Let me be clear from the start: if I didn’t believe in peace, I would not be writing for this forum. That said, I do not believe that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is possible in our generation. One reason is the activity of the peace pursuers who blame Israel exclusively for the continuation of the conflict. Their behavior encourages the Palestinians to think that pressure by the international community will get them a state without their being called on to make concessions – without which there will be no peace. Those concessions include forgoing the right of return, a binding declaration (to be made by all Palestinian organizations and Arab states) regarding the end of the conflict, and recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. The Palestinians are unwilling to accept these categorical conditions, but only when they understand that they have no choice but to agree to these critical terms will they be ripe for peace. The road to that point is long and agonizing, but peace, though it may tarry, will assuredly come.
The vision of “two states for two people” is utterly paralyzed, and that deadlock has prompted some to promote a different idea: one state for two peoples. Even though the majority of the Israeli political leadership is against this solution, the Palestinians and their many supporters see it as an opportunity. A state established according to this model will be binational, but in time will become the state of one nation alone. The Palestinians’ hope is that the Jews will become a minority, certainly after the implementation of the right of return they are demanding. At that point, as can be gleaned from the cases of Libya, Iraq and Syria, the Zionist entity will come to an end. This is the scenario that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been promoting for the past dozen years. If he were really interested in the solution of two states for two peoples, the Palestinian president should have leapt at the generous offers he received from Israeli prime ministers – particularly from Ehud Olmert. Olmert was ready to cede to the Palestinians even the area in Jerusalem known as the Holy Basin, which is revered by the Jews, and to withdraw to the 1967 borders with land swaps. No Jewish prime minister can make the Palestinians a better offer.
Abbas’ admirers in Israel say he is demonstrating courageous leadership by declaring that he is against terrorism (declarations that, of course, do not stop him from naming public squares after murderers of Jews and paying salaries to the families of jailed terrorists). Still, his opposition to terrorism does not derive solely from principle.
Intermixing the populations
In contrast to his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, Abbas has recognized that terrorism will not get him what he wants: the annihilation of the Zionist entity called the State of Israel. In addition to mobilizing global public opinion against Israel, another effective means for Abbas to achieve his goal is to sidestep Israel’s military, technological and economic advantages. This is done by intermixing the populations inseparably. Already today, he believes that when terror strikes in the heart of Jerusalem and across the country, Israel’s hands are tied.
In the capital of Israel, Abbas says to himself, the authorities are having a hard time overcoming a few hundred stone throwers, hurlers of firebombs and stabbers of Jews. It stands to reason that the situation will be far worse when the populations are intermixed in more places. Israel’s hands will also be tied in the face of large-scale Arab offensives launched by Hamas together with activists from the Islamic State and the Taliban. The binational solution is liable to turn Israel into the latest version of Lebanon, Syria or Iraq. The Jews, unable to bear life in that country, will flee while they can, according to Abbas.
But because Israel does not want its fate to be that of the other states in the region, we can assume that the majority of Israel’s citizens will not agree to allow declared enemies into their state (that is, they will not agree to the right of return), nor will they agree to part with Judea and Samaria, which protects them from murderous forces such as ISIS, Hezbollah and other similar Islamic elements. For if those organizations slaughter their own people, who will prevent them from doing the same to the people they hate, the Jews?
Despite this severe analysis of the situation, I am not urging that we forgo the vision of peace. In rare cases, such as occurred in Germany and Japan after World War II, the character of nations can undergo a transformation. Still, a radical change on that order can only come about after a horrific trauma – such as the Axis powers experienced when they were crushed in that war. It is possible that the Arabs’ internal wars of attrition will bring about a far-reaching shift of consciousness. Or perhaps other, unexpected events will bring about such a shift. But in the present state of consciousness, with countries falling apart and religious organizations battling one another in wars of annihilation, the road to creating trust between Jews and Palestinians is still very distant. Accordingly, it is necessary to act for an absolute transformation of values in Arab and Islamic society.
True, Jewish society needs to change, too. However, the Jews – as the disengagement from Gaza and, earlier, the withdrawal from Sinai proved – are ready to sacrifice a great deal when they feel there is a response from the Palestinian side. Until now, unfortunately, the Arabs have been a severe disappointment in this regard, and therefore the burden of proof now lies on them.
The writer is founding chairman of the Yesha Council, the Institute for Zionist Strategies, and a columnist for Haaretz.