PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST
A Pragmatic "Road Map" from Truth to Peace
by Salomon Benzimra, P.Eng.
Before we embark on a new round of peace talks, it seems appropriate to learn from the events that have besieged the Middle East since the failure of the Oslo process at Camp David in July 2000.
The recently disclosed "Road Map" proposed by the Bush Administration and actively pursued by the "Quartet"[i] should avoid the pitfalls that have marred previous peace negotiations. The relentless terrorist activities triggered by the Palestinians since the end of 2000 have created a new paradigm for any future negotiations. It would be unconscionable to dismiss these realities for the sake of reaching a hasty and fragile agreement between the parties.
Above all, a lasting peace can only be founded on TRUTH. Historic truth. Geographic truth. Up until now, the several attempts aimed at a rapprochement between Israel and its Arab neighbors have been crafted by diplomats bent on "constructive ambiguities." Recent history shows that such attempts have a short life span. Even the much-trumpeted peace between Egypt and Israel proved to be not much more than a very cold peace, if not a smoldering cease-fire.
In the words of Benjamin Disraeli, "Justice is truth in action." We cannot expect a just and lasting solution to the Middle-East problem as long as truth yields to distorted facts, and firm action is avoided to appease the aggressor.
Details were changed: the "Peace Process" became a "Road Map"; the timetable was extended; the list of participants was expanded. But as long as the foundations remain unchanged, failure is once more inevitable. The guiding principles of a lasting peace in the region require a thorough re-evaluation. The following thoughts ought to be considered.
1. Terrorism should never be rewarded:
Arabs and other groups seeking political advantage should be clearly shown the negative effects that any recourse to violence against civilians will have on their own cause. Rewarding Palestinian terrorism, especially in diplomatic negotiations, would be a scandalous precedent. Conscious of their achievements through terror, the "Palestinians" will not hesitate to start another campaign of violence, with the quasi certitude of gaining further concessions through a new round of "peace negotiations". This western "Munich mentality" must end: it is politically disastrous and morally reprehensible.
2. The Oslo Accords were fatally flawed:
In a thoughtful analysis of the Oslo Accords, Professor Codevilla[ii] notes the following points:
1. Specific concessions were made by the Israelis, in exchange for Palestinian promises, which were rarely kept.
2. Sheer determination by Israel and the U.S. to pursue the negotiations, fearing that the sought agreement might prove to be otherwise impossible to reach.
3. No effort was made "to ascertain that the objectives of the two parties are compatible," in a blatant departure from the basis of any political negotiation.
Launching a peace process with little or no attention to the deep feelings of the "Palestinian street," or the hidden agenda of its leaders, was a major mistake. The euphoria of a much welcome peace in the region masked the serious cracks in the structure of the "Peace Process." The persistent blindness of Israeli and western leaders was finally shattered by the unprecedented violence known as "the second intifada". However, the shortcomings of such a "Peace Process" were blatant from the start:
1. Non-enforcement of agreements (exceeded limits on the strength of the Palestinian police force, incitement in the media and in school books, persisting terror attacks, Palestinian Charter unchanged[xx]).
2. Why should Israel be the suitor for peace, when it has been the victor of more than one military offensive launched against it?
3. Why should the resolution of the "Palestinian question" rest only on Israel's shoulders, while the surrounding Arab nations played a major role in creating and exacerbating the problem? (See Section 4).
4. No mention of the final end to Arab hostility.
Israel made a major mistake in letting a terrorist organization -- the PLO -- metamorphose itself into an internationally recognized legal facade -- the PA -- with whom negotiations were undertaken. The "Quartet" seems to be on the path of perpetuating and aggravating this mistake by calling for the creation of a "Palestinian State" with little or no thought given to the justification, final borders, and ultimate goals of such a state. It is still time to correct this dead-end and avoid its disastrous consequences. But a thorough reassessment of the Middle East conflict is necessary.
3. Lies and misconceptions should be challenged:
The power of the word is far more resilient than one may think. Slogans are quickly born and they soon take all the trappings of absolute truth. They later become difficult to question, no matter how misleading or erroneous they may be, because they end up being deeply rooted in people's psyche. However, left unchallenged, truth cannot emerge and a lasting peace will remain forever elusive.
