Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Abbas: Arabs in Israel; No Jews in Palestine. By Jonathan S. Tobin.

Abbas: Arabs in Israel; No Jews in Palestine. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, July 30, 2013.

“Palestine” without Jews. By Herb Keinon. NJBR, July 31, 2013.

Why Israel Has No Negotiating Partner. By Benjamin Weinthal. National Review Online, July 30, 2013.

Abbas and the “Peace Process.” By Ahmed Feteha. Wall Street Journal, July 31, 2013.

The Real Palestinian Vision. By Emanuele Ottolenghi. Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2011.


While in Cairo yesterday to meet with Egypt’s new leaders, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas let drop a few remarks about the peace negotiations with Israel that began in Washington last night. As the Times of Israel reports, Abbas left no doubt about what his vision of peace entails:
“In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli — civilian or soldier — on our lands,” Abbas said following a meeting with interim Egyptian President Adly Mansour in Cairo.
The statement provoked little comment in the Western press, and no wonder. Most of the mainstream media has long accepted the Palestinian formulation that sees the presence of Israelis in the West Bank and Jerusalem as the primary obstacle to peace with the Palestinians. From this frame of reference, the peace equation is simple. No Israelis in Palestine means the conflict disappears. Therefore the sole object of peace negotiations is to leverage Israelis out of the areas that were illegally occupied by Jordan from 1948 to 1967.

But the problem here is not just that this is an absurd distortion of reality that ignores Jewish rights and security needs. The Abbas statement provides some important context for the key Israeli demand that the Palestinians refuse to accept: PA acknowledgement of the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state. If Palestinians think there is something racist about Israel being accepted as the sole Jewish state in the world, why is it OK for them to envision an independent state of their own where Jewish communities would have to be destroyed and their inhabitants be evicted?

Peace processers and Israel’s critics claim this reasoning is nit-picking, but this actually goes to the heart of the problem that Secretary of State John Kerry and his aide Martin Indyk are trying to unravel in the negotiations they have worked so hard to bring about.

The Palestinian position remains that specific acceptance on their part of Israel as a Jewish state would undermine the rights of the Arab minority inside the pre-1967 lines and force them to make a judgment about the country’s internal arrangements. But the whole point of the conflict since its beginnings a century ago has always been the Arab rejection of the return of the Jews to their ancient homeland. If Palestinians are determined to create an independent state where there are no Jews, why then are they so afraid of agreeing that their neighbors will be a Jewish state?

The reason for this is no mystery.

More than any compromise on borders, accepting Israel as a Jewish state would be an open acknowledgement that the conflict is finished. It would mean the descendants of the Palestinian refugees of 1948 would have to be resettled elsewhere and all terrorism and efforts to erase Israel inside its contracted borders would cease.

The demand for recognition of a Jewish state is often represented as something new created by Prime Minister Netanyahu in order to make peace more difficult to achieve. But it should be remembered that the original United Nations partition resolution of 1947 spoke of the country being specifically divided between a Jewish state and an Arab one, not Israel and “Palestine.” The effort to deny the right of the Jewish people to a sovereign state in their own land is an act of prejudice since no other group in the world is treated in this manner.

It is true that in the unlikely event that the Palestinians ever agree to peace on any terms, Israel will be anxious to evacuate any Jews currently living in territory from which they will withdraw. The reason for this is also no puzzle. Any Jews left behind in Arab lands would last as long as the greenhouses left behind in Gaza when Israel left that region in 2005. No one, not even the United States, could guarantee the safety of any Jew—whether a peace-loving leftist or a hard-core right-wing settler—living in a Palestinian state.

But that’s the conundrum of the whole peace process. Even though it is the national state of the Jewish people, religious and ethnic minorities have full rights in Israel. What Abbas is asking for is for Israel to be a bi-national state of Jews and Arabs while Palestine would be a solely Arab nation.

If Palestinian society were ever to evolve to the point where Jews could live in peace under Arab rule, then peace would be possible without any major effort from the secretary of state. So long as Abbas is promising to evict the Jews from Palestine, he has no right to reject Israel’s demand that he recognize that Israel is a Jewish state and that this cannot be reversed by future negotiations, the influx of refugees, or new wars. His refusal to do so will ensure that the talks Kerry has convened will be nine months of wasted effort.


The Obama administration is busy renewing its push for Middle East peace talks and the Europeans aren’t far behind. But how can these talks succeed when the Palestinians clearly don't support democratic ideals?

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told the Arab League late last month that the future Palestinian state should be free of all Israelis, noting that their eviction could take place “in stages.” Although he didn’t explicitly single out Jews, there are few Christian, Druze and Muslim Israeli citizens living in the West Bank and Gaza. His message couldn’t be clearer: a Palestinian state will be Judenrein, or free of Jews.

This is a disturbing vision, to say the least. No one who knows Mr. Abbas’s history, however, should be surprised: He is a Palestinian nationalist who once wrote a thesis denying the Holocaust, and has shown little interest in a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mr. Abbas’s statement should have incurred a harsh response from Western supporters of Palestinian independence, starting with the European Union, whose official Middle East policy calls for an “independent, democratic, viable Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel and its other neighbors.” Instead, Brussels was silent. And now, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is trying to coerce both sides to the negotiating table.

But this, too, is historically consistent. The EU has a terrible human-rights record in the Middle East, though its policy makers like to proclaim otherwise. Until recently, Brussels has been a strong financial and rhetorical supporter of Bashir Assad’s Syrian regime. Despite Mr. Assad’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy supporters, EU members retain their ambassadors in Damascus. The same goes for Bahrain. There is no EU democracy promotion in Saudi Arabia. Given such a record, Europe’s commitment to a democratic Palestine amounts to little more than empty rhetoric.

The same can be said for the U.S. and President Obama, who has only tepidly supported Israel as a democratic partner. The president gave a speech on the Middle East last month proposing that the “borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promptly rejected that idea, noting those borders aren’t defensible. For their part, the Palestinians long ago rejected the idea of a land swap. So much for U.S. policy leadership.

Israelis harbor no illusions about Palestine’s democratic credentials. The Israeli government has always been adamant that no Israeli citizens would be left behind a future border. Israelis remember well the fate of Jews under Muslim rule in the past: Even when protected by benevolent rulers, Jews often encountered persecution, expulsion and the occasional wholesale massacre. Under Muslim rule, access to holy places was restricted, and many were desecrated and destroyed.

Why would it be different this time? More often than not, minorities’ fate in the Middle East has been bloody and cruel. Shia suffer under Sunni rule and vice versa; Berbers and Kurds have never enjoyed the rights claimed for Palestinians; Christians are under attack everywhere in the region except Israel; Iran persecutes its Bahai, Christian and Jewish minorities; Turkey refuses to recognize its own Kurdish minority; and even in Lebanon, democratic tolerance is in decline.

The U.S. and EU, as Western democracies, profess to hold those values dear. But a state that aspires to be free of Jews cannot be a democracy. Any talks that pretend otherwise are simply foolish.