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Israeli flag waving in the wind

Essay: Overriding Obstacle

Palestinians stymie their statehood bid by delegitimizing Israel.

The vaunted two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict hinges on a joint willingness to negotiate, compromise and truly change.

Desirable as that solution is, it will remain a pipedream without a concurrent shift in attitude and action by both sides.

A new dynamic could derive from coexistence and enlightenment somehow curtailing not only the Palestinian terror and demonizing that’s targeting Israel, but also Israel’s settlement growth in and military occupation of the West Bank.

Internationally, Palestinians imagine the West Bank, part of Eretz Yisrael, the biblical Land of Israel, as the centerpiece of their hoped-for sovereign state. That state would include the Gaza Strip and, as imagined, have the Arab-dominated eastern sector of Jerusalem as its capital.

But not only have the Palestinians rejected at least six previous brokered offers of statehood, they also have shown no inclination to reconstitute a culture teaching its young to despise anyone or anything Zionist. Even with reconstitution, it would take two generations to dramatically alter Palestinian cultural belief toward Israel, the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people.

Hurdles Abound

The Palestinians aren’t helped by the terrorist organization Hamas ruling from Gaza City and the corrupt government of Fatah, under the guise of the Palestinian Authority (P.A.), controlling Palestinian areas of the West Bank.

Israel has muddied the situation by continually expanding settlements despite international backing for (yet another) halt in hopes that would sway the P.A. to talk once more.

Conditions aren’t right for Israel to relax its land, sea and air blockades of Gaza or its checkpoints into and out of the West Bank. Israel must maintain a qualitative edge in defense of its borders and its people. Hamas, by charter, is plainly committed to Israel’s destruction. And Fatah, Israel’s supposed peace partner, promotes “martyrdom for Allah” by defiantly paying salaries to terrorists imprisoned by Israel and to surviving families of so-called “martyrs.” These official P.A. payouts often originated as international donations meant for the Palestinian people.

While the P.A. and Fatah seem to acknowledge Israel internationally, they don’t, in truth, recognize existence of
the Jewish state.

The United States has injected itself headlong into the decades-old conflict through a series of diplomatic moves branded by the Palestinians as favoring Israel. With justification, the White House recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. But President Donald Trump put ordinary Palestinians at higher risk via a steep pullback in U.S. humanitarian support.

At present, there’s a better chance of renewed peace talks if initially brokered by such Arab League Sunni Muslim nations as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan than by the U.S., Israel’s chief ally, or the United Nations, known for relentless anti-
Israel resolutions.

Foundering Fatah

As a starting point, the Palestinians demand a fresh round of talks based on pre-1967 borders. While those borders would leave it dangerously vulnerable, Israel could overlook the demand until final-status negotiations resumed, demonstrating its respect for the process, if it thought Fatah in practice recognized Israel as the Jewish state.

His power has receded, but Mahmoud Abbas, 82, still heads both Fatah and the P.A. He fractiously seeks legitimacy of statehood arising from international conventions, treaties and declarations than via direct, bilateral talks with Israel. And he has failed to deliver a reunification agreement with Hamas, leaving the Gaza Strip in limbo in any statehood discussion. Hamas ousted Fatah from Gaza in 2007 and would gladly engage its nemesis in war once more if it felt the prize for victory was the West Bank — another pathway for Sunni Muslim Hamas to attack Israel.

What’s Real

In a Sept. 28 bulletin, Israel-based Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reinforced a gripping, understated reality. While the P.A. and Fatah seem to acknowledge Israel internationally (particularly a Palestinian-Israeli joint security arrangement in the West Bank) they don’t, in truth, recognize existence of the Jewish state.

No matter what their leaders say through the illusion of diplomacy, affirms PMW, Palestinians on the street learn through school texts, news reports, social media, public pronouncements, religious sermons and sports tournaments that the perceived state of “Palestine” includes “all of Israel along with the P.A. areas.” PMW cites P.A. maps and puzzles devoid of Israel within any borders.

Consider the popular Islamist refrain, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free.” A state of “Palestine” ranging from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, of course, would swallow Israel.

PMW asserts that both the P.A. and Fatah “do their utmost to convince Palestinians that all of Israel was, is and will remain ‘Palestine’.” The message denying Israel’s existence and portraying Israeli cities such as Haifa and Tzfat as Palestinian comes “from the top” — meaning Abbas and his cronies.

On Fatah’s official Facebook page Sept. 20, PMW reports, Abbas boasted, “I say to all of them that freedom will come, without any shadow of a doubt, and the fate of the occupation is to come to an end.” “Freedom” here certainly seems a euphemism for erasing Israel — and not just from maps.

After its September review on the 25th anniversary of the 1993 Oslo Accords, PMW concluded that since their signing by Israel and Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Palestinian leaders have continued to tell the Palestinian people that Oslo’s intent “is to increase the land under Palestinian control in stages. Israel will eventually disappear and be replaced by ‘Palestine’.”

That corroded way of thinking by the PLO, chief international negotiator for the Palestinian people and chaired by a now politically emasculated Mahmoud Abbas, may be the single strongest detriment to rekindling peace talks between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

Robert Sklar

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