The "Palestinian" discourse is made of countless misconceptions and untruths. Most unfortunately, the world at large seems to have espoused these ideas, no matter how far-fetched, in its blind support of what is perceived as "the underdog struggling against a brutal occupation." Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The notion of a "Palestinian people" surfaced only in the late 1960s, after the Six Day War. Prior to 1967, the "West Bank" was annexed by Jordan and the Gaza strip administered by Egypt. During the 19 years following the creation of the State of Israel -- let alone during the previous British and Ottoman periods -- there has never been any mention of a "Palestinian people." No UN Resolution, up to and including Resolution 242 (1967), mentions the "Palestinian people."
It can be argued that for the past 35 years the "Palestinians" have had a different history than that of the surrounding Arabs. Is this enough to recognize them as a different people? After all, East Germans have also had a different history for 45 years, including a full-fledged government and international recognition, but no one would regard them now as nationally different from the other Germans living in the western part of the country. When the Berlin Wall fell and Germany was reunified, no one advocated the recognition of a separate East German people.
The prominent French historian Ernest Renan thought of a nation in terms of " . a soul, a spiritual principle. A common glory in the past, a common will for the future; to have done great things together -- to work to do them again -- these are the elements that compose a nation[iii]." There is no doubt that Arabs, as a whole, constitute a nation even though they have formed twenty-one different states. But can we see the "Palestinians" as a specific nation? On historical, linguistic, cultural, social, ethnic and religious grounds, what is it that differentiates them from their neighbors in Lebanon, Jordan, or Syria? Actually, in 1974, Syria's former President Hafez-el-Assad, although a PLO supporter in his fight against Israel, lifted all uncertainties in a remarkable definition: "Palestine is not only a part of our Arab homeland, but a basic part of southern Syria."
Arabs invented a fictitious people for the sole purpose of stoking the flames of hatred toward Israel. Back in 1977 -- several years after the proclamation of the Palestinian Charter[xx] -- Zuheir Muhsin, a high official in the PLO Executive Council made the following declaration in the Dutch newspaper Trouw: "There are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. We are all part of one nation. It is only for political reasons that we carefully underline our Palestinian identity, because it is in the interest of the Arabs to encourage a separate Palestinian identity. Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity serves only tactical purposes. The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel."
Why is it, then, that the European Union, the United Nations, most of the world media and even the United States and the leftist parties in Israel have still their minds so hopelessly anchored in this artificial entity of a separate "Palestinian people" entitled to become a nation? Why is it that the world is prepared to accept yet another Arab state on top of the twenty-one already existing and covering a land mass 680 times the size of Israel whose own legitimacy is often put into question?
"Palestinians are the indigenous people of the land":
Census data from the Ottoman period and the British Mandate show that the Arab population in Palestine jumped from 141,000 in 1882 to over a million in 1938. This demographic explosion represents more than three times the corresponding population increases in neighboring Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt. As recently as 1930, the Hope-Simpson Report noted, "illicit immigration through Syria and across the northern frontier of Palestine is material." Even the Syrian governor Tawfik Bey el-Hurani recognized that in a few months in 1934 some 30,000 Syrians moved into Palestine. On the eve of World War II, Winston Churchill stressed: "far from being persecuted, the Arabs have crowded into the country and multiplied." The Bedouin population followed the same skyrocketing numbers: from 14,000 in 1949, they are now over 130,000 and enjoy their new sedentary lives as Israeli citizens.
And yet we hear the spinning tales of Yasser Arafat and his cronies who shamelessly claim that Palestinians' ancestry goes back to the ancient Canaanites and Jebusites! Arafat himself and other prominent "Palestinians," such as Professor Edward Said, kept spreading their fake "Palestinian" identity until both were forced to admit that they were born in Egypt and grew up there. Arafat is indeed one among hundreds of thousands of Arab "settlers of the West Bank."
The truth is that Jewish immigrants to what was then Palestine created the economic conditions that allowed these newly minted "Arab Palestinians" to flock, flourish and multiply. Even British officials, who relentlessly strived to curtail Jewish immigration to Mandated Palestine, recognized this fact.
"West Bank" is an expression that erases the original identity of this historic region. The names "Judea" and "Samaria" are nowhere to be seen outside some quarters in Israel. Together with "Palestine," the "West Bank" has blotted out the collective memory of the place, built over millennia.
