The ZOA has for years opposed the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state. Under prevailing conditions of ongoing Palestinian incitement to hatred and murder, demand for a judenrein Palestinian state and the so-called ‘right of return’ of Palestinian refugees and their millions of descendants to Israel; erasure and denial of Jewish history; assaults on Israel in international organizations, encouragement of terrorism and glorification of its practitioners, living and dead, such a state would simply prove a rogue, terror-sponsoring failed state, incapable of bringing peace.
Earlier this year, this fact emerged clearly in a Knesset debate–– not the usual place one expects to find common ground between competing parties. In a Knesset debate, despite the customary efforts of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Labor Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog to differentiate their political positions, it emerged that actually both oppose creating a Palestinian state under prevailing conditions.
Some on the left have asserted peace-making is impossible because both side are too timid. Mr. Herzog even said, “The vision of two states is not dead, but it won’t happen tomorrow, surely not as long as you and [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] are afraid to make a move.”
Two aspects of this statement are noteworthy.
First, Palestinians are not reconciled to the idea that a Jewish state can and will exist alongside a Palestinian one. This is reflected in Palestinian polling.
Thus, a March 2016 Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research poll showed that by 58% to 39% Palestinians themselves believe that the Palestinian Authority (PA) does not support Israel’s right to exist. A Jerusalem Media and Communication Center poll the same months showed that a clear majority of 60% of Palestinian Arabs support the continuation of the current wave of terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians that has been ongoing since September 2015.
Add to that that a June 2015 Palestine Center for Public Opinion poll found that 49% of Palestinians seek a Palestine in place of Israel, while only 29% seek one alongside Israel –– and even many of those who seek a neighboring state do not accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state: 88% of Palestinians say Jews have no rights to the land at all.
Second, the assertion that the Israeli government, like Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA), is “afraid” to move on peace highlights the method with which many on the left cling to the talisman of creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel, irrespective of the conditions on the Palestinian side. As the polls show, it is a matter of Palestinian conviction, not fear, that prevents a peace settlement.
The truth is that successive Israeli governments, Likud and Labor, have all “made a move” in favor of concessions to the PA, sometimes unilaterally, in the hope of securing an eventual agreement.
Israeli governments in 2000 and 2008 both advanced proposals for Palestinian statehood throughout Gaza and virtually all of the West Bank, including eastern Jerusalem, only to have encountered a PA refusal to accept the plan or to propose an alternative one.
The Netanyahu government offered unconditional talks and even unilaterally halted Jewish construction in Judea/Samaria just to get the PA to come to the negotiating table. The PA did so –– for two meetings in just a single week, more than six years ago.
It is surely obvious that peace is not the problem of Israeli reluctance and fears, thoroughly justified as these are. Were the PA willing to negotiate a peace agreement today, the Israeli government, whatever its justified misgivings about Palestinian intentions, would feel almost duty-bound to act on this and negotiate a peace settlement.
In short, there is no fear of acting; merely justified lack of faith, given the demonstrable facts of Palestinian rejection of the legitimacy and permanence of Israeli statehood and Jewish national existence, of which it is worth reminding ourselves:
PA maps, official stationery, atlases and two recent PA-commissioned Fatah emblems depict all Israel as ‘Palestine.’
In April 2009, regarding recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, Abbas declared, “I will not accept it.”
In July 2010, Abbas told Arab journalists, “If you want war, and if all of you will fight Israel, we are in favor.”
During September-October 2011, the PA ambassador to Iran, Salah Zawawi, the PA ambassador to Brazil, Alzeben Ibrahim, and the former PA ambassador to Lebanon, Abbas Zaki, all declared publicly that Israel will be destroyed.
In July 2013, Abbas, reiterating a position he had enunciated already in 2010, stated, “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli –– civilian or soldier –– on our lands.” In March 2014, Abbas reiterated that he will neither accept Israel as a Jewish state, nor conclude a comprehensive peace if it means signing an ‘end of claims’ clause.
In January 2014, Abbas declared that, even if a Palestinian state is established, there would be no compromise or relinquishing of the deal-breaking ‘right of return’ which, if implemented, would end Israel as a Jewish state.
In March 2014, Abbas reiterated that he will neither accept Israel as a Jewish state, nor conclude a comprehensive peace if it means signing an ‘end of claims’ clause.
In June 2014, Abbas’ sought out a new alliance with Hamas, whose Charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews.
In September 2015, Abbas incited a wave of terrorism when he spokeof a wholly imaginary “fierce attack taking place against the Al-Aqsa Mosque” and then, in a speech broadcast on PA TV, declaimed that “The Al-Aqsa [Mosque] is ours … and [the Jews] have no right to defile it with their filthy feet … We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem … blood spilled for Allah.”
PA or Israeli fear of “making a move” on Palestinian statehood is not the issue: Palestinian refusal to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state is however the very heart of the problem.
This is a message which few of Israel’s supporters were willing to confront or convey to the Obama Administration. I can assure you that the ZOA will be doing this with the incoming Administration from day one. We will work with all our supporters for a new policy that is conditioned upon recognizing this basic, paramount, inescapable reality.
Morton A Klein is national president, Zionist Organization of America.
This article was published by the Jewish Journal and may be found here.