No Prospect for Genuine Israeli-Palestinian Peace

The Palestinians continue to prefer not to establish a state if it involves recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

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Abbas attends a meeting of the Central Committee of the PLO in Ramallah, March 4 2015
Abbas attends a meeting of the Central Committee of the PLO in Ramallah, March 4 2015Credit: AP

“Zionism began as a foreign entity and will end as a foreign entity,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wrote in the concluding chapter of the 2011 edition of his book “Zionism: the Beginning and the End,” which appears on his website.

The book, which was first published in 1977, goes on to say that Zionism initially appeared to be a decree of fate, but now fate has determined its end. “The Palestinians and the Jews will see to it that it is eliminated so that we can later live as we lived before it, in a wide open homeland full of good for everyone, spreading goodness, affection and equality over everyone.”

Nevertheless, many people are of the opinion that the conflict with the Palestinians centers around the question of continued Israeli control over territories captured in 1967. They choose to ignore the fact that from the standpoint of the vast majority of Palestinians, the conflict is over the very existence of a nation-state for the Jewish people.

Their perspective is based on five principles:

* There is no Jewish people. Judaism is a religion, not a national group, and therefore the Jews have no right to self-determination.

* The Jews never had sovereignty in the Land of Israel, and therefore there is no justification for their claim to a Jewish state here – as a result, the disappearance of the State of Israel is inevitable.

* The Jews are faulty beings, which is why the Europeans sought to be rid of them – there is therefore no justification for the Palestinians, who have owned the land for ages and are the descendents of the Canaanites, having to actually suffer being in their vicinity.

* All means that will expedite the disappearance of Israel are legitimate, including armed struggle, popular uprising and diplomatic activities. Methods that promise the greatest achievements at the least possible cost are always to be preferred. Currently, the focus must be on the diplomatic and legal campaign and on a popular uprising (including the use of force without live weaponry).

* The Palestinians are victims of Israel and the West, and therefore those parties have no right to demand that the Palestinians accept responsibility for their deeds or criticism over their course of action.

Out of his commitment to these principles, Abbas rejected the formula developed by the Americans a year ago as the basis for continued negotiations, since in practice it included recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. On his return to Ramallah, Abbas told his supporters: “We adhere to a covenant and have been made a promise. We bear a pledge and will not make concessions over it.”

It was clear to his audience that the message was that the Palestinians continue to prefer not to establish a state if it involves recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, which would mean concessions on the commitment to a Palestinian state in all of Palestine, including Israel itself.

The ongoing incitement of the Palestinian public has been designed to buttress these fundamental principles. In recent years, I have focused on following the issue and unfortunately have seen thousands of examples of incitement on the part of the Palestinian Authority and its leaders. Under such circumstances, it is impossible to establish genuine peace, and as we have seen in Gaza, every concession will be irreversible and will serve as a basis for expanding the effort at achievement of the ultimate goal.

If that is so, why do many people in Israel and around the world continue to adhere to the illusion that the conflict is over territory conquered in 1967? Why does it appear to them that, with additional concessions, Israel is capable of creating the conditions that will permit progress toward peace? It appears that some of them lack familiarity with the sorry reality, while others refuse to acknowledge it even when it is staring them in the face. This refusal reflects a concern that in reality there is nothing behind our faith that there has to be hope and a solution, and that the Palestinians, like us, want peace, prosperity and personal fulfillment.

This refusal to accept reality also reflects concern that pressure on the Palestinian “victims” to alter the five principles would only encourage them to do damage to their security cooperation with Israel and lead to increased violence. This refusal may also be an expression of reticence to admit that the path we have taken over the past 20 years was a strategic mistake that exacted a price in blood and made it easier for the Palestinians to base the discourse over the conflict on a set of concepts that serve their own interests.

We may be the stronger party to the conflict, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t also the party with right on our side, and that includes our aspirations to achieve genuine peace. It also doesn’t mean that we can’t be the smart ones. In the new Middle East, there is room for cooperation between Israel and pragmatic elements in the region, but that doesn’t require surrender to demands that appear in what is called the “Arab peace initiative” or with respect to similar ideas proposed by generals advocating an illusory peace that would endanger the security of our country.

The writer was head of the research division of the IDF Intelligence Corps and director general of the Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Ministry. 

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