Even Nazi Germany, in its race toward the establishment of the Aryan Reich in Europe, never referred to "East Bank" and "West Bank" when conquering territories east of the Oder and west of the Rhine rivers: these territories remained what they always were, Poland and Alsace-Lorraine. The Nazis were fully conscious that they were occupying foreign lands with long histories. But the Palestinian logic can only be built on the eradication of Jewish history.
This portion of the land can only be called "West" in reference to Jordan. The whole world seems to have accepted this distortion, even though the Jordanian occupation of this land from 1948 to 1967 has been widely recognized as illegal4.
"A viable Palestinian state living peacefully side by side with Israel":
Recent events have shown that "Palestinians" are not likely to live peacefully side by side with Israel. Not in this generation. Probably not even in the next generation, considering the hateful curriculum to which their children have been exposed from the earliest grades in primary schools through university. In Nablus' Al-Najah University, students proudly display a mock replica of the Sbarro pizzeria carnage where 15 Israelis were blown to bits by an Islamic homicide bomber who, like all the other "shaheed," is glorified as a holy "martyr."
It is hard to contemplate a "viable state" made up of two disconnected territories, the Gaza Strip and the "West Bank." Making the new Palestinian state geographically viable would destroy Israel's own viability.
A "viable state" implies full sovereignty and at least a modicum of economic autonomy. Full sovereignty (air space, military forces, alliances with other nations, etc.) is definitely unacceptable to Israel for obvious reasons. As for its economic viability, it can only be ensured by a steady supply of employment provided by Israel, hence a large transient work force.
Finally, turning the "West Bank" as it is now into a Palestinian state would put Israel's security at risk, since most of the Israeli population lives within a small strip of land, as narrow as 9 miles in some places. Therefore, if UN resolution 242[xix] -- which calls for "secure and recognized boundaries" -- is to be respected, the actual size of the "Palestinian West Bank" is likely to be considerably reduced, thus making it even less viable.
"Land for peace":
Israel gave up the entire Sinai Peninsula (60,000 km2) for what it boiled down to be a de facto cease-fire with Egypt. Israel relinquished this territory willingly in the hope of a durable and mutually beneficial peace (which never materialized), since it did not have any claim to this land. But when it comes to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, which are the heart and soul of the Land of Israel, the expression "land for peace" takes a whole new dimension.
This persistent fallacy is at the very core of the conflict.
The territory known as the "West Bank" (Judea and Samaria) is not in the same category as the Sinai Peninsula, which was entirely returned to Egypt in 1979. Relinquishing places like Hebron, Bethlehem, Shechem (Nablus), etc. would make it difficult for Israel to justify its sovereignty over other "settlements" like Ashkelon, Eilath, Netanya, and even Tel-Aviv.
If the "territories" were really "occupied" (as Germany occupied existing countries such as Belgium and France in 1940), there would be no need to negotiate: only a full unconditional withdrawal would be required. The very existence of UN Resolution 242 -- which is still the basis of any peace agreement -- proves that these territories are not "occupied" but actually disputed.
How can the "Green Line" (armistice line drawn in 1949) define a permanent border for a new nation hitherto unheard of?
Has there ever been a "Palestinian State" before the "occupation"? What did Israel "occupy" in 1967, other than a territory[iv] from which military aggressions were launched, in violation of the 1949 armistice line?
Southern Lebanon was indeed occupied by Israel for eighteen years, in response to continuous attacks to its northern communities. Israel eventually withdrew unilaterally from the entire Lebanese territory in 2000 -- a withdrawal fully acknowledged by the United Nations -- but the hostility of the Arabs remained unabated (Hezbollah). This experience casts a doubt about the effectiveness of any further Israeli withdrawal and sheds some light on the real Arab objective, which is the total destruction of the Jewish state.
From a legal standpoint, there cannot be anything "illegal" about settlements established in a territory that is not "occupied." Most of these "settlements" have been built on government-owned land (going back to the Ottoman Empire) or on legally purchased land from Arab landlords. Israel never expropriated any private land for the purpose of establishing settlements. It should also be noted that the Israelis living in these "settlements" have not been transplanted there by force, as the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits (art. 49, paragraph 6). The building of settlements throughout Mandated Palestine -- i.e. in all the areas west of the Jordan River -- was in agreement with the Mandate of the League of Nations. This agreement has never been terminated[v]. It should also be recalled that the latest Oslo Accords contained no provision curtailing the building or expansion of "settlements."
