Steve Kramer – OFF THE RECORD
“[Netanyahu] knows that the Palestinians will always refuse to make peace no matter how much the U.S. tilts the diplomatic playing field in their direction.”
“…everyone in Israel (though no one in the Obama administration) knows that the goal of the Palestinian Authority is to avoid being pushed into talks where they would be forced to either accept a peace they don’t want or to say no to yet another Israeli offer of statehood.”
Jonathan Tobin (Commentary Magazine, May 19)
Jonathan Tobin, many Middle East pundits, and I have consistently written that Israel has no Muslim partner for peace. Perhaps its more significant to ask, what do the Palestinian Arabs think, and do their leaders want a 2-State Solution, or is something else on their agendas? To find out, we recently attended a lecture by an Arab journalist, lecturer and documentary filmmaker, who requests that his remarks remain unattributed. I shall call him “Ahmed.” He has legitimate worries that if his name is mentioned, his life will be endangered.
The “world” has decided that Israel is guilty of occupying “Palestinian land” and is preventing the emergence of a viable State of Palestine. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has often said, “Such [Israeli settlement] activity is not only illegal but also an obstacle to peace.” US Secretary of State John Kerry has reiterated that the United States views Israeli settlements as “illegitimate,” and that Israel is in danger of emerging as an apartheid state.
Ahmed begs to differ, and I agree. He blames the continual failure to reach a peace agreement on the absence of leadership and absence of education for peace among the Palestinian Arabs. According to Ahmed, the crux of the matter is that Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas, and all the Arab leaders reject any offers less than 100% of what they demand. These leaders claim that they have no mandate for compromise or concessions with the Israelis. Ahmed adds that they have no “guts” either.
He explained: the Americans thought that Chairman Arafat would be beholden to them because of the abundance of funds that he received from them, supposedly ensuring that he wouldn’t be able to say, “No” at the peace conferences held under President Clinton’s auspices. But negotiations failed because Israel didn’t accede to ALL of Arafat’s demands, especially to the Arabs “right of return” to Israel and Israeli withdrawal from the Temple Mount (Haram esh-Sharif for Arabs). No less important, Arafat refused to become a martyr (i.e. assassinated) for recognizing Israel as a Jewish State. Plainly, Israel’s acceptance of 97% of Arab demands was not enough. Arafat’s conclusion was that it was the opportune time to instigate the Al-Aksa Intifada, with the goal of forcing Israel to agree to everything.
John Kerry instigated yet another “peace process” in 2014, telling Palestinian Authority President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu that they had nine months to reach a peace deal. Abbas, like Arafat, has no mandate for peace nor any power to enforce concessions (true on both counts). A signed peace agreement would have had no legitimacy even if Abbas did sign it. According to Ahmed, Abbas would have been killed and the deal would have been repudiated. So, Abbas followed the Arab script, blamed Israel for building settlements and preventing peace, and ran away. Ahmed said Netanyahu could offer 99% or even 100%+ and still be rejected. The “world,” especially the media, is nearly unanimous in continuing to put the blame on Israel, taking its cue from the Arabs.
Arab leaders brought the widespread Arab “no compromise” demand onto themselves by their propaganda and “educational” efforts. There is a continuing massive local and global program to delegitimize Israel, which is obviously the opposite of preparation for peace. The unremitting undermining of Israel and the constant lies are taken seriously by the Arabs and other Muslims because of this massive brainwashing campaign. The penalty for those who disagree is often death. Because of this toxic atmosphere, it’s very dangerous even to talk with Palestinian Arabs about peace.
Ahmed says that to recognize reality one merely has to observe today’s Middle East, where, if not killing Jews, Arabs are killing other Arabs. Only Arabs and Muslims could stop this, if they wanted to improve their situation – but they don’t. Evidently, Islamist warfare is preferred. There is nothing Israel or the West can do about this internecine warfare; change must come from within Muslim society.
There are currently two streams of thought about what Arabs must do to defeat Israel. The radical camp demands all the territory of Israel, eradicating the results of the 1947 Partition and 1948-49 War of Independence. The so-called moderate camp demands “only” all of Israel beyond the 1949 Armistice Line; the balance of Israel will be taken in subsequent stages. This is the situation, ignoring that 99% of Palestinian Arabs are governing themselves in the Palestinian Authority, while 100% govern themselves in Gaza (albeit under oppressive, elected Hamas rulers).
But, Ahmed says, none of the leaders, “even behind ten doors,” would accept less than 100% , or even 100%+ of their demands! In other words, no Palestinian Arab lead will ever sign an agreement that will end the conflict with Israel.
Stating it as a fact, Ahmed said that if the IDF agreed to stop interventions in the Palestine Authority, its Arab leaders would shortly be hanged and an Islamic State enclave would result. While Abbas and his government publicly malign the Israeli “occupation,” behind the scenes they can’t do without it. The day-to-day agreements that are made with Israel are essential to their survival.
Ahmed summed up that at this point, retaining the status quo – doing nothing except managing the conflict – is all Israel can do. If the Arabs ever decide to do what is necessary to prepare their people for peace, THEN talking at a peace conference might be profitable. Otherwise, it’s better for Israel not to participate in meaningless peace negotiations.
Answering questions from the group, Ahmed told us that unilateral withdrawal from the PA would be much worse than the disastrous withdrawal from Gaza, because terrorism would be rampant right next to Israel’s population centers. One example: the Ben-Gurion Airport would be unusable.
Journalists fail miserably by labeling Jews the bad guy while the Palestinians are the sympathetic underdogs. “No news without Jews” determines whether a story is reported. Arab v Arab massacres aren’t “news.” Anti-Israel reporting is surely not real journalism, because the pro-Arab narrative drives the articles and determines what is or isn’t reported.
According to Ahmed and others, the ignorance of inexperienced, young journalists is incredible. He comically mentioned that he often receives requests to interview Jewish settler-farmers in Gaza, who were all removed in 2007! These journalists swallow the Arab narrative whole: that Jews stole the land of the nonexistent State of Palestine and its non-existent capital, Jerusalem.
The good news says Ahmed, is that Arab ferment has taken Israel out of the line of fire at least for now. Netanyahu is smart to tough it out and not to offer any plans or promises. The problem that the West refuses to admit is that there is no partner for peace among the Arabs.