Text size

Maen Areikat, the Palestine Liberation Organization's "ambassador" to the United States, announced last week that the Palestinian state, for which the PLO is requesting recognition by the United Nations, must be free of Jews. This presumably means that the areas that the PLO considers to be part of the Palestinian state will have to be cleared of all Jews residing there at the present time. In other words, the area must be ethnically cleansed.

Those nations who intend to vote for the admission of this Palestinian state to the UN, at the UN General Assembly or at the UN Security Council, will be voting for such an ethnic cleansing operation.

There may be some UN member states, among the Muslim nations, that are at present clean of any Jewish presence on their territory and intend to keep it that way. Adding a country to UN membership that is determined to rid itself of Jews and keep its territory free of Jews presumably presents no moral problem for them when the time comes to vote - and may even be a welcome addition to their "club."

But, what about the other UN member states? What about the countries of Europe who not so long ago, under German rule in World War II, were cleaned and sometimes helped to clean their countries of Jews? Does this vote not represent a moral dilemma for them? That will be interesting to watch.

That the Palestinians - whether those led by Mahmoud Abbas, who is submitting the application for membership at the UN, or those led by Hamas in Gaza, who are opposed to this application - do not want to see any Jews in their land is disgusting but not surprising. What is at first sight surprising is that they believe that such an expectation is actually realistic, that it is doable.

They are possibly encouraged by the fact that some on the Israeli left call for the uprooting of Jews who reside beyond the Israeli-Jordanian armistice lines of March 1949.

No less surprising is that the present administration in Washington, although opposed to Abbas' initiative at the UN, seems to have bought into this concept, with its insistence that all Israeli building activity beyond the armistice lines must cease. Some of the European nations, probably without giving the implications of this demand a second thought, seem to be going along with the views of Washington on this subject.

But actually, there is no reason to be surprised. Ariel Sharon, as Israel's prime minister in 2006, carried out such an ethnic cleansing operation in the large Jewish settlement bloc in Gush Katif, using the Israel Defense Forces to forcibly uproot 8,000 Jewish farmers from their lands. If it could be done in the Gaza Strip, why should it not be done in Judea and Samaria and also in East Jerusalem, possibly mitigated by some land "swaps" with the Palestinians?

As a matter of fact, Sharon's successor as prime minister, Ehud Olmert, in the heady days, when he still believed that he was leading Israel to victory during his unfortunate Second Lebanon War adventure, said that his next step after his "victory" in Lebanon would be the uprooting of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. Of course, the miserable ending of the Lebanon operation changed all that. Unquestionably, however, Sharon's "disengagement" in Gaza had left its mark upon the expectations and subsequent demands of the Palestinians.

Encouraged by the declarations from Washington, Abbas has refused to negotiate with Israel unless all building activity beyond the 1949 armistice lines ceases, and unless Israel is prepared for an agreement that would be based on these armistice lines. So now he is going to the UN.

The irony of the situation is that Sharon's "disengagement" in Gaza, which many believed would be a step toward Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation, has actually become a stumbling block, planting the idea in the minds of the Palestinians that ethnic cleansing of Jews from the areas beyond the armistice lines is realistic, while all those who are acquainted with the Israeli political scene know that what happened in Gush Katif is not going to happen again.

It is this Palestinian misconception, more than anything else, that has prevented the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiation during the past two years. The Palestinian initiative at the UN marks the indefinite postponement of such negotiations for the time being.