The actual impact of these "settlements" has been ferociously exaggerated by the media, fuelled by Arab propaganda. Actually, the "settlements" in the "West Bank" represent less than 5% of the total area and 10% of the population. In the Gaza strip, the corresponding ratios are substantially lower.
There are 144 Jewish "settlements" in the "West Bank," all built since 1968. In the same 34-year period, some 260 new Arab "settlements" have also been built, which no one cares to mention. Why should the former be any more illegal than the latter? As for the 230,000 "Palestinians" living in east Jerusalem, most of them should also be called "settlers." The "Palestinians" continuously lambaste the "cruel apartheid Israeli rule" but these Jerusalem Arabs will never move to the more "enlightened" Arab countries and lose the employment, social and medical benefits granted by Israel.
The Palestinian Authority demands that all Jewish "settlements" be totally dismantled, thus making the whole area Judenrein, whereas the current Arab population living in Israel hovers around 20%.
"Palestinians" claim that these "settlements" are the obstacle to any permanent peace. Yet, for the nineteen years preceding the Six Day War, when there was not a single Jew living in the Gaza Strip and the "West Bank" (most Jews had been either massacred since the Arab revolts of the 1920s or expelled), Israel has nevertheless been regularly attacked by Arab gunmen from these territories.
"Jerusalem is the third holy site of Islam":
The holiness of Jerusalem has been hardly mentioned by the Arabs in the years preceding the Six Day War. No high-ranking Arab official ever prayed in Jerusalem during the Jordanian occupation between 1949 and 1967. There is not a single instance where Jerusalem is mentioned in the Koran, barring a highly debatable, indirect allusion in Sura Al-`Isra (17-1)[vi]. While the religious importance of Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Jerusalem to Christendom is undeniable, no Christian religious authority in modern times has ever laid a political claim to these cities, knowing full well that the Israeli authorities have established a total freedom of worship throughout the land, contrary to previous Arab practices.
It is clear that this newly flaunted Islamic holiness of Jerusalem was intended to internationalize the conflict and raise the stakes throughout the Muslim world. Concurrently, by presenting Jerusalem as a holy Muslim city, the Arabs intended to dispel the notion that Jerusalem ever had a sacred Jewish character. Hence, Arafat's tantrum complaining that Israel intends to "judaize Jerusalem," and his constant denial of the historic Jewish Temple. Curiously, this latter rewriting of history, repeated ad nauseum, never seemed to anger his Christian interlocutors, even though it flies in the face of the Gospels' narrative.
Finally, if any city where an ancient mosque is still standing becomes a de facto holy Muslim city and justifies a political claim, then Cordoba, Seville and others may be next in line!
"There is no military solution to the problem":
This has been a most nefarious mantra, counterproductive to the search for peace in the Middle East. At a time when repeated terrorist attacks were launched by Palestinian groups, even during the Oslo Peace Process, this fallacy has emboldened the most intransigent factions of the Arab population to pursue "negotiations by other means," in the belief that no large-scale military counteraction will ever be launched by Israel. Further concessions made by Israel in the wake of these repeated attacks gave the terrorists the glorious aura of "martyrs" for the "Palestinian cause," while fostering a new wave of violence. These appalling effects gained so much currency in the Arab street that the current fight against terrorism has been made difficult, with a rising number of casualties. The continuous admonitions from the West -- sometimes including the U.S. State Department -- that Israel should not use "disproportionate force" have exacerbated the conflict.
"Israel should put an end to the 'cycle of violence'":
All "Palestinian" spokespersons repeat this nonsense. Western diplomats and the world media parrot the same line with hardly a thought to its logic or lack thereof. A "cycle" is obviously a convenient device to blur any connection between cause and effect. The truth is that "Palestinian" terrorists launch criminal attacks on civilians and Israel responds -- often with incredible restraint -- to target the instigators of these attacks or the facilities they use.
Strangely enough, the U.S. response to September 11 (Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan) and the ongoing war on terrorism are never referred to as "cycles of violence" and rightly so. Even preemptive actions and arrests conducted by the U.S. do not raise the specter of the "cycle." But when it comes to Israel fighting terror, different standards seem to apply, which shows a visceral hatred born in Arab quarters and foolishly embraced by officials at the United Nations and the European Union.
