but you get the picture. Ashrawi’s version of reality is as distorted as a circus contortionist. The Palestinians have suffered—but it’s mostly self-inflicted, because of their refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state. The real question is, do the Palestinians really want peace?