After 9 months of intensive talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, John Kerry found out for himself that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not as simple as he might have thought. For those unfamiliar with the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as Kerry seems to have been, it may seem perplexing as to why the Israelis and Palestinians still can’t come to a peace agreement. The parameters for an agreement have been known for years – borders, Jerusalem, and refugees, with two states for two peoples.
Since the Oslo Accords in the mid-90’s, countless politicians and statesmen from all across the world have pushed for a peace agreement and the establishment of a Palestinian state. After years of discussions and hundreds of millions of dollars invested, chances for peace seemed as hopeful as ever in 2000 with the Camp David Accords. Then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian people everything they wanted – a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and ~98% of the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as their capital and compensation for the Palestinian refugees. To the world’s surprise and President Clinton’s shock and dismay, Arafat turned down Barak’s offer without even making a counter offer after which Palestinian terror in the culmination of the Second Intifada soon followed.
The Palestinians were given essentially everything they asked for, yet they did not accept the Israeli offer for peace and the creation of a Palestinian state. Why would the Palestinians have turned down an offer for everything they said they wanted? The answer is actually quite simple – because what the Palestinians and Yasser Arafat told the Western world they wanted was not in reality what they wanted. The Palestinians did not just want a Palestinian state in the Gaza and West Bank, but a Palestinian state in all of Israel. They wanted and still want all of what they term “Palestine”, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River with there being no Jewish state in between.
Those who have studied in depth the history of the Israel-Palestinian conflict know that this fact is nothing new. Back in 1947 with the UN Partition Agreement, a state of Palestine could have been formed along with the creation of a very small, disjointed Jewish state, but the Arabs living in the area refused the UN’s proposal while the Jews accepted it. And just as Palestinian violence followed the Camp David Accords, so did Palestinian and Arab violence follow the 1947 Partition Agreement with the War of Independence in 1948. As Israel just celebrated its 66th year of Independence, the Palestinians could have also been celebrating 66 or 67 years of Independence.
The Palestinians voice their true desires quite openly in Arabic, but the Western diplomats seem to not watch the Arab TV channels. There is an organization called the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), which is dedicated to monitoring Palestinian news sources and translating them from Arabic to English/Hebrew. It would have done John Kerry a great deal of good to have watched some of their clippings before blindly throwing himself into trying to force the Israelis and Palestinians to come to an agreement.
So when will there be a state of Palestine? The truth is this will only occur when the Palestinians’ desire to create their own state is greater than their desire to destroy the only Jewish state.
The onus however is not completely on the Palestinians. In order for there to be true peace, some Israelis will have to give up their dream of a Greater Israel, but in reality the majority of Israelis gave up on this dream quite some time ago. The Palestinians, however, still dream of Haifa and Jaffo. Those who are realistic know that they will never control Haifa or Jaffo again, but those people seem to be very much in the minority.
It is for this very reason that Prime Minister Netanyahu has insisted that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state as opposed to part of what many view as Zionist-controlled “Palestine”. If the Palestinians do not recognize Israel as a Jewish state, there will never be a true end to the conflict even if a Palestinian state is created in Gaza and the majority of the West Bank in the future.
Once the majority of Palestinians and their leadership accept the fact that after thousands of years of persecution, the Jewish people will not give up their state of Israel, there can be genuine progress towards the creation of a Palestinian state and a true lasting peace. Until then, there will be continual breakdowns of whatever talks the Israelis are forced into again and the ever elusive Israeli-Palestinian peace will remain just that – elusive.