4. The solution must be linked to the source of the problem:
Arab countries have been largely responsible for the creation of the Palestinian problem in 1947 by rejecting the UN Partition Resolution 181; by fomenting uninterrupted attacks on Jewish communities; by perpetuating the status of the "refugees"[vii]; and by launching three full-scale wars in 1948, 1967, and 1973.
Historians would be hard pressed to find a "land for peace" agreement similar to Camp David I, when Israel agreed in 1979 to return the whole Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. In 1948, Egypt was one of the countries which attacked Israel as soon as it was born. It failed. In 1956, Egypt closed the Suez Canal to Israeli navigation in flagrant violation of international law. Israel responded by capturing the Sinai Peninsula which it returned to Egypt a few months later under intense pressure from the U.S.. In 1967, Egypt unilaterally expelled the UN peacekeepers from Sinai, started mobilizing its army and openly threatened to attack Israel in a war "of total annihilation" with Jordan and Syria as its allies. In a preemptive strike, Israel captured the Sinai again in the Six Day War. In 1973, Egypt launched a surprise attack across the Suez Canal and was repulsed again by a strong Israeli counter-offensive. In spite of these multiple Egyptian aggressions spanning a quarter of a century, Israel eventually returned the whole Sinai Peninsula to Egypt -- including major infrastructure assets built by the Israelis -- with nothing in return but Egypt's formal recognition of Israel. There is no precedent in history where persistant military aggression, ending in defeat after defeat, led to a total restititution of territory without any penalty to the party initiating the aggression. In fact, Egypt was handsomely rewarded for its persistent aggressions, with the cancellation of its foreign debt and the assurance of massive American aid.
Arab countries, together with UNRWA[viii], should also be held responsible for perpetuating the refugee problem and opposing its resolution. There has never been an effort on their part to resettle these refugees and provide them with adequate living conditions. They willfully kept over a million Arabs in squalor to fuel their perennial animosity against the Jewish state[ix].
Whereas "Jewish refugees" from Arab and Muslim countries -- stretching from Morocco to Iran and beyond -- were entirely relocated, mainly in Israel, Arabs still refuse to address the problem of their "Palestinian refugees", a problem they have largely contributed to create. Moreover, in their most twisted logic, they claim that these "Palestinian refugees" must be relocated in Israel, a cornerstone of all the so-called "peace processes" which have been circulating recently. Needless to say, this demand is tantamount to the eradication of Israel.
Therefore, any sound peace agreement should call for a major Arab contribution -- in land and funds -- toward solving these problems, rather than leaving them solely on Israel's shoulders, as it has been the case for far too long.
5. Lessons to be drawn from the intifada:
The only positive aspect of the "Oslo Peace Process" and its subsequent failure is to have unmasked the true objectives pursued by the "Palestinians"[x]. Media savvy Arab propagandists insist over and over on the "occupation" as the "root cause" of the violence. In so doing, they exhibit the same discourse as the angry mobs at the Durban Conference[xi], who accused Israel of being a Nazi, racist, apartheid state bent on colonizing a foreign people. But if anyone is sincere about real peace, he must first confront the truth and reject all this fallacious propaganda.
Understand the real goals of the "Palestinians":
There is no doubt that "Palestinian" leaders follow a double agenda, which is frighteningly clear in their Arabic declarations. Their real objective is far removed from peace, the "two state solution" and the recognition of Israel, regardless of their official statements in English aimed at the gullible -- or biased -- western media. Even their most "moderate" leaders are unabashed about their dedication to the total destruction of Israel. The late Faysal Husseini -- who could hardly be branded an extremist -- declared "Even if we accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, our final objective remains the liberation of the whole historic Palestine from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea, even if the conflict lasts a thousand years or several generations." [xii] As for the means to achieve these goals, Yasser Arafat was straightforward: "Kill a settler every day. Shoot at settlers everywhere. Do not pay attention at what I say to the media, the television or in public appearances. Pay attention only to the written instructions that you receive from me." [xiii]
After two years of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, most "Palestinian" groups still support the same "final solution". As late as January 2003, Nayef Hawatmeh, leader of the DFLP, declared that the establishment of an independent "Palestinian state" within the 1967 territories will prepare the grounds for a future "liberation of all historic Palestine." [xiv]
In their official declarations to the western media, "Palestinians" often criticize the present Likud government of Ariel Sharon, whom they accuse of being the main obstacle to peace. But in leaflets locally distributed in several "Palestinian" towns and villages we read: "There is no difference between Labor and Likud. They are all murderers and thieves of land. No one can deny us the right to resist the occupation. . The martyrdom operations are being carried out in self-defense; . the blood of the martyrs will drown all the defeatists." (January 2003).
