Since the recent restarting of peace negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, the Obama administration’s strategy to finally achieve a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict has been to pressure and instill fear in Israel in order to get it to concede to impossible demands that would seriously deteriorate Israel’s security position. In his first trip to Israel in 2013, President Obama stated that the people of Israel needed to put their fears aside and make necessary sacrifices for peace. John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, said on November 7th that if Israel did not make peace it would be internationally isolated and possibly see the start of a “third intifada.” It has been stated repeatedly that Israel’s settlements are the biggest obstacle to peace. It has been suggested that Israel should make more concessions in the spirit of peace and goodwill. Kerry, Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street, and others like them believe that only if Israel dismantles its settlements and accepts the pre-1967 borders as the basis for a final agreement can there be peace. Israel has not done enough, they say.
Israel, however, has already done an unprecedented amount for peace. In the interest of peace, Israel took a risk that Yasser Arafat, who for decades had led a terror campaign against Israeli civilians, had chosen the path of peace. Israel signed a series of peace agreements aimed at creating a Palestinian state beside Israel, only to discover that Arafat remained committed to a Palestinian state replacing Israel. In 2005, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip with hope that it would lead the Palestinians to end their terrorism against innocent Israeli civilians, only to have the amount of rockets fired into the country increase by 130% the following year. At Camp David, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak agreed to the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state in 97% of the West Bank with East Jerusalem as its capital, and to dismantle isolated settlements. In 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered the Palestinians 100% of the West Bank with land swaps, a renouncing of Israel’s sovereignty over the Temple Mount, and to place the religious sites in Jerusalem under the management of a committee consisting of representatives from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, the United States, and Israel.
Moreover, in November 2009, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu initiated a total settlement freeze in order to get the Palestinians to come back to the negotiating table. The Palestinian Authority only joined negotiations in the ninth month of the settlement freeze, and the talks broke down in September 2010 when the PA refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Over the years, Israel, has also released thousands of Palestinian terrorists from its prisons for peace, only to have them be honored and given money, fame, and awards by the Palestinian Authority, the organization that Israel is expected to make a peace agreement with. Just this week, twenty six more prisoners were released, only to have Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat state that the peace talks have failed and that the Palestinians should unilaterally seek statehood recognition.
The Palestinian Authority, however, has refused to make any concessions for peace. PA President Mahmoud Abbas rejected Secretary of State Kerry’s latest security plan, stating that he will not accept a demilitarized Palestinian state, Israel as a Jewish state, any solution that does not include all of east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, and the presence of any Israeli soldiers in the Jordan Valley. The PA incites children and teaches them to hate and use violence against Israelis. The PA has refused to make any concessions and fulfill Israel’s only prerequisite for peace (to recognize Israel as a Jewish state). And, of course, the PA has rejected every peace deal offered to it by the country that supposedly has not done enough for peace. Despite this, it is Israel that is condemned by the international community. It is Israel who is pressured to make more concessions by the Obama administration. And it is Israel’s government that is described as not wanting or doing enough for peace by groups such as J Street.
So, has Israel not done enough for peace? It rather seems that it has, only to have its negotiating partner continuously reject any idea that Israel suggested. Israel has withdrawn from territory only to learn that land for peace deals with the Palestinians generally result in an increase in terror and rocket attacks, not a cessation of the conflict. Israel has released prisoners, only to have them turn around and go back to attacking Israeli civilians. Israel has many times extended its hand for peace only to have the PA give it the cold shoulder. Some say that Israeli settlements prevent peace, but the incitement and support of terrorism by the Palestinian Authority, as well as its blatant refusal to make any concessions, are far larger obstacles to a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Perhaps President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, Jeremy Ben-Ami, and the international community at large should focus on Palestinian inaction and refusal to make any compromise in the interest of peace, instead of trying to force Israel to give up more and more in the hope that the latest concessions will somehow make the Palestinian Authority suddenly committed to the peace process.