The high sounding statements about an Israeli-Palestinian peace at the Annapolis conference last week deserve some historical context. Moreover it requires a distinction between peace – the reality Israel and the America seek – and a piece of Israel, one which would ultimately lead to the Jewish State’s dissolution – a goal that the Arabs and Palestinians seek.
Despite having suffered huge losses in the surprise attacks staged by Egypt and Syria during the Yom Kippur War of October 1973, Israel emerged victorious. In the aftermath of the war, the Palestinian Liberation Organization came to the realization that Israel will not be defeated by military onslaughts. Rather, they concluded, the best way to destroy the Jewish State would be to force it to vacate land piece by piece – a strategy they referred to as the “Phased Plan.” The Palestinian National Council (PNC) met in Cairo on June 8, 1974 and decided on the ten-point program of the "Phased Plan" for Israel's destruction. It contains two key elements: first, to create a Palestinian state on any territory vacated by Israel (paragraph 2 of the decision); and second, to use that state as a base for mobilizing a general Arab assault on Israel (paragraph 8 of the decision).
Since 1974, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), aided and abetted by the Israeli political Left, has been able to gain a foothold in Palestine in spite of temporary setbacks, such as Israel’s expulsion of PLO chairman Yasser Arafat and the PLO from Lebanon in the summer of 1982, and the Madrid Conference of October 1991 that excluded the PLO.
The government of the late Yitzhak Rabin, through the devious maneuvering of Shimon Peres, Israel’s current Israeli president and then Israel’s foreign minister, began secret negotiations with the PLO in Oslo, Norway. In September 1993, on the White House lawn, Rabin and Peres legitimized the PLO and in 1994, twenty years after the “Phased Plan” was inaugurated, Arafat and the PLO terrorists indeed gained a foothold in historic Palestine.
Back in 1979, during the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel, full autonomy to run their affairs was offered to the Palestinians by Israel’s Prime Minister, Menachem Begin. Begin, however, did not provide for them any control over territory. Peace with Egypt, the largest and most influential Arab state was a great breakthrough for Israel, and the tough and proud stance of Prime Minister Menachem Begin illustrated to everyone that peace could be made with an Arab state when the dispute is only over territory.
The Israelis realized few benefits from the Oslo Accords. For the Palestinians however, Oslo was, as PLO Minister Faisal Husseini declared in 2001, a “Trojan Horse.” Oslo enabled the Palestinians to form a terrorist base on Palestinian soil and incite hatred and murder of Israeli-Jews via television and radio stations that were funded in large part by USAID. Rabin and Peres believed that they could use Arafat to put down the growing Hamas influence. Arafat used Hamas instead as an instrument of terror against Israel.
Peace with Israel was never on Arafat’s mind. In November 1974, with a gun on his belt, Arafat declared at the United Nations General Assembly, “We have entered the world through its widest gate, now Zionism will get out of this world and from Palestine in particular.” Ten days earlier Arafat had announced that, “We shall never stop (killing Jews) until we can go back home and Israel is destroyed. The goal of our struggle is the end of Israel and there can be no compromise or mediations. We do not want peace we want victory. Peace for us means Israel’s destruction, and nothing else.”
What the Bush administration and previous U.S. administrations have failed to grasp is that the conflict for the Palestinians is not about territory. If that had been the case, Arafat would have resolved that in July 2000 when President Bill Clinton summoned Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat to Camp David. Barak was willing to make extraordinary territorial concessions to the Palestinians in return for an “end of conflict” declaration. Arafat refused, and instead launched the intifadah that cost the lives of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians.
If the conflict was about territory then negotiations might have a chance to succeed sooner or later. Unfortunately, this conflict between Israel and the Palestinians (and the other Arab states including Saudi Arabia) is about Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State. The Palestinians – regardless of whether they are “moderate” Fatah leader and PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas or “radical” Hamas leaders – have refused to give such recognition. Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestine Liberation Organization, rejected the Israeli government's demand on November 12, 2007 that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. In an interview with Israel Radio, Erekat said that, "no state in the world connects its national identity to a religious identity."
The Palestinian use of the term “right of return of the Palestinian refugees” to Israel is a codeword for Israel’s destruction and another subterfuge for the rejection of peace with Israel. The “right of return” employed by the “moderate” Abbas is simply another way to undermine the existence of the Jewish state. “Moderate” Abbas, who was second-in-command to Arafat, might be “gracious” enough to unilaterally agree to receive additional West Bank territory in accordance with the “Phased Plan” just as Arafat did when he accepted the Oslo Accords. He will not however deliver on the Palestinian “Road Map” commitment to end terrorism against Israel.
Annapolis, like its predecessors: Camp David II, Taba, Oslo, and the Madrid Conference, is doomed to failure, since Israel is not about to negotiate its disappearance as a Jewish State, and the Palestinians and some of the Arab states will not agree to anything less. Pieces of Israel might be negotiated away by the likes of Olmert and the Israeli Left with Western encouragement, but peace will only come when the Arab States and Arab-Palestinian come to terms with the existence of the Jewish State.