Lies, lies and more lies:
Another despicable characteristic of the "Palestinian" leadership is their shameless denial of the truth. In a joint article published recently in the New York Review of Books, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and historian Benny Morris wrote: "[Palestinians] are products of a culture in which to tell a lie ... creates no dissonance. They don't suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judeo-Christian culture. Truth is seen as an irrelevant category. There is only that which serves your purpose and that which doesn't." This disposition has unfortunately been proven true time and again in recent events.
Palestinian Authority (PA) chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, among others, has mastered the technique of deception to a morbid art, with no qualms whatsoever about insulting the intelligence of his television viewers by using the crudest denials. When confronted with unpleasant truths, he accuses Israel of manufacturing lies. For Mr. Erekat, the story of the Karine-A weapons-loaded ship[xv] intercepted in the Red Sea was an Israeli concoction; the records of financial support from the PA to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, seized in Arafat's Ramallah compound during Operation Defensive Shield, were "lies that [the Israelis] use to cover their own crimes, the murder of our children." ; the Jenin operation was immediately characterized as "a terrible massacre with over 3,000 Palestinians murdered."
The PA Information Minister, Yasser Abed Rabbo, does not fare any better. In June 2002, when the Israeli Army showed a picture found in Hebron of a "Palestinian" toddler wearing a mock explosive belt, Abed Rabbo stopped short of claiming the picture was fraudulent and accused the Israelis of "using this photo to justify Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people and to go on with their occupation of Palestinian territories." Nevermind that the toddler's grandfather, Redwan Abu Turki, acknowledged both his grandchild and the authenticity of the photograph, hardly disguising his pride.
What trust can anyone put in declarations issued by "Palestinian" officials? Should these officials be bound by their moderate statements in English, or should we rather believe their often contradictory and violent speeches in Arabic? The latter have consistently proven closer to their real policies[xvi].
6. Draft a new "Declaration of Principles":
We should judge policies by their long-term results. The principles set forth in Oslo have produced more bloodshed than in times of war. It should be clear to everyone that any "peace process" established on that basis, must be discarded and a new foundation must be sought.
The Middle East can no longer afford any more "band aid" solutions. Thirty years of myth building by the Palestinians (see Section 3) have succeeded in turning historical truths upside down, with the tacit acquiescence of world politicians focused on their own dubious agendas. It is time to shatter these myths, since the current situation is largely the result of having allowed them to fester for too long, to the point where the world at large now takes them as unquestionable truths.
The recent terror wave triggered by the "Palestinians" rendered any agreement derived from the Oslo process null and void for three reasons: a) the "Palestinians" have not honored their fundamental obligations; b) concessions made by Israel to the "Palestinians" since 1992 have exacerbated the terror attacks against Israelis[xvii]; and c) the world should never reward terrorism.
Since the 1990s, the Palestinian education system has been geared to instill a total rejection of Israel, the denial of all Zionist aspirations and, in the most egregious instances, the hatred of Jews. This has been extensively documented. Even the recently revised curriculum rejects Israel, glorifies "martyrdom", and depicts Jews in a way that would seem appalling to any western observer[xviii].
The latest stream of homicide bombings can be directly traced to these teachings. These attacks are no longer the desperate action of some angry, gullible, uneducated youngster but the result of a willful decision taken by educated men and women. Palestinian university campuses promote this kind of barbarism and contribute to glorify the perpetrators as national heroes. Summer camps inculcate the same kind of violent ideologies from early childhood.
Barring the unlikely emergence of an Arab Adenauer, there is little hope in sight for a peaceful coexistence between the two populations in the next ten to fifteen years.
Therefore, any future negotiations should be based on a new set of principles that integrate the undeniable realities of the region.
1. There is no room between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River to carve two separate, viable, peaceful sovereign states. The inherent inconsistencies of UN Resolution 242 should be corrected [xix].
2. Jerusalem, as any reunified city, should not be divided again. It was, still is, and should remain the sole capital of Israel.
3. Since the late 1960s, Arab nations have skillfully shifted the Arab-Israeli conflict into a narrower and more convenient "Palestinian-Israeli" problem. This masterful diplomatic distortion of reality has exonerated them from their obvious responsibility for the present state of affairs (see Section 4). Future negotiations on the fate of the "Palestinians" should include all the Arab states in the region which directly or indirectly have contributed to the present political problem, including the fifty year old impasse of the "Palestinian refugees." Rather than expecting only Israel to solve the problem, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq should be the major players in solving the "Palestinian question." We should go back to basics and bring these Arab nations to negotiating the closure of the "Arab-Israeli" conflict.
4. Any negotiation about the fate of the "Palestinians" should be contemplated in conjunction with the absorption of some 700,000 "Jewish refugees" from Arab and Muslim countries who, since the early 1950s, have been settled in Israel and have enjoyed full Israeli citizenship ever since. On this population and property exchange, Israel has done its part. It is the Arab nations' duty to do theirs.
The Oslo Peace Process was a period of endless frustrations and disillusionments. The intifada that followed has been a period of terror, bloodshed, and human tragedy. The only positive aspect of the past ten years is undoubtedly the realization of the sad realities of the Middle East. The stark truth, that dreamy diplomats failed to see, finally burst out.
This truth is, in simple terms, that Israel cannot make peace with a nation whose core objective is the total annihilation of the Jewish state[xx].
Arabs living in Judea and Samaria have benefited from Israel and have enjoyed a far higher standard of living than their brethren in neighboring countries. Since they launched their "second intifada," they have seen their lives destroyed. This is, sadly, the only truth in the "Palestinian" narrative. The reality is that the poor living conditions of the "Palestinians" today have been imposed on them by their own leaders, with the tacit or overt support of the Arab nations. These people surely deserve to live in peace in a land they can call their own.
Territorial problems of a much greater magnitude have been solved successfully in the wake of WWII for the betterment of millions of people's lives. Similarly, fairly conducted population transfers may prove to be the only feasible and lasting solution in the long search for peace in the Middle East. These undertakings require the full cooperation of the surrounding Arab states, which are directly responsible for this situation.
The notion of "population transfers" may not be politically correct nowadays. However, being right in the future sometimes implies to be out of fashion in the present.
In any case, the present framework established by the "Quartet" is, at best, a short-term solution and, most probably, the detonator of further violence. New thinking is necessary.
[i] Quartet: designates the combined diplomatic effort of the U.S., Russia, the EU, and the UN.
[ii] "A Pernicious Utopian Virus", by Angelo M. Codevilla (Professor of International Relations at Boston University), published in the Jerusalem Post on April 14, 1997
[iii] From "Qu'est-ce qu'une nation?", a lecture given by Ernest Renan at the Sorbonne in 1882.
[iv] Only Britain and Pakistan recognized the annexation of the "West Bank" by what was then Transjordan. Transjordan became then the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. In 1988, King Hussein of Jordan formally relinquished any title to these territories, at a time when they were still under Israeli military administration, following the Six Day War of 1967.
[v] See American Journal of International Law, vol. 84, July 1990, by Eugene V. Rostow, Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace.
[vi] Koran, Sura 17:1 "The Night Journey" (Al `Isra): "Glory be to Him who made His servant go by night from the Sacred Temple to the farther Temple whose surroundings we have blessed, that We might show Him some of Our signs." (Translation by N. L. Dawood, Penguin Books). The identification of the "farther Temple" is debated among Muslims, some viewing it as Jerusalem, others as Medina, some giving this verse a literal interpretation, others regarding it only as a vision. But Jerusalem (or Al-Quds) is not once mentioned in the whole Koran. By contrast, it is mentioned 669 in the Hebrew Bible and 154 times in the New Testament.
[vii] Khaled Al-Azm, who was Syria's Prime Minister after the 1948 war, deplored the Arab tactics and the subsequent exploitation of the refugees, in his 1972 memoirs. He writes: "Since 1948 it is we who demanded the return of the refugees ... while it is we who made them leave.... We brought disaster upon ... Arab refugees, by inviting them and bringing pressure to bear upon them to leave.... We have rendered them dispossessed.... We have accustomed them to begging.... We have participated in lowering their moral and social level.... Then we exploited them in executing crimes of murder, arson, and throwing bombs upon ... men, women and children - all this in the service of political purposes.".
[viii] United Nations Relief and Works Agency, an organization specifically created to handle the Palestinian refugee problem, with a current annual budget of about US$ 280 million. The truth about Palestinian refugees was clearly stated in 1958 by Ralph Galloway, former director of UNRWA: "The Arab states do not want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the United Nations, and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders do not give a damn whether Arab refugees live or die."
[ix] "Palestinians burned an effigy of Canadian Foreign Minister John Manley on Thursday in a protest against Canada's offer to accept Palestinian refugees as part of a Middle East peace plan. Hooded gunmen fired into the air during the protest in Balata refugee camp near the West Bank town of Nablus and hundreds of demonstrators shouted slogans demanding the right of return to former homes. 'We refuse resettlement of refugees,' they shouted." (Reuters, January 17, 2001)
[x] Yitzhak Rabin is remembered as shaking hands with Yasser Arafat on the lawn of the White House. He was a true believer in peace with the Palestinians. Commenting on the Barak peace plan (Camp David II, where Israel agreed to relinquish most of the disputed territories, to allow the return of some "refugees" and to share sovereignty over Jerusalem), Leah Rabin declared that the concessions made by Barak would have made Yitzhak Rabin's stomach churn.
[xi] UN Conference on Racism, Discrimination and Xenophobia, held in Durban, South Africa, in September 2001.
[xii] Interview given by Mr. Faysal Husseini in Kuwait to the Egyptian newspaper Al-Arabi on June 24, 2001.
[xiii] Public address by Yasser Arafat at a popular gathering in Gaza, in July 2001.
[xiv] Open chat on the website "Islam-Online," on January 6, 2003 by Nayef Hawatmeh, leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).
[xv] The 4,000 T. Karine-A ship was seized by Israeli commandos in the Red Sea on January 3, 2002. Its captain, a naval officer of the Palestinian Authority (PA), admitted having received orders from PA officials at the highest echelon.
[xvi] Yasser Arafat wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times, Feb. 3, 2002 titled "The Palestinian Vision of Peace": He stated: "I condemn the attacks carried out by terrorists groups against Israeli civilians. These groups do not represent the Palestinian people or their legitimate aspirations for freedom." Three days later, he addressed a rally in Ramallah (in Arabic) and he called for "a million martyrs marching on Jerusalem." Just a few hours after that speech, a Palestinian terrorist from Arafat's own Fatah movement, murdered three Israeli civilians, among whom an 11 year old girl. The next day, Arafat's "Voice of Palestine" broadcast jubilant praises for the "heroic martyr." So much for the "Palestinian Vision of Peace."
[xvii] See Statistics on Terror, published by Ari Shavit in the respected Israeli daily Haaretz, Dec. 11, 2002.
[xviii] See "Narrating Palestinian Nationalism - A Study of the New Palestinian Textbooks", by Goetz Nordbruch, Published in 2001 in the USA by The Middle East Media Research Institute, P.O. Box 27837, Washington, DC.
[xix] UN Security Council Resolution 242 (November 1967) calls for Israel to "withdraw from occupied territories" and at the same time stresses the ". termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force." (Emphasis added). Clearly, in light of recent events, these two objectives seem incompatible.
[xx] The Palestinian National Charter (July 1968), in spite of aborted attempts to amend it after the Oslo process, still contains several articles that clearly point to the elimination of Israel and the denial of Jews as a people. Some examples are listed below (English rendition as published in Basic Political Documents of the Armed Palestinian Resistance Movement; Leila S. Kadi (ed.), Palestine Research Centre, Beirut, December 1969, pp.137-141.):
Art.15: The liberation of Palestine, from an Arab viewpoint, is a national (qawmi) duty and it attempts to repel the Zionist and imperialist aggression against the Arab homeland, and aims at the elimination of Zionism in Palestine."
Art.19: "The partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the state of Israel are entirely illegal, regardless of the passage of time ."
Art.20: